In a contest that held suspense up until the last minute, Fox Searchlight's "12 Years a Slave" took the best-picture prize Sunday at the 86th Academy Awards and established a few Oscar records in the process. Winning three of its nine nominations, the film is the first best-picture win for a black producer (Steve McQueen, who also directed). That in itself is significant, but it's got bigger implications: In 85 previous years, blacks have only won in a handful of categories, including acting (14 wins), screenplay (1 win), sound (four wins) and music (7 wins).
After the 2012 "Argo," this is the second consecutive win for a film produced by top stars: Last year, it was George Clooney and Ben Affleck, among others; in this case, Brad Pitt, the second in this category after "Moneyball." (He also has three acting noms.) It's the second nom for Dede Gardner, the first for Jeremy Kleiner and Anthony Katagas, and the first for McQueen. It's the second win in seven years for Searchlight, after the 2008 "Slumdog Millionaire."
Warner Bros.' "Gravity" nabbed seven wins, compared to the three for "12 Years." (By comparison, "Crash" and "Argo" also won three apiece.) Also winning three trophies was "Dallas Buyer's Club."
Cate Blanchett ("Blue Jasmine") and Matthew McConaughey ("Dallas Buyers Club") took home the best acting categories.
It was Blanchett's second win in four nominations. and she joins 21 actors who have won in in both categories. Her win was expected, since she'd won nearly every other award, including SAG, Golden Globe and critics noms. But the Feb. 1 Woody Allen-Dylan Farrow flap cast a shadow over "Blue Jasmine," and some wondered if the controversy would reduce her vote count.
Following a trail of acting prizes this season, McConaughey had an amazing year with other projects, notably HBO's "True Detective," and people loved the story of his 40-pound weight loss, as well as the fact that he helped the project get made after 20 years in limbo. Previously, 65 actors have won for playing real people, and he joins them with his work as homophobe-turned-AIDS-activist Ron Woodroof.
Among films going home empty-handed were "American Hustle," "Nebraska," "Captain Phillips" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."
"12 Years a Slave" also won for supporting actress Lupita Nyong'o and adapted screenplay for John Ridley.
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The "Gravity" wins went to Alfonso Cuaron for best director and also for editing alongside Mark Sanger. The Warner Bros. film also won cinematography for d.p. Emmanuel Lubezki, while Steven Price won for best score. Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro won the sound mixing award for "Gravity, " while the film also won the sound editing category for Glenn Freemantle. The visual effects award went to the "Gravity" team of Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould.
On his first nomination, John Ridley won the adapted-screenplay prize for "12 Years a Slave," from Solomon Northup's memoir. Ridley became only the second black person to win an Oscar in the writing category, after Geoffrey Fletcher for "Precious."
Spike Jonze nabbed the original-screenplay trophy for Warner Bros.' "Her," which he also directed. Jonze was considered a front-runner, since he'd won the Writers Guild award, as well as a Golden Globe for the script. Jonze was a triple nominee this year, also up as a producer and songwriter for the film.
Best animated film went to Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho for Disney's "Frozen," while Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez won best song for the film's "Let it Go." Buck dedicated the award to his son who died in an accident before the movie came out, calling him a "guardian angel." "Frozen" marks the first win for Disney Animation in the 13-year-old feature-animation category.
The In Memoriam segment is always popular with audiences, but this year's segment, which concluded with Philip Seymour Hoffman, was controversial as well. There was a massive movement to get the Academy to include Sarah Jones, who was killed in February during a train accident while filming "Midnight Runner." A mention of Jones was included at the end of the memorial segment, directing viewers to the Academy's website.
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The segment itself featured an intro by Glenn Close and was followed by Bette Midler singing "The Wind Beneath My Wings."
The Oscar kudocast kicked off with a supporting actor win for Jared Leto for his performance as transgender AIDS patient Rayon in "Dallas Buyers Club." The film saw another win for hair and makeup before McConaughey's actor win. Leto had won nearly every award in the build-up to Oscars, including SAG, Golden Globe, Critics Choice and numerous critics groups. The film marked a mini-comeback for Leto, who had given up acting for seven years to concentrate on his work with his band 30 Seconds From Mars.
With her performance as Patsey in "12 Years a Slave," Lupita Nyong'o landed the supporting actress prize, joining 15 individuals who previously won Oscars for their film debuts. The Kenyan-Mexican actress, who's a Yale grad, joins 14 other black actors who've won Oscars, with the numbers increasing regularly -- an encouraging sign for Academy execs who have been working hard to make sure the organization, the industry and the Oscars better reflect the world's diversity.
Foreign film winner "The Great Beauty" (directed by Paolo Sorrentino) marks the 11th win and 28th nomination for Italy.
Oscars: '12 Years a Slave' Wins Best Picture
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