12 Years A Slave breaks colour barrier
IN A triumph long deferred, 12 Years A Slave won the best picture Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night, the first time Hollywood conferred its top honour on the work of a black director.
"I'd like to thank this amazing story," said Steve McQueen, the British-born film-maker who grasped a prize that has eluded African-American directors and their movies since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave its first Oscar in 1929.
"Everyone deserves not just to survive, but also to live," said McQueen, who dedicated the film to those who had endured slavery, both in the past and in the present.
Only minutes before, he had been overlooked for the directing award, which went to Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity, a 3-D blockbuster whose story of survival in space had been locked with McQueen's film and David Russell's American Hustle in a ferocious contest for the best picture statuette.
12 Years A Slave won only three awards, including best supporting actress for newcomer Lupita Nyong'o and best adapted screenplay, while Gravity won seven, the most of any film.
Nyong'o, who had been charming Oscar voters with her fresh face and mostly modest demeanour for months, cut loose just a little bit backstage. "I think it belongs to me!" she replied to a question about who deserved credit for the "golden man" in her arms.
Diversity was a leading motif for the ceremony, which was hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, a happy-go-lucky lesbian who spent most of the evening in a tuxedo, and which also honoured Jared Leto as best supporting actor for his role as a transgender Aids patient in Dallas Buyers Club.
The best actress award went to Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, despite a late-season challenge by Dylan Farrow, who publicly wrote that its director, Woody Allen, and his films should be shunned because he had, by her account, sexually molested her as a child. Allen, her adoptive father, has strongly challenged the charge.
Jennifer Lawrence followed minutes later to present the best actor award to Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club.
"Why are you laughing?" Lawrence challenged the audience, which has come to expect a trip, fall or charming faux pas every time she takes the stage.
But she pulled it off without a hitch, and McConaughey thanked God and everyone else with a toothy movie-star smile.
Favourite American Hustle was slammed hard by the voters.
Widely seen as one of three films in contention for the top honours, it left empty-handed, a humiliation for a film with 10 nominations and one of the better box-office totals, with about US$146 million (S$185 million) in ticket sales.