(LOS ANGELES) — The outer-space drama Gravity won a leading seven Oscars at the 86th annual Academy Awards Sunday night in Los Angeles, but it was brought down to earth by 12 Years a Slave, which took home the night’s most prestigious award: Best Picture.
Going into the race, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave were the two pictures that most pundits predicted would win, and when Gravity started scooping technical awards left and right, it appeared that the momentum was on its side.
But even though Gravity‘s Alfonso Cuaron was named Best Director towards the end of the evening, 12 Years a Slave emerged victorious. On the podium, director Steve McQueen said, “I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”
12 Years a Slave also won Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o, in her first film role. “When I look down on this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid,” said the Kenyan actress, who called her work on the film “the joy of my life.”
As for the rest of the field, there weren’t any big surprises, since many of them had been predicted for weeks. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto were named Best Actor and Supporting Actor, respectively, for their roles in Dallas Buyers Club. They were both first-time winners.
Cate Blanchett took home her second Oscar, winning Best Actress for Blue Jasmine.
Frozen was named Best Animated Film, while its ubiquitous anthem “Let It Go” was named Best Original song, beating out the likes of U2 and Pharrell Williams.
McConaughey, who lost 45 pounds for his role as a man with AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club, gave a long, complicated but entertaining speech in which he explained that he needs three things every day: someone to look up to, something to look forward to, and someone to chase. He said he looked up to God, and looked forward to his family. As for who he chases, he said it’s his hero, who he describes as a future version of himself. He explained, “Every day…my hero is ten years away. I’m never gonna be my hero, I’m not gonna obtain that, and that’s just fine with me, because it keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”
“So to anyone of us, whatever those things are, whatever it is we look up to, and look forward to and whatever it is we’re chasing,” McConaughey concluded, “To that I say, ‘All right, all right, all right!’ And just keep livin’!”
Leto, who played an HIV-positive transgendered woman in Dallas Buyers Club, said during his speech, “This is for the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love, tonight I stand here in front of the world for you.”
As for Blanchett, during her speech, she thanked her fellow nominees profusely, and then said pointedly, “Those of us in the industry that are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are ‘niche experiences,’ they are not. Audiences wanna see them, and in fact, they earn money!”
Host Ellen DeGeneres represented a huge turnaround from last year’s host, Seth MacFarlane, who offended many with his off-color humor. She was her usual warm self, poking gentle fun at the stars in the audience, but was never mean or “edgy.”
The talk show host, who changed outfits three times during the telecast, also was huge on audience participation. She ordered pizza for the hungry stars, bringing in an actual delivery guy with a stack of boxes and passing out slices on paper plates. She then passed Pharrell’s hat around to collect the money for the meal, shaming the bigger stars, like Brad Pitt, into throwing in even more money.
She also snapped selfies with various stars. One in particular, which included everyone from Jennifer Lawrence to Bradley Cooper to Meryl Streep to Angelina Jolie, became the most retweeted photo in Twitter history.
Music was a huge part of the telecast, which wrapped up around midnight. While Ellen didn’t sing or dance, U2 got a standing ovation for an acoustic performance of their nominated song “Ordinary Love,” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
Pharrell Williams, wearing his famous hat, got the audience — including Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Lupita Nyong’o — up and dancing to his #1 hit “Happy,” from Despicable Me 2. Karen O of the alternative rock band The Yeah Yeah Yeahs performed “The Moon Song” — from the movie Her – with Ezra Koenig of the band Vampire Weekend on guitar. And Idina Menzel belted out “Let It Go,” even though John Travolta completely and shamefully mangled her name while introducing her.
Pink sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as part of a Wizard of Oz tribute. Bette Midler sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” as part of the “In Memoriam” segment paying tribute to those we lost over the past year, including James Gandolfini, Harold Ramis, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Shirley Temple and Sid Caesar. Ramis’ close friend and collaborator Bill Murray also gave Ramis a special shout-out onstage.