LOS ANGELES » Perhaps atoning for past sins, Hollywood named the brutal, unshrinking historical drama "12 Years a Slave" best picture at the 86th annual Academy Awards.
Steve McQueen’s slavery odyssey, based on Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir, has been hailed as a landmark corrective to the movie industry’s long omission of slavery stories, following years of whiter tales like 1940 best-picture winner "Gone With the Wind."
"I’d like to thank this amazing story," the British director said, as he dedicated the honor to those past sufferers of slavery and "the 21 million who still endure slavery today."
"Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live," said McQueen, who promptly bounced into the arms of his cast. "This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences opted for stark realism over more plainly entertaining candidates like the 3-D space marvel "Gravity" and the starry 1970s caper "American Hustle."
Those two films came in as the leading nominee getters. David O. Russell’s "American Hustle" went home empty-handed, but "Gravity" triumphed as the night’s top award-winner. Cleaning up in technical categories like cinematography and visual effects, it earned seven Oscars, including best director for Alfonso Cuaron. The Mexican filmmaker is the category’s first Latino winner.
But history belonged to "12 Years a Slave," a modestly budgeted drama produced by Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, that has made $50 million worldwide — a far cry from the more than $700 million "Gravity" has hauled in. It marks the first time a film directed by a black filmmaker has won best picture.
Host Ellen DeGeneres summarized the academy’s options in her opening monologue: "Possibility number one: ‘12 Years a Slave’ wins best picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists."
DeGeneres presided over a smooth if safe ceremony, punctuated by politics, pizza and photo-bombing. Freely circulating in the crowd, she had pizza delivered, appealing to Harvey Weinstein to pitch in, and gathered stars to snap a selfie she hoped would be a record-setter on Twitter. (It was: Long before midnight, the photo had been retweeted more than 2 million times.) One participant, Meryl Streep, giddily exclaimed: "I’ve never tweeted before!"
But in celebrating a movie year roundly called an exceptional one, the Oscars fittingly spread the awards around. The starved stars of the Texas AIDS drama "Dallas Buyers Club" were feted: Matthew McConaughey for best actor and Jared Leto for best supporting actor.
Though the Oscar ceremony is usually a glitzy bubble separate from real-world happenings, international events were immediately referenced. In his acceptance speech, Leto addressed people in Ukraine and Venezuela.
"We are here and as you struggle to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible, we’re thinking of you," said Leto.
McConaughey’s award capped a startling career turnaround, a conscious redirection by the actor to tack away from the romantic comedies he regularly starred in, and move toward more challenging films. He said he’s always chasing a better version of himself, his "hero": "Every day, every week, every month of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away."
Cate Blanchett took best actress for her fallen socialite in Woody Allen’s "Blue Jasmine," her second Oscar.
Lupita Nyong’o — the Cinderella of the awards season — won best supporting actress for her indelible impression as the tortured slave Patsey. It’s the feature film debut for the 31-year-old actress.
"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 Patsy for her guidance," said Nyong’o. She also thanked director Steve McQueen: "I’m certain that the dead are standing about you and they are watching and they are grateful, and so am I."
The ceremony lacked a big opening number, but it had a steady musical beat. To a standing ovation, Bono and U2 performed an acoustic version of "Ordinary Love," their Oscar-nominated song from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," penned in tribute to the late South African leader Nelson Mandela. Singing his nominated "Happy" from "Despicable Me 2," Pharrell Williams had Streep and Leonardo DiCaprio dancing in the aisles.
A complete list of winners of the 86th annual Academy Awards, presented Sunday night by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles:
» Best picture: “12 Years a Slave”
» Actor: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
» Actress: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
» Supporting actor: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
» Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
» Directing: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
» Foreign language film: “The Great Beauty,” Italy
» Adapted screenplay: John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave”
» Original screenplay: Spike Jonze, “Her”
» Animated feature film: “Frozen”
» Production design: “The Great Gatsby”
» Cinematography: “Gravity”
» Sound mixing: “Gravity”
» Sound editing: “Gravity”
» Original score: “Gravity,” Steven Price
» Original song: “Let It Go” from “Frozen”
» Costume: “The Great Gatsby”
» Makeup and hairstyling: “Dallas Buyers Club”
» Animated short film: “Mr. Hublot”
» Documentary feature: “20 Feet from Stardom”
» Documentary (short): “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”
» Film editing: “Gravity”
» Live action short film: “Helium”
» Visual effects: “Gravity”
Jake Coyle, Associated Press