'12 Years A Slave' Claims Best Picture Oscar
In a triumph long deferred, '12 Years a Slave' won the best picture Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night, for the first time conferring Hollywood's top honor on the work of a black director.
'I'd like to thank this amazing story,' said Steve McQueen, the British-born filmmaker who grasped a prize that has eluded African-American directors and their movies since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave its first Oscars in 1929.
'Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,' said Mr.
McQueen, who dedicated the film to those who had endured slavery, both in the past and in the present.
Only minutes before, Mr.
McQueen had been overlooked for the directing award, which went to Alfonso Cuarón for 'Gravity,' a 3-D blockbuster whose story of survival in space had been locked with Mr.
McQueen's film and David O.
Russell's 'American Hustle' in a ferocious contest for the best picture statuette.
In the end, Fox Searchlight, which distributed '12 Years a Slave,' about a 19th-century man, Solomon Northup, who was kidnapped into slavery, carried the day with the help of an advertising slogan that reminded Oscar voters of their chance to make history.
'It's time,' said the ads.
Diversity was a leading motif for ceremony that was hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, a happy-go-lucky lesbian who spent most of the evening in a tuxedo, and which also honored Jared Leto as best supporting actor for his role as a transgender AIDS patient in 'Dallas Buyers Club.
' The best actress award went to Cate Blanchett for 'Blue Jasmine,' despite a late-season challenge by Dylan Farrow, who publicly wrote that its director Woody Allen and his films should be shunned because he had, by her account, sexually molested her as a child.
Allen, her adoptive father, has strongly challenged the charge.
'Thank you so much, Woody, for casting me,' said Ms.
Blanchett, who never mentioned the blowup, but made a point of thanking Mr.
Allen for using 'Blue Jasmine' to tell a woman's story.
Jennifer Lawrence followed minutes later to present the best actor award to Matthew McConaughey for 'Dallas Buyers Club.
' 'Why are you laughing?' Ms.
Lawrence challenged the audience, which has come to expect a trip, fall or charming faux pas every time she takes the stage.
But she pulled it off without a hitch, and Mr.
McConaughey thanked God and everyone else with a toothy movie star smile.
John Ridley, who won the best adapted screenplay Oscar for '12 Years a Slave,' invoked the suffering individual at the heart of his story.
'All the praise goes to Solomon Northup,' said Mr.
'These are his words, this is his life.
' Spike Jonze won the original script Oscar for 'Her,' a Warner Bros.
film that had a powerful following, particularly among young viewers, who responded to its quirky story of one man's love affair with his digital operating system.
It was the only win for 'Her,' but that was enough to lift it above 'American Hustle,' which was slammed hard by the voters.
Widely seen as one of three films in contention for the top honors, it left empty-handed, a humiliation for a film with 10 nominations and one of the better box office totals, with about $146 million in ticket sales.
Diversity was a leading motif for ceremony that was hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, a happy-go-lucky lesbian who spent much of the evening in a tuxedo, and which honored Jared Leto as best supporting actor for his role as a transgender AIDS victim in 'Dallas Buyers Club.
' No one could accuse this show of taking itself too seriously.
DeGeneres' behest, a stack of pizzas arrived with a red-hatted delivery guy at the two-hour mark, and both Ms.
Streep and Julia Roberts were among those who dug in.
At the halfway mark, Ms.
Degeneres, now in a white suit, prowled the audience like a cat, handing out lottery tickets to runners-up, and trying to break a record for retweets with a 'selfie' that found her stacked with movie stars, including Ms.
Lawrence, Meryl Streep and Kevin Spacey.
Twitter's website went down soon afterward, with early reports indicating that it failed to handle the pop of traffic.
Later reports said Ms.
DeGeneres's 'selfie' was retweeted more than 1 million times, breaking the site's previous record, which was set by President Barack Obama after his re-election.
'We have made history tonight,' said Ms.
Nyong'o, who had been charming Oscar voters with her fresh face and mostly modest demeanor for months, cut loose just a little bit backstage.
'I think it belongs to me!' Ms.
Nyong'o replied to a question about who deserved credit for the 'golden man' in her arms.
Here and there, genuine fun sneaked into the show.
'Happy Oscars to you, let's do 'Frozen' two sang Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, as they picked up an award for their song from the movie 'Frozen.
' Less happily, Leonardo DiCaprio got nothing for his work, both on the screen as an actor and off-screen and as a producer, on 'The Wolf of Wall Street.
' But 'The Great Gatsby,' in which he had starred back in the early parts of the year, won awards for production and costume design.
'Captain Phillips' also came up empty-handed, a disappointment for both Sony Pictures, which distributed the film, and Tom Hanks, who had once seemed a likely best actor candidate for his performance as a real-life captain hijacked by pirates.
Hanks, in the end, hadn't even been nominated, and the film slipped into the peculiar twilight reserved for movies, like 'True Grit,' that shine brightly, then mysteriously fade on Oscar night.
If there were the usual number of winners, it felt like a year of heavy losses as the annual memorial sequence scrolled through a list of film figures who died since the last show.
Harold Ramis, Karen Black, Hal Needham, Saul Zaentz, Elmore Leonard, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Shirley Temple Black were just a few of those remembered, and, with them, not one golden era, but several, seemed to be passing.
Weirdly, the night's proceedings were punctuated by a theme of movie heroics, though the year's films were populated more by survivors, as in '12 Years a Slave' and 'Captain Phillips,' or antiheroes, as in 'The Wolf of Wall Street' and 'American Hustle.
' The show featured a montage of classic movie heroes crammed mostly with references to characters portrayed in films past - Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Harvey Milk and a dozen or so others.
Oscar lore has it that the Academy has a soft spot for Holocaust stories, like 'Schindler's List,' the best picture winner in 1994.
This year, it bestowed a documentary short Oscar on 'The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,' about Alice Herz Sommer, a 110-year-old Holocaust survivor who died just days before the ceremony.
The best documentary feature was '20 Feet From Stardom,' a film about backup singers decidedly more fun than the issues-heavy fare that often dominates the category.
And it brought a welcome win to the Weinstein Company, which distributed the film through its Radius-TWC division, and which saw several of its other contenders this year - 'Philomena,' 'August: Osage County,' 'Lee Daniels' The Butler' - fall short of the biggest awards.
In what has become a secondary category - few here will watch subtitled films - there was no surprise when Italy picked up another best foreign film Oscar, its 11th, for 'The Great Beauty.
' The film, about the life-reckoning of a literary Roman, had been picking up pre-Oscar awards all season, though it had taken in just $2.
2 million at the domestic box office since its release by Janus Films in November.
By the end of the night, with most of Hollywood eager to move past the pageantry, the rainstorms that pounded Los Angeles on Friday and Saturday even seemed appropriate: Enough with this Oscar business.
Here comes Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah' and the summer blockbuster season.
Certainly, the moviegoing audience was looking forward.
This weekend, an action thriller, 'Non-Stop,' and a religious drama, 'Son of God,' sold more tickets than the best picture nominees 'Nebraska,' 'Her' or 'Dallas Buyers Club' had scraped together since their releases.
NEW YORK TIMES