- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Academy Award for Best Picture went to “12 Years a Slave,” capping a Sunday night in which the brutal 19th-century-set slavery drama won only three awards and the bulk of the technical prizes and the best director award went to rival “Gravity.”

Producer Brad Pitt, who also has a small role in the “12 Years a Slave,” quickly gave over the microphone to the film’s British director, Steve McQueen, whom Mr. Pitt called the driving force behind telling the story of kidnapped Northerner Solomon Northup.

“Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live,” Mr. McQueen said, echoing a line from the film. “I dedicate this award to all the people who endured slavery and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”

The four acting prizes all went to their expected thespians, based on such previous shows as the Golden Globes and Saturday’s Independent Spirit awards plus a bevy of critic-circle and guild awards.

Matthew McConaughey won the Best Actor award for his role in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” as a desperate AIDS patient who engages in smuggling and scams to get potentially life-saving drugs during the early days of the disease.

Mr. McConaughey thanked God “because that’s who I look up to,” his family, as the people “I look forward to” and himself 10 years from now as “someone to chase after.” Mr. McConaughey had been on a hot streak of critically acclaimed roles in the last few years, after having become a bit of a punchline for much of the previous decade.

In his Texas twang, he also imagined his father in heaven, dancing to the award, with lemon meringue pie and Miller Lite beer.

Cate Blanchett took Best Actress prize for “Blue Jasmine,” her second Academy Award after having won a supporting actress award for “The Aviator” almost a decade ago.

The Australian thespian broke custom by specifically paying tribute to the audiences and marketers who made “Blue Jasmine” a commercial success. She said “Blue Jasmine” also proves that films centered on women — she plays a Blanche Dubois style neurotic — are not a “niche” market.

“They are not, audiences want to see them and in fact they earn money,” she said.

She did not allude to controversy surrounding recently re-raised child-abuse accusations against writer-director Woody Allen by daughter Dylan Farrow. Miss Blanchett and other performers who had worked with Mr. Allen were specifically called out, by name, by Ms. Farrow. Miss Blanchett merely said “thank you so much, Woody, for casting me.”

In a sign of the increasing internationalization of the industry, the best director prize went to Mexico’s Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity,” a film that contains no Spanish and was considered British enough to be considered for home awards at the British Oscars in February.

Still, his speech had several Spanish phrases and included a walkback when he spat out a phrase technically accurate but a bit of a faux-pas in English. He thanked “the wise guys at Warners Brothers — the wise people at Warner Brothers” for backing “Gravity,” drawing some laughs from the audience.

With Mr. Cuaron’s win, “Gravity” clinched the unofficial honor of “most Oscars” at the 86th awards. The prize was the film’s seventh after dominating the technical prizes — winning best visual effects, cinematography, editing, sound mixing, dramatic score and sound effects.

In the supporting acting categories, the awards went to the favorites — Jared Leto for “Dallas Buyer’s Club” and Lupita Nyong’o for “12 Years a Slave.”

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