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Oscars 2014: 12 Years A Slave and Gravity share honours

12 Years A Slave

Story by Jack Foley

HISTORICAL drama 12 Years A Slave has been crowned Best Picture at the 86th Academy Awards.

Steve McQueen’s film also picked up several other prizes, including best supporting actress for newcomer Lupita Nyong’o and best adapted screenplay for John Ridley.

However, in what has been described as one of the tightest Oscar races in years due to the quality of the main nomineees, the film didn’t have the night all of its own way.

Space epic Gravity also won several prizes, including the coveted best director award for Alfonso Cuaron (who therefore beat McQueen).

And in the best actor category, Matthew McConaughey triumphed ahead of Chiewetel Ejiofor for his portrayal in Dallas Buyers Club of a man dying from AIDs who fights back against the system, while Jared Leto – McConaughey’s co-star – took best supporting actor ahead of Michael Fassbender for his performance as a dying transgender patient who becomes McConaughey’s unlikely friend and business partner.

If anything, it was honours even for several of the main contenders, even though Gravity could be said to have come out ahead overall with a total of seven wins.

The film, which took five years to complete, owes much to the technical prowess of British visual effects specialists (it was shot in the UK) and also won Oscars for film editing, sound mixing, sound editing, cinematography, visual effects and original score.

12 Years and Dallas Buyers Club both claimed three prizes each.

However, the biggest prize of the night – Best Picture – was greeted with near unanimous approval and prompted British director McQueen to dedicate the accolade to “all those people who have endured slavery”.

“Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” he said. “This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup.”

Producer and co-star Brad Pitt praised “the indomitable Mr McQueen” – a Turner Prize winning artist-turned-director – for “bringing them all together” to tell Northup’s story. He has previously said of the film that if he never made another picture, he could proudly know he had been a part of a special project.

And Kenyan actress Nyong’o – who celebrated her birthday with an Independent Spirit Award in the same category just 24 hours earlier – paid tribute to her character and thanked her for her “guidance”.

“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,” said the star, now 31.

Of the other major winners on the night, Cate Blanchett predictably claimed best actress for her performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.

And Spike Jonze collected the best original screenplay for Her, his first film as sole writer which stars Joaquin Phoenix as a man who falls in love with a computer operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

Disney’s Frozen, which recently crossed the $1 billion mark (£600m) at the global box office, scored two Oscars – best animated feature film and best original song for Let It Go, performed by star Idina Menzel. The film is loosely based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen.

Of the other previously mentioned winners, best actor McConaughey, who lost 50lbs (23kg) to play real life rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club, thanked God “because that’s who I look up to”, adding: “He’s graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand.”

While his co-star Leto thanked his mother, who accompanied him to the awards, “for teaching me to dream” and dedicated his award to “those who have ever felt injustice because of who they are, or who you love”.

“This is for the 36 million people out there who have lost the battle to Aids,” said the 30 Seconds to Mars frontman, whose last film was six years ago.

Blanchett, meanwhile, paid tribute to her rivals, including Dame Judi Dench (who was not at the ceremony) acknowledging “the random and subjective” nature of awards ceremonies.

Ellen DeGeneres hosted the ceremony, for the second time, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

View the winners in full