"Gravity" was the big winner at Sunday night's 86th Academy Awards, taking home seven Oscars, including for Alfonso Cuarón as best director, but the award for best picture went to "12 Years a Slave."
The film's director, Steve McQueen, dedicated the award to victims of slavery past and present. "Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live," he said.
It was the last in a series of emotional speeches in which actors and filmmakers accepted awards for films that often addressed difficult issues. Jared Leto, winning best supporting actor for playing a transgender AIDS victim in "Dallas Buyers Club," dedicated his Oscar to "the 36 million people who have lost the battle of AIDS." Lupita Nyong'o, winning best supporting actress for "12 Years a Slave," invoked the ghosts of slavery as well. And Cate Blanchett, winning best actress for "Blue Jasmine," said that Woody Allen's film proved that female-driven movies could succeed and "earn money." Matthew McConaughey won best actor, also for "Dallas Buyers Club."
"American Hustle," which went into the evening with 10 nominations, left with none. "Her," a dark horse in the Oscar race, won for director Spike Jonze's original screenplay.
Ellen DeGeneres, hosting the show for the second time, otherwise kept the mood light, using her opening monologue to gently rib her famous audience. She compared the Oscars to "The Hunger Games" -- "There are cameras everywhere, you're starving, Jennifer Lawrence won last year" -- and took a jibe at herself when she referred to Jonah Hill's semi-nude scene in "The Wolf of Wall Street": "You showed us something in that film that I have not seen for a very, very long time." DeGeneres also took a group photo of herself with Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and countless other members of Hollywood royalty. "Did you get in on that, too?" DeGeneres said to Brad Pitt. "God, you're a photo hog."
The ceremony's theme this year was "Heroes in Hollywood," a nod to the many bio-pics and true-life stories crowding the list of best picture nominees. Sally Field introduced a montage of "stories that inspire and challenge us" that included past classics such as "Gandhi," recent movies like "42," the current contender "Dallas Buyers Club" and Field's own Oscar-winning film "Norma Rae." Other presenters had a tougher time, however, introducing the evening's best nine picture nominees into sometimes arbitrary-seeming blocks of three: Tyler Perry, for instance, had the thankless task of introducing "Her," "Nebraska" and "Gravity."
PHARRELL MOVES THE STARS. Performing "Happy" with his trademark Mountie/Smokey the Bear hat, Pharrell Williams came down to the front row and got several women -- even Meryl Streep -- to shake to the beat.
HIPSTER SIGHTINGS.New York indie-rock darlings Karen O, of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend performed a stripped-down, voice-and-guitar version of "The Moon Song," from the movie "Her."
LOVE AT THE OSCARS. Darlene Love, a subject of the Oscar-winning documentary about backup singers, "20 Feet From Stardom," joined the filmmakers onstage and received a standing ovation for singing "His Eye Is on the Sparrow."
VOICE LESSON. Syosset's Idina Menzel belted it out, Broadway-style, on "Let It Go," from the movie "Frozen," and gets a standing ovation from the movie-star audience. (Shortly after her performance, "Let It Go" won for best original song.)