12 Years a Slave makes history

21:51, Mar 03 2014
Oscar winners
Jared Leto wins best supporting actor for his role in Dallas Buyers Club.
Oscar winners
Samuel L. Jackson presents the award for best costume to Catherine Martin for her work in The Great Gatsby at the 86th Academy Awards.
Oscar winners
Adruitha Lee (L) and Robin Matthews accept the award for makeup and hairstyle for Dallas Buyers' Club.
Oscar winners
Laurent Witz (L) and Alexandre Espigares win best animated short film for Mr. Hublot.
Oscar winners
Peter Del Vecho, Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck (R) accept the Oscar for best animated feature film for Frozen.
Oscar winners
Tim Webberg, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk (2nd R) and Neil Corbould (L) accept the Oscar for visual effects for Gravity.
Oscar winners
Kim Magnusson (rear) and Anders Walter accept the Oscar for best live action short film for Helium.
Oscar winners
Malcolm Clarke (R) and Nicholas Reed, best documentary short subject winners for The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life .
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Darlene Love sings as Morgan Neville looks on as they accept the Oscar for best documentary feature for 20 Feet from Stardom.
Oscar winners
Director Paolo Sorrentino (R) actor and Tony Servillo accept the Oscar for best foreign language film for the Italian movie The Great Beauty.
Oscar winners
Lupita Nyong'o, best supporting actress winner for her role in 12 Years a Slave.
Oscar winners
Emmanuel Lubezki, cinematography winner for Gravity.
Oscar winners
John Ridley accepts the Oscar for adapted screenplay for 12 Years a Slave.
Oscar winners
Spike Jonze, winner of original screenplay for Her.
Oscar winners
Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez win for their song Let It Go, best original song for the film Frozen.
Oscar winners
Alfonso Cuaron accepts the Oscar for best director for Gravity.
Oscar winners
Cate Blanchett speaks on stage after she won best actress for her work in Blue Jasmine.
Oscar winners
Matthew McConaughey accepts the Oscar for best actor for his role in Dallas Buyers Club.
Oscar winners
Director and producer Steve McQueen (R) celebrates after accepting the Oscar for best picture with Lupita Nyong'o (L) at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood.

The slavery drama 12 Years a Slave won the Academy Award for best picture, making history as the first movie from a black director to win the film industry's highest honour in 86 years of the Oscars.

British director Steve McQueen's unflinching portrayal of pre-Civil War American slavery won two other Oscars, including best supporting actress for newcomer Lupita Nyong'o and best adapted screenplay based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a free man tricked and sold into slavery in Louisiana.

"Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup," said McQueen in his acceptance speech.

 Steve McQueen
WINNER: Steve McQueen directed 12 Years a Slave.

12 Years a Slave prevailed over space thriller Gravity from Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, which nevertheless racked up the most Oscars of the night with seven, including the best director honour for Cuaron, a first for a Latin American director.

The film starring Sandra Bullock as an astronaut lost in space swept the technical awards like visual effects and cinematography, a reward for its groundbreaking work on conveying space and weightlessness.

Referring to the "transformative" experience he and others undertook in the four-plus years spent making Gravity, Cuaron, whose hair is graying, said, "For a lot of these people, that transformation was wisdom. For me, it was just the colour of my hair."


12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave

In one of the strongest years for film in recent memory, the 6000-plus voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences scattered golden Oscar statuettes among the many acclaimed movies in contention.

It was a good night for the scrappy, low-budget film Dallas Buyers Club, a biopic of an early AIDS activist two decades in the making that won three Oscars, including the two male acting awards.

Matthew McConaughey, in a validation of a remarkable career turnaround, won best actor for his portrayal of the homophobe turned Aids victim turned treatment crusader Ron Woodroof, a role for which he lost 23kg.

His co-star, Jared Leto, won best supporting actor for his role as Woodroof's unlikely business sidekick, the transgender woman Rayon, for which he also slimmed down drastically.

Australia's Cate Blanchett won the best actress Oscar for her acclaimed role as the socialite unhinged by her husband's financial crimes in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine."

"As random and subjective as this award is, it means a great deal in a year of, yet again, extraordinary performances by women," said Blanchett, who beat out previous Oscar winners Bullock, Amy Adams, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep.


The big loser of the night was director David O. Russell's 1970s crime caper American Hustle, which walked away empty-handed despite earning 10 nominations, the same number as Gravity.

Martin Scorsese's tale of financial greed, The Wolf of Wall Street, also failed to take home Oscars.

But it was also a night of predictable wins for heavy favourites.

The tale of Nordic princesses, Frozen, won best animated film, a first for Disney Animation Studios since the category was introduced in 2002, and its girl-power anthem Let It Go won best original song.

For best foreign language film, Italy took its 11th Oscar in that category with The Great Beauty, a visually stunning film about life in Rome and a writer in crisis.

Comic and talk show star Ellen DeGeneres returned as Oscar host on Sunday, bringing a deadpan affability, and pizza, to the Academy Awards show while still poking fun at Hollywood royalty.

In her easy breezy style, DeGeneres mixed with the crowd like she did back in 2007, taking a star-studded selfie with the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie that broke the record for retweets on Twitter.

And she largely avoided the ribald humour that landed her predecessor Seth MacFarlane in hot water last year.

Early reviews were broadly positive, but Variety's Brian Lowry noted that the opening monologue by DeGeneres "screamed of a desire to dial the show back to safer terrain."

Kenyan actress Nyong'o was one of the big stars of the night, not only for her winning pale blue Prada gown on the red carpet, but also for her touching speech.

In accepting the first award of the night for 12 Years a Slave, Nyong'o, 31, paid homage to her character, who picked more cotton than anyone else but suffered at the hands of her besotted yet evil master.

"It doesn't escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else's, and so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey, for her guidance," a tearful Nyong'o told the audience.

Sunday capped an unusually long awards season, extended by the Winter Olympics, and for 12 Years a Slave it spells the end of six months of both high acclaim and uncertainty over awards stemming from the perception that it was a hard film to watch.

The film from studio Fox Searchlight compelled Oscar voters to go see the film with the ad It's Time, fearing that they might skip it and throw their weight behind Gravity.

It has earned nearly $140 million at the worldwide box office, a fraction of the $700 million for Gravity.

Right to the end, McQueen and his fellow producers, including Pitt, stuck to his line that slavery was a theme that is not only historical but also current.

"We just hope this film remains a gentle reminder that we are all equal," said Pitt backstage.