By Mary Milliken
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The slavery drama “12 Years a Slave” won the Academy Award for best picture on Sunday, making history as the first movie from a black director to win the film industry’s highest honor in 86 years of the Oscars.
British director Steve McQueen’s unflinching portrayal of pre-Civil War American slavery also 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 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.
It 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 honor for Cuaron, a first for a Latin American director.
“Gravity,” starring Sandra Bullock as a stranded astronaut, swept the technical awards like visual effects and cinematography, a reward for its groundbreaking work on conveying space and weightlessness.
In one of the strongest years for film in recent memory, the 6,000-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 50 pounds.
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.”
“Thank you so much Woody for casting me,” Blanchett said.
The tale of Nordic princesses, “Frozen,” won best animated film, a first for Disney Animation Studios since the category was introduced in 2002.
Comedian and talk show star Ellen DeGeneres returned as Oscar host on Sunday in an appearance many saw as calculated to project a lighter, more affable tone for Hollywood’s biggest night after the provocative performance of her immediate predecessor, Seth MacFarlane.
In the comedian’s easy breezy style, DeGeneres mixed with the crowd, taking a star-studded selfie with the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie that broke the record for retweets on Twitter.
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.”
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 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.
“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.
OSCAR WINNERS CELEBRATE AT GOVERNOR’S BALL
By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A sea of Oscar statuettes filled the Governor’s Ball on Sunday night as winners chatted, ate and celebrated with the film industry’s elite at the official Academy Awards party.
Winners also got their statuettes engraved with their names on the first stop in a string of parties on Hollywood’s biggest night.
The Governor’s Ball, decked out with walls of curtains made from florals giving the effect of a midnight garden celebration, is hosted by the Oscars organizers.
Singer John Legend provided the entertainment, singing hits including “Ordinary People,” while guests ate a gourmet meal by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.
An excited John Ridley, winner of best adapted screenplay for “12 Years a Slave,” entered the party clutching his Oscar, which he said was “overwhelming and humbling.”
“It’s heavy, but heavy with the weight of a career and responsibility and history. It’s a weight I never thought I would have in my hands,” he said.
Ridley celebrated with the cast including Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch and producers of the film, which also took home best supporting actress for Lupita Nyong’o and the night’s top prize for best picture.
Rising Kenyan star Nyong’o has been the toast of Hollywood this awards season and celebrated her win with her brother and mother Dorothy, who said she was “so happy” for her daughter.
Jonah Hill, accompanied by his mother, shared jokes with Julia Roberts, while Kate Hudson, clad in a cream Versace gown, chatted to Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Leonardo DiCaprio, whose “The Wolf of Wall Street” came away empty-handed at the Oscars, did a quick few rounds of the room before making a swift exit.
June Squibb, who was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar but lost out to Nyong’o, said she was just happy to be at the glitzy show and after party.
“I love every minute of it, I loved sitting there and just feeling like I’m part of it,” she said.
Bette Midler, who performed for the first time in her decades-long career at the Academy Awards, said she had fun during her performances and was left a little emotional by it.
Mads Mikkelsen, who was nominated for best foreign film for “The Hunt” but lost out to Italy’s “The Great Beauty,” was in high spirits, saying “we’re here to celebrate the winners and drink beers for the losers.”
Steven Price, who won best original score for “Gravity,” which took home a leading seven Academy Awards, said getting his Oscar engraved “was one of the most amazing things tonight.”
“No one had any idea that the film would connect. We were never sure that a story about a 50-year-old woman in space with very little dialogue would be something that people would go see,” Price said.
Elsewhere, pop star Lady Gaga, actress Naomi Watts and Robert De Niro were among the celebrities at the annual Vanity Fair party, while Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian and Heidi Klum turned out for Elton John’s Hollywood Oscar event.
COMPLETE OSCAR WINNERS LIST
The full list of winners at the 2014 Oscars is:
Best Motion Picture of the Year:
12 Years A Slave
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years A Slave
Best Achievement in Directing:
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Writing, Original Screenplay:
Spike Jonze, Her
Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay:
John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave
Best Animated Feature Film:
Frozen – Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee & Peter Del Vecho
Best Foreign Language Film of the Year:
The Great Beauty (Italy)
Best Achievement in Cinematography:
Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki
Best Achievement in Film Editing:
Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron & Mark Sanger
Best Achievement in Production Design:
The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin & Beverley Dunn
Best Achievement in Costume Design:
The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin
Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling:
Dallas Buyers Club – Adruitha Lee & Robin Mathews
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score:
Gravity – Steven Price
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song:
Let It Go from Frozen – Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing:
Gravity – Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead & Chris Munro
Best Achievement in Sound Editing:
Gravity – Glenn Freemantle
Best Achievement in Visual Effects:
Gravity – Timothy Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk & Neil Corbould
Best Documentary, Feature:
Twenty Feet From Stardom – Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen & Caitrin Rogers
Best Documentary, Short Subject:
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Best Short Film, Animated:
Mr Hublot – Laurent Witz & Alexandre Espigares
Best Short Film, Live Action:
Helium – Anders Walter & Kim Magnusson
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: