The films Gravity and 12 Years a Slave took top honors at the Academy Awards in Hollywood Sunday night. The space odyssey Gravity earned seven Oscars, including one for director Alfonso Cuaron. Meanwhile, 12 Years a Slave earned three major awards, including the top prize of the evening.
“The Oscar goes to 12 Years a Slave,” said Will Smith as the actor announced the best picture winner.
The film tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man sold into slavery in Louisiana before the American Civil War. British director Steve McQueen accepted the award with his fellow producers, including the actor and filmmaker Brad Pitt. McQueen dedicated the Oscar to victims of slavery.
“Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today,” said McQueen.
Kenya-born actress Lupita Nyong’o was honored for her supporting role in the film as the female slave Patsey. She edged out Jennifer Lawrence, of the crime caper American Hustle, and Julia Roberts, of the drama August: Osage County. Nyong’o recalled the life of the character she played, a story passed down through Northrop’s memoir.
“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, and for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own,” said Nyong’o.
12 Years a Slave was also honored for its adapted screenplay by John Ridley.
The space drama Gravity earned Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron the Oscar for best directing. Gravity was also honored for its cinematography, film editing, sound editing and sound mixing, visual effects and original score. American Hustle, which was nominated for 10 awards, earned none.
Matthew McConaughey earned the Oscar for best actor for his role as an AIDS activist in Dallas Buyers Club. The contested field included Christian Bale for American Hustle, Bruce Dern for the tale of family relationships, Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for the story of greed The Wolf of Wall Street, and Chiwetel Ejiofor for his role as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave. McConaughey paid his respects to the other nominees.
“All these performances were impeccable, in my opinion. I didn’t see a false note anywhere,” said McConaughey.
Jared Leto was named best supporting actor for his role as a transgender AIDS patient in Dallas Buyers Club. Accepting the Oscar, Leto recalled those whose stories the film recounts.
“This is for the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS, and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love. Tonight, I stand here in front of the world with you and for you,” said Leto.
Cate Blanchett was named best actress for her role in the Woody Allen comedy-drama Blue Jasmine. She said this year’s film nominees make a statement.
“Perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and in fact, they earn money,” said Blanchett.
Frozen, by Disney, was named best animated feature and also earned an Oscar for its original song “Let It Go.” The Italian entry The Great Beauty was named best foreign language film. The Oscar for best documentary feature went to 20 Feet from Stardom, which looks at the lives of backup singers in the music industry.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents the Oscars. The ceremony is the highlight of the year for the Hollywood movie industry.
(Photo: Emily Grossberg via WEBN-TV/flickr.com)