March 2, 2014 in Nation/World

‘12 Years a Slave’ big winner at last contest before Oscars

Spirit Awards honor independent filmmakers
Jake Coyle Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Steve McQueen accepts the award for best director for “12 Years a Slave” at the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – “12 Years a Slave” rolled at the Spirit Awards on Saturday, winning five awards, including best feature at the annual independent film celebration.

On the eve of the Academy Awards, the slavery tale won awards for director Steve McQueen, actress Lupita Nyong’o, screenwriter John Ridley and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt. In a more laid-back, beachside ceremony in Santa Monica, just west of Los Angeles, “12 Years a Slave” was applauded as the clear favorite of the indie circuit.

The Spirit Awards could end up being – more than ever before – a dress rehearsal to tonight’s Academy Awards. “12 Years a Slave” is considered, albeit extremely narrowly, the favorite for best picture over the space spectacle “Gravity” and the 1970s con-artist “American Hustle.” (Neither film was eligible at the Spirits, which honor films made for $20 million or less.)

The acting winners, too, may line up. All of the Oscar favorites won Saturday at the Spirits, including best actor for Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club” and Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine.” McConaughey’s co-star, Jared Leto, won best male supporting performance.

Leto gave what might be the acceptance speech to end all acceptance speeches, rattling off an absurd list of thank-yous to not just those with “Dallas Buyers Club,” but Mark Twain, Jackson Pollock, Mozart, Herman Hesse, Wayne Gretzky and many more. The actor-rocker added, with emphasis, “all the women I’ve been with and all the women who think they’ve been with me.”

For many, the Spirit Awards conclude months of award-season events, and they provide a chance to exhale before the Oscars. McConaughey, Blanchett, Leto and Nyong’o have racked up a slew of awards, often triumphing over the same colleagues.

“What am I going to say that I haven’t already said?” Blanchett remarked in her acceptance speech.

McQueen, with “12 Years a Slave” producer Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie looking on, reflected on how the naturalistic films of John Cassavetes “changed my life.” He dedicated his directing award to Cassavetes and Solomon Northup, the man whose memoir “12 Years a Slave” is based on.

Several beloved fixtures of independent film were also remembered. The deaths of James Gandolfini, Philip Seymour Hoffman and critic Roger Ebert over the last year were singled out.

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