Oscars 2014 live blog: '12 Years a Slave' takes Best Picture (+video)

Oscars 2014 live blog: '12 Years a Slave' won Best Picture while 'Gravity' director Alfonso Cuaron won Best Director and Matthew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett snagged the Best Actor and Best Actress prizes, respectively.

By , Staff writer

Updated 12:02 a.m. EST

"12 Years a Slave," the film based on the memoir by author Solomon Northup, was named the Best Picture of the year by the Academy.
In an interesting split, director Alfonso Cuaron took the Best Director statuette for the movie "Gravity." (Often, the Best Director prize goes to the helmer of the Best Picture.) 

Actor Matthew McConaughey won the Best Actor prize for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" and thanked his late father, saying, "You taught me what it is to be a man" and adding his catchphrase from the film "Dazed and Confused," "All right, all right, all right."

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Meanwhile, Cate Blanchett took the Best Actress Oscar for her work in "Blue Jasmine" and praised her other competitors, saying the work done in 2013 was "yet again extraordinary."

Blanchett also spoke up in support of female-centric movies.

"Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money," she said. "The world is round, people."

To no one's surprise, "12 Years a Slave" secured the Best Adapted Screenplay prize, while "Her" secured the Best Original Screenplay.

The In Memoriam reel was touching as always and was nicely augmented by Bette Midler's rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings." 

Singer Pink performing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (introduced by Whoopi Goldberg sporting black-and-white socks and red shoes in imitation of those of the film) was a nice nod to the classic 1939 film.

Idina Menzel's performance of the "Frozen" hit "Let It Go" was backed by beautiful sets and visual effects echoing the ice motif of the film, and the gorgeous song's later win for Best Original Song was well-deserved. It's also fun to see a Best Original Song winner be so embedded in pop culture.

The win by "Gravity" for Best Original Score was also great to see -- the music enhanced the already dramatic events of the film to a pulse-pounding level.

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Another big prize was given out: first-time nominee Lupita Nyong'o (who also made her feature film debut!) was given the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her work in "12 Years a Slave," in which she portrayed the abused slave Patsey.

Nyong'o expressed an admirable awareness of the importance of the film's source material in her acceptance speech, thanking memoir author Solomon Northup for writing of his experiences, including meeting Patsey, in "12."

"So much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else's," she said.

She also thanked co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor for "how deeply [he] went into Solomon" and her brother, who accompanied her to the Oscars tonight.

On a more lighthearted note, the award for most charming audience participation is tied with DeGeneres handing out pizza to the audience (she actually ordered it!) and DeGeneres attempting to break a new record with Meryl Streep: that of most retweeted picture ever. When the pizza arrived, Brad Pitt distributed plates while Harrison Ford nudged DeGeneres while she was speaking to ask for napkins. Actor Jared Leto snagged a slice, then informed the camera it was for his mom. 

As for that photo, when Streep suggested actress Julia Roberts join in, a crowd of A-list stars also decided to do so, including Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Spacey, and many more. Cooper volunteered to snap the photo, saying he would have the longest reach, and took a picture of the fun candid moment.

We're seeing a lot of retweets already... 

While presenting the Best Cinematography prize, actor Bill Murray made a heartwarming shout-out to his former comedic co-star and director Harold Ramis, who died recently. Murray both co-starred with Ramis in such films as "Ghostbusters" and was directed by him in movies such as "Groundhog Day."

"Gravity" took Best Cinematography, adding to its already large haul.

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Space was all over the next portion of the Oscar show as "Gravity" secured the Best Visual Effects prize and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performed one of the nominees for Best Original Song, "The Moon Song."

While the spectacle in other Visual Effects nominees like "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" and "Iron Man 3" were undoubtedly great, as Monitor film critic Peter Rainer noted in his review, "Gravity" is probably as close as any of us who aren't astronauts will get to being in space. The Oscar for the movie was well-deserved and it'll be interesting to see if the movie's fantastic effects net it a Best Picture award as well (to say nothing of the film's other elements.) We may get a hint as "12 Years a Slave," the big rival of "Gravity," comes up for more prizes.

Singer Karen O (otherwise known as Karen Lee Orzolek) performed her quiet and gorgeous Best Song nominee from "Her" with Vampire Weekend lead singer Ezra Koening accompanying her. While "Let It Go" of Frozen is the frontrunner for the Best Original Song prize and is incredibly catchy (you're humming it right now, aren't you?), "Moon" is a worthy contender.

The ceremony itself has been speeding through some of the prizes, with the Best Animated Feature and Best Documentary awards, among others, having been distributed. ("Frozen" and "20 Feet from Stardom" claimed those two prizes.)

"House of Cards" actor Kevin Spacey showed off both the Southern accent he uses on the Netflix TV show as well as a brief Jack Lemmon impression when he introduced footage of some of the awards presented before tonight.

Meanwhile, host Ellen DeGeneres is keeping herself popular with the audience by offering to order pizza. A lot of hands went up when she asked who would grab a slice.

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In her opening monologue, Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres provided a mostly sweet intro to the ceremony, a marked contrast to the barbed humor of the 2013 host Seth MacFarlane.

Daytime host DeGeneres began by poking humor at the inclement weather Los Angeles has recently been experiencing, which made Oscar preparations a little more difficult.

"It has been raining," DeGeneres deadpanned. "We're fine. Thank you for your prayers."

She also tweaked the fact that so many previous nominees (Meryl Streep of "August: Osage County," director Martin Scorsese for "The Wolf of Wall Street," and others) were selected again for awards consideration after having been nominated when she hosted in 2007.

"Things were so different," DeGeneres said of her previous hosting gig.

DeGeneres tipped viewers off to the fact that the real Captain Phillips, portrayed by Tom Hanks in Best Picture nominee "Captain Phillips," and the real-life Philomena of the Best Picture nominee of the same name (and played by Judi Dench) are attending the Oscars this evening. 

She also introduced the evening's theme of heroes in film, a motif which will reportedly be extended through the evening.

Real life can be tough, she said, but "movies are an escape."

The night's first prize, Best Supporting Actor, went to "Dallas Buyers Club" nominee Jared Leto, who thanked his mother and brother (both of whom were at the ceremony) in his acceptance speech. Leto mentioned how his mother told her children to "be creative, work hard, and do something special."

Actor Jim Carrey came out next and began by imitating "Nebraska" Best Actor nominee but carried on the theme of heroes in movies by introducing a montage of various animated heroes, including Mr. Incredible of the film "The Incredibles," the Pink Panther of the films of the same name, and the big-eared elephant of "Dumbo."

Who will win next? 

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In recent years, some have complained that the Oscars are too predictable, that everyone knows all the winners anyway, so why bother tuning in?

This year is a little bit different. It’s a year where the Best Picture race is leaving pundits and industry insiders alike scratching their heads. “Gravity”? “12 Years a Slave”? Which will win the big prize? 

It’s a true Best Picture race conundrum the likes of which haven’t been seen for a little while. While last year’s winner “Argo” was a different narrative in that it gained momentum after director Ben Affleck was snubbed in his category, many assumed it would take the main prize before it did. Similarly, 2011’s best movie as anointed by the Academy, “The Artist,” was also a frontrunner before its name was called on Oscar night. The 2010 frontrunners, “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network,” fought it out a bit, as did the 2009 leaders “The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar,” but many correctly predicted which would take the crown (“King” and “Locker”) before the envelopes were opened.

“Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” truly have industry watchers baffled, though. One reason is that, like “Locker” and “Avatar,” they’re such truly different films. “Gravity,” the story of two astronauts stranded in space, is a movie that many insist you need to see in the theater because of its dazzling visuals. “Slave” is the heart-wrenching story of an African-American man living in the US in the 1840s who is kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Some Oscars acting races are tight, too. Will “American Hustle” nominee Jennifer Lawrence go up to the stage for the second time in two years to win Best Supporting Actress, or will frontrunner Lupita Nyong’o of “12 Years a Slave” maintain her momentum? Will “Dallas Buyers Club” Best Actor nominee Matthew McConaughey take the prize, or will strong contenders Chiwetel Ejiofor of “12 Years a Slave” or “Nebraska” actor Bruce Dern triumph?

Grab some popcorn and settle in – whatever happens, it’s going to be an interesting night.

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