A surprisingly entertaining and diverse 86th annual Academy Awards ceremony netted big wins for 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong’o, and the music documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. Nyong’o, who was the odds-on favorite for her portrayal of Patsey a slave who’s caught her sadistic master’s eye in 12 Years a Slave, acknowledged the real-life woman who has made her a star.
12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen and produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company, was the winner of the Best Picture Award, though McQueen lost out to Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron for Best Director. A nervous McQueen thanked Pitt, who he said that without him, the film wouldn’t have been made.
“Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” McQueen said in his acceptance speech. “I dedicate this to everyone who has endured slavery and the 21 million people still in slavery today.”
Nyong’o thanked McQueen, her co-starts Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodward and Michael Fassbender, and her parents. It was the first Oscar nomination for the 31-year-old Nyong’o, and she won it for her film debut.
Not just a breakout movie star, the Mexican-born actress of Kenyan descent has also made a huge splash in the fashion world, becoming the face of Italian designer Miu Miu in an advertising campaign and becoming this Oscar season’s It Girl for her vibrant fashion choices. 20 Feet from Stardom, a documentary that puts the spotlight on backup singers, won the Oscar for best documentary feature.
The film, directed by Emmy-award winner Morgan Neville, takes a look at the singers who come of age amid the careers of luminaries like Ray Charles, Tina Turner and Stevie Wonder. Singers like Merry Clayton ,who sang on the Rolling Stones song “Gimme Shelter,” former Ronette Darlene Love and Luther Vandross and Rolling Stones backup singer Lisa Fischer were all featured in the documentary.
Befitting the attention that they normally miss out on, backup singer Darlene Love broke into song before the Dolby Theatre crowd, singing “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free.”
Neville acknowledged late producer Gil Friesen, the A&M Records executive whose fascination with backup singers at a Leonard Cohen concert inspired the film. Friesen died in December of cancer at age 75.
“Tonight, I know he’s celebrating with us,” Neville said.
African-American screenwriter John Ridley, who penned the film version of 12 Years A Slave, based on the memoir by Solomon Northrup, was the winner for Best Adapted Screenplay. He is also the writer of the movies Red Tails, Undercover Brother and Three Kings. In his brief speech, he acknowledged his family and the writing teacher who helped him hone his writing years before.
Australian actress Cate Blanchett won the Best Actress Oscar for Blue Jasmine, a film that became controversial because Woody Allen’s adopted daughter’s allegations of sexual abuse resurfaced during Oscar season. Matthew McConaughey, who recharged his career and lost weight to portray real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, in Dallas Buyer’s Club, won the Best Actor award.
For a full list of winners head to the official Oscars site.