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’12 Years A Slave’ Makes Oscar History – Catch Up On Our Comprehensive Coverage Of The Film

'12 Years A Slave' Makes Oscar History - Catch Up On Our Comprehensive Coverage Of The Film

In case you haven’t heard, 12 Years a Slave won the biggest prize of the night, picking up the Academy Award for Best Picture, which wasn’t much of a surprise to this writer. Although Gravity – a movie that I thought was a glorious technical achievement, and should have won most technical awards, but should not have been a contender in any of the Acting, Directing or Picture categories – took home the most awards overall, with seven, including Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron.

In addition to Best Picture, 12 Years a Slave, the historical drama based on the true story of Solomon Northup, also took home Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o (who, as expected, and as she’s done all awards season, delivered yet another moving acceptance speech), and Best Adapted Screenplay for John Ridley, which, despite the fact that he was at the top of most pre-Oscars prognosticator lists, was somewhat of a surprise to me. I didn’t expect the film to win in that last category.

Also of note, with respect to this blog’s interests, 20 Feet from Stardom (the documentary which introduces audiences to the many nameless and incredibly talented back-up singers behind some of the world’s most popular musicians) won the Oscar for Best Documentary. The film’s story doesn’t end here, as Oprah Winfrey picked up rights to Darlene Love’s memoir (she’s one of the stars of 20 Feet from Stardom) to adapt into a telepic for the OWN network.

But it was a historic night for 12 Years a Slave, as the title of this post states. It becomes the first black film (in this case, a film that centers primarily on the life, or lives of characters of African descent, with a mostly black cast) to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Prior to this year, we can count 1985’s The Color Purple and 2009’s Precious as previous instances that black films were nominated for Best Picture. We could also add Django Unchained to that list, I suppose, which was nominated for Best Picture last year (although there was and still is a sharp divide between those who consider it a “black film” and those who do not. Also there’s The Blindside, which was nominated in the same year that Precious was. 

As an aside, 12 Years a Slave has the added bonus of being written and directed by a writer and director of African descent, unlike most of the others.

But even if we counted all of those titles, the fact still remains, that 12 Years a Slave has earned its place in the Academy Awards history books, becoming the first black film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s also only the second time in Academy Awards history (a nearly 100 year history) that a film directed by black director has been nominated for Best Picture. Lee Daniels was the first, with Precious. Some would call that progress. Others will call it a truck-load of bullshite; and still others will say, who gives a you-know-what.

Regardless, congrats to all the winners! It was your night! All eyes will be watching to see what happens next for Lupita Nyong’o. 

In light of 12 Years a Slave’s big, historic night, I thought we’d revisit all our key coverage of the film over the last couple of years or so, since the project was first announced – from our review of the source material (Solomon Northup’s book), to our review of the adapted screenplay, our review of the film itself after its Toronto International Film Festival premiere, my spirited interview with Steve McQueen, other interviews with the stars of the film, like Lupita Nyong’o and Alfre Woodard, the numerous essays written on the film by Nijla Mumin, Tanya SteeleMárcio de Abreu, our post release conversation about the film, and more.

I’d say we’ve been quite thorough, covering it from a variety of angles, with pieces from those of us who absolutely loved the film, and those of us who appreciated it, but didn’t necessarily love it, and the rest (although I don’t believe any of us hated it). But I’d say we made an attempt to be comprehensive.

The complete winners list follows below; but first, here are all the links to our key coverage of 12 Years a Slave, starting with my write-up of the novel, and ending with Márcio’s essay “‘12 Years A Slave’ And The White Fantasy Of A New Species:”

– From Book To Film: A Look At Steve McQueen’s Upcoming Adaptation Of ’12 Years A Slave’

– We’ve Read It! Thoughts On Steve McQueen’s ’12 Years A Slave’ Script

– What About That Other ’12 Years A Slave’ Movie?

– Get Familiar w/ Lupita Nyong’o’s Past Work Before Seeing Her Lauded Performance In ’12 Years A Slave’

– Review: In Steve McQueen’s ’12 Years A Slave’ Black Pain Is Hard, Torturous & Visceral

– Interview: 12 Minutes w/ Steve McQueen – On ’12 Years A Slave,’ His ‘Brand,’ His ‘Blackness’ & More

– Interview: Lupita Nyong’o Takes S&A Inside the Emotion and Brutality of Filming ’12 Years a Slave’

– Interview: Alfre Woodard Talks to S&A About ’12 Years a Slave,’ “Slave Movie Fever,” and That Much-Discussed Oprah Special

– Interview: Kelsey Scott Talks To S&A About Playing Chiwetel’s Wife In ’12 Years A Slave,’ Her Crush On Steve McQueen, More

– The ‘Lonely Slave’ Narrative Continues To Thrive In Hollywood

– Patsey’s Plea: Black Women’s Survival in ’12 Years A Slave’

– Lupita Nyong’o Has Become A Style Icon. But Let’s Not Forget That She’s An Actress

– S&A Weighs In: On The Aftermath of ’12 Years A Slave’ & ‘Important Black Film Fatigue’

– ’12 Years A Slave’ And The White Fantasy Of A New Species

And finally, here is the list of winners from last nights celebration:

Best Picture
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actor
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club — WINNER

Best Actress
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine – WINNER
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club – WINNER

Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave – WINNER
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

Best Director
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity – WINNER
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Original Screenplay
Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, Dallas Buyers Club
Spike Jonze, Her – WINNER
Bob Nelson, Nebraska

Best Adapted Screenplay
Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave – WINNER
Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Animated Feature
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen – WINNER
The Wind Rises

Best Original Song
“Happy,” Despicable Me 2; music and lyrics by Pharrell Williams
“Let It Go,” Frozen; music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez — WINNER
“The Moon Song,” Her; music by Karen O., lyrics by Karen O. and Spike Jonze
“Ordinary Love,” Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom; music by Paul Hewson, Dan Evans, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen, a.k.a. U2; lyrics by Paul Hewson, a.k.a. Bono

Best Original Score
John Williams, The Book Thief
Steven Price, Gravity – WINNER
William Butler and Owen Pallett, Her
Alexandre Desplat, Philomena
Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks

Best Production Design
Judy Becker (Production Design); Heather Loeffler (Set Decoration), American Hustle
Andy Nicholson (Production Design); Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard (Set Decoration), Gravity
Catherine Martin (Production Design); Beverley Dunn (Set Decoration), The Great Gatsby – WINNER
K.K. Barrett (Production Design); Gene Serdena (Set Decoration), Her
Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Alice Baker (Set Decoration), 12 Years a Slave

Best Film Editing
Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten, American Hustle
Christopher Rouse, Captain Phillips
John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa, Dallas Buyers Club
Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger, Gravity – WINNER
Joe Walker, 12 Years a Slave

Best Cinematography
Philippe Le Sourd, The Grandmaster
Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity – WINNER
Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis
Phedon Papamichael, Nebraska
Roger A. Deakins, Prisoners

Best Sound Editing
Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns, All Is Lost
Oliver Tarney, Captain Phillips
Glenn Freemantle, Gravity – WINNER
Brent Burge, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Wylie Stateman, Lone Survivor

Best Sound Mixing
Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro, Captain Phillips
Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro, Gravity – WINNER
Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland, Inside Llewyn Davis
Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow, Lone Survivor

Best Foreign Language Film
The Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium
The Great Beauty, Italy — WINNER
The Hunt, Denmark
The Missing Picture, Cambodia
Omar, Palestine

Best Documentary — Feature
The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet from Stardom – WINNER

Best Documentary — Short
Facing Fear
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life – WINNER
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Best Live Action Short
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)
Helium – WINNER
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
The Voorman Problem

Best Visual Effects
Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould, Gravity – WINNER
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick, Iron Man 3
Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier, The Lone Ranger
Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton, Star Trek Into Darkness

Best Animated Short
Get a Horse!
Mr. Hublot – WINNER
Room on the Broom

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews, Dallas Buyers Club – WINNER
Stephen Prouty, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny, The Lone Ranger

Best Costume Design
Michael Wilkinson, American Hustle
William Chang Suk Ping, The Grandmaster
Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby – WINNER
Michael O’Connor, The Invisible Woman
Patricia Norris, 12 Years a Slave

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In a Dutch newspaper Steve McQueen's Dutch partner now claims is was her idea.

As for Steve McQueen, I am very happy for him, but as an Afro-European I feel African-Americans should have played a bigger part in this film. let’s be honest about this, 12 Years a Slave is a real historical African-American story. We are in this together, right.

There must be more to black America than Tyler Perry’s Aunt Madea. It’s great that British Steve McQueen is the first Black filmmaker to win an Academy Award for Best Picture and that French Euzhan Palcy is the first black female director produced by a major Hollywood studio. But perhaps that was on John Ridley’s mind went he passed McQueen. I hope I am wrong, but I feel a diasporic divide coming our way.


PPL – look out for the film Belle [ also based on a true story] – it tells a completely different story on the slave trade – directed by a black woman. It screened at the 2014 Athena FF in NYC and is definitely worth checking out!


Let's talk about John Ridley and how emotional he was at the spirit awards and last night. And why he walked by Steve McQueen to get his oscar and totally ignored the director….Things that make you say hmmmmmmmmmmmmm….


Can we please not refer to "12 Years" as a "black film." There wasn't an all black cast and this wasn't geared, specifically, toward black people. It's a film. period. If any label is to be adhered to it, please refer to it as being a film about AMERICAN HISTORY. Why do some of us insist on placing others in boxes?

Very happy for all the winners, but would really like to know more about the fallout between Ridley and McQueen. Talk about a snub. Ridley didn't mention McQueen in his speech and walked right past the brother on his way up to the stage to accept his award. Talk about cold, crabs in a barrel!!!


I'm am beyond thrilled for Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong'o, and John Ridley.

I'm particularly satisfied to see John Ridley receive credit for writing since he's labored in the game for more than two decades. Solomon Northrup's original text and Solomon himself finally receive the recognition they deserve.

This is one of few years when I feel that merit won over popularity and the right people received the credit they earned.

I do wish Bad Grandpa would have won for makeup because I like the idea of "Jackass!" being screamed out from the podium.

The Ebony Cinematheque

It was a night of a historic firsts and a epic win for black cinema, I was unsure last night if this movie would win after the Oscar was given to Matthew for Dallas Buyers Club but when it did my home was filled with cheers. Its the first black Best Picture, it is also the first time in the Oscars history that a black producer has won for Best Picture with Steve McQueen and only the 2nd time someone black has been nominated since Q.Jones for the Color Purple, it also was the 3rd win in history for a African American screenwriter and the 2nd for an black man with previously Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious which if anyone noticed is adapted, we have yet to allow someone prove the creativity of the mind in Best Original Screenplay. But what was most exciting was the first time an African American film was consider in the technical achievement categories of production design, costume design and film editing.

In the 86 yrs of the Academy, they have never acknowledge our films for technical merit. It was so amazing to see 12yrs go against the glitzy sumptuous films that win every year.


I hope we see more Black films that deals with different aspects of slavery. Since there are so few Black films about slavery.


I'm glad it won, happy for Lupita, now hopefully we can see more Black films that do not have to deal with slavery.

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