By John Horn (LA Times)
In the end, Oscar voters couldn’t truly avert their gaze from “12 Years a Slave.”
Even though many Oscar voters found filmmaker Steve McQueen’s searing chronicle of enslavement almost too harrowing to watch, “12 Years a Slave” prevailed Sunday to win the best picture trophy in one of the closest contests in modern Academy Awards history.
In a ceremony in which the space thriller “Gravity” collected a leading seven statuettes — including the first directing Oscar won by a Mexican-born filmmaker — the biggest honor went to the true-life account of the kidnapping and auctioning of Solomon Northup, a New York freeman bartered as a Louisiana cotton picker.
“Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live,” the British director McQueen said in accepting the best picture award at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. “This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery.”
Owing to its unflinching representation of whippings, rape and lynchings, “12 Years a Slave” was not intended to be easy viewing. But it was continually buoyed by tremendous critical acclaim… McQueen became the first black director to make a best picture winnner, and “12 Years a Slave” was one of several movies last year that explored the often traumatic history of African Americans, a slate that included “42,” “Fruitvale Station” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”
For all of its acclaim, “12 Years a Slave” has done solid but not stunning business. It actually has performed better overseas than it has in domestic theater — grossing nearly $90 million internationally and $50 million in North America.
[Note: The director, when accepting the award for Best Picture, reminded the audience that millions are still enslaved today….A reminder our work is not done…Lara/Trace]