'12 Years a Slave' makes history as Best Picture

LOS ANGELES -- 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.

Academy Awards
Matthew McConaughey accepts the Oscar for best actor for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood on Sunday night. (Reuters)

LOS ANGELES -- 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," McQueen said in his acceptance speech.

It prevailed over space thriller "Gravity" from Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, which nevertheless racked up the most Oscars of the night with seven, including the best director honor for Cuarón, a first for a Latin American director.


"Gravity," starring Sandra Bullock as a stranded astronaut, swept the technical awards such as 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.

Winners in the top categories were:


  • Best picture: "12 Years a Slave"
  • Lead actor: Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"
  • Lead actress: Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
  • Director: Alfonso Cuarón, "Gravity"
  • Supporting actor: Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"
  • Supporting actress: Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"
  • Animated feature film: "Frozen"
  • Cinematography: "Gravity," Emmanuel Lubezki
  • Costume design: "The Great Gatsby," Catherine Martin
  • Documentary feature: "20 Feet from Stardom"
  • Documentary short subject: "The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life"
  • Film editing: "Gravity," Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
  • Foreign language film: "The Great Beauty," Italy
  • Makeup and hairstyling: "Dallas Buyers Club," Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
  • Original score: "Gravity," Steven Price
  • Original song: "Let It Go" from "Frozen"
  • Production design: "The Great Gatsby," production design: Catherine Martin; set decoration: Beverley Dunn

  • Animated short film: "Mr. Hublot"
  • Live action short film: "Helium"
  • Sound editing: "Gravity," Glenn Freemantle
  • Sound mixin: "Gravity," Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
  • Visual effects: "Gravity," Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
  • Adapted screenplay: "12 Years a Slave," screenplay by John Ridley
  • Original screenplay: "Her," written by Spike Jonze
  • Academy Awards
    In one of the show's lightest moments, host Ellen DeGeneres hands out pizza that was delivered to the theater as actor Brad Pitt hands out paper plates. (Reuters)

    What To Read Next
    Get Local