Director Steve McQueen’s exuberant leap of joy after his epic drama “12 Years a Slave” won the Oscar for best picture was the only spontaneous moment in a long evening that held few surprises.
Host Ellen DeGeneres, who looked terrific in all of her many tuxedo changes, was a perfect host. She was genial, funny and inoffensive. The idea was to erase the memory of Seth McFarlane’s turn as Oscar host last year when he made jokes about “boobs.” Instead Ellen took gentle jabs at celebrities, got them to pose for selfies and ordered pizza for the A-listers in the front row.
She opened with a joke about the weather. For the past few days there was a sort of hysteria in L.A. about the non-stop rain and how it would affect the couture and hairstyles of the celebrity wattage on the red carpet.
“For those of you watching us around the world, it’s been a tough couple of days for us. It has been raining. We’re fine – thank you for your prayers,” DeGeneres joked.
In her opening monologue she joked about “12 Years a Slave” and what it would mean if the epic lost the top prize.
“Possibility 1,” she said, “12 Years a Slave’ wins Best Picture.” “Possibility 2,” if it doesn’t win, she told the audience of Academy voters, “You are all racists.”
Lupita Nyong’o won best supporting actress for her portrayal of the tortured slave Patsy, and John Ridley won for best adapted screenplay for “12 Years a Slave,” but as the evening went on, the space thriller “Gravity” kept racking up little gold men.
The film won seven gold statuettes, including for director Alfonso Cuaron, original score, cinematography (the brilliant Emmanuel Lubezki), and sound effects.
But then at the end of the three-hour-plus telecast, Will Smith announced the Best Picture prize — “12 Years a Slave” — and an emotional Brad Pitt, one of the producers and featured actors, accepted the honor and then passed off the honor to the choked up director and fellow producer Steve McQueen.
“Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” said Steve McQueen, the first black director to win this Oscar top honor.
“This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup,” the director added. ” I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery. And the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”
And then McQueen, with his back to the audience, in a moment of pure joy, did that James Brown-like leap.
Afterwards in the pressroom McQueen explained, “I’m as cool as a cucumber right now. Absolutely! You saw the jump, of course. I mean everyone’s talking about the jump, but it’s just really truly, I was just so ecstatic, so happy for us all. And, you know, it’s one of those moments in life where, you know it might not ever happen again, and you’re living it, and you’re there. It’s not a dream. It’s a reality. So emotions, physicality just takes over. So, you know, Van Halen: Jump!”