“Gravity” swept the Oscars this year with 7 wins, dominating the technical awards and earning Best Director for Alfonso Cuarón, making him the first Latin recipient to earn an award in the category. “12 Years a Slave” was the other big winner with 3 Oscars, while it wasn’t the only movie to earn that many it managed to snag the crown jewel of the evening for with Best Picture, making it the first film by a black director to win. Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o proved to be one of this year’s darlings as well, captivating with her earnest heartfelt acceptance speech following her win for Best Supporting Actress. For her role in the film
Brad Pitt was Producer on “12 Years a Slave” with Plan B Entertainment. He was very proud of the Best Picture win and of the performance delivered by the cast and Director Steve McQueen.
“We had an exquisite cast that were all drawn because of, one, the story and, two, because of Steve. Lupita is an absolute gem, grace incarnate, and a rare find; and I so look forward to seeing what she does in the future. She’s very, very special. But I also want to mention Chiwetel’s performance, because, for me, the restraint and the elegance in trying to maintain his dignity throughout these scenes, I’m telling you as an actor it’s exhausting, and he was just pitch perfect. And for me as a fellow actor watching that performance is incredibly, incredibly inspiring to me. And I think everyone fell in line to tell the story. Everyone was behind it, including the day players in from New Orleans who were also really committed and gifted; and we also have to thank the great city of New Orleans.”
Anthony Katagas spoke about the global appeal the film’s human message carries.
“I would just say that I think ’12 Years’ has had a wonderful reception around the world, not just the United States, but in the rest of the world. And I think that that’s a great development, because it suggests that the universality of the story is what’s important. I think it’s starting to kind of break down some of these ideological concepts of what is a domestic story, what is an international story, which kind of story is for what audience; and hopefully this movie is not just an end in itself, but it’s a means to the larger end that you’re talking about.”
John Ridley who won for Best Adapted Screenplay for “12 Years a Slave” discussed his vision in the process of adapting a story from the past, complete with the challenges of retaining an archaic dialect, to make it relevant and alive in modern day.
“I think the fact that this story is relevant now is because stories about human nature are always relevant. Stories about individuals, no matter their difficult circumstances, who see the beauty in the world, that’s always relevant. And, unfortunately, it’s relevant because there are more people in slavery right now in the world than at any other time. And as beautiful as this film is, my fear is that people would walk away from it and say, ‘That’s the past, that’s the distance. Thank God that’s not us anymore!’ I hope that people, if they feel anything at all, will think about the world we live in at this moment right now.”
Ridley wrote his Oscar winning script in less than ideal conditions but made it work while balancing a family life.
“Being a father, I found that the most of the writing that I’ve done, honestly, over the last couple of years has been in my car, waiting for my kids, waiting at basketball practice, waiting at choir practice,” Said Ridley, “Honestly, I would love to write on a beach in Hawaii. Most of the time it’s in my car in the parking lot of my kids’ school.”
Lupita Nyong’o was a shining beacon of grace and delight throughout the awards season. Her bright sense of style and warm poised presence helped make her a favorite early on. When asked what the best advice she has received from others who had walked the path to Oscar fame before her she had beautiful words to share.
“I think the message that I’ve gotten from many people who have been in this position is that they’ve said from their hearts that the outcome doesn’t matter, that you’ve already won. The work has been done. And remembering that has kept me hopeful, and positive, and relaxed.”
She was very humble and gracious about her win.
“I think credit must be given to my parents. I have phenomenal parents. My father is famous in his own right, has done amazing things for our country, Kenya, and my mother, too. She’s a trailblazer. She’s a pioneer. And to watch those two people do so much and mean so much to everyone but at the end of the day still have the humility to serve. I think of their example because at the end of the day I just feel it is my deeds that are more important than my than my fame.”
Alfonso Cuarón came onto the stage triumphant, double fisting twin Oscars for Directing and for Cinematograraphy for “Gravity”.
When asked about being celebrated by Mexico for being the first Latin Director to win he expressed hope that this recognition would give a new spotlight to other filmmakers and movies as well.
“I’m Mexican, you know, so I hope that, like anything, some Mexicans were rooting for me to win this thing. What I’m saying is that I don’t think that there’s enough attention being given to amazing expressions of Mexican culture that are happening right now in Mexico. I really appreciate and I’m really grateful with all this support that I’ve been feeling from Mexico, but I just would love if that same support is given to some other films that are coming out of there with Mexican filmmakers, shot in Mexico, and with Mexican subject matters.”
Cuarón graciously credited his leading lady Sandra Bullock for her work tackling the physically challenging role and her part in being the bridge between the technical achievements and the human connection the film was able to produce.
“I was surrounded by an amazing group of people that they were really supervising that. The amazing thing actually is not so much the visual effects aspect, but the surprising thing was Sandra. That under the conditions that she was performing, the relationship actor/director was as if we were doing just a scene at the dinner table. So there was no obstacle around all the physicality, all the strain, all the complicated amount of cues that required and the amazing amount of make-believe that it was required. It’s like she had to absorb absolutely everything. Her power of abstraction was fantastic. And no, not because I did a good job, it’s because Sandra is amazing.”
Cuarón praised his technical crew and expressed his fondness for working with the British film industry. His last film “Children of Men” was also shot in the UK.
“Definitely the amazing know-how quality and sophistication of the British film industry made this film happen I’m talking specifically about companies like Framestore or the amazing crew that I worked with. This is the third film that I have done in the U.K. I have done more films in the U.K. than in any other country in the world.” Adding, “The British film culture is in as good shape as the American industry right now. And it’s obviously, like Mexico, more venues, more support and more incentives.“
Mark Sanger who won along with Cuarón for Cinematography talked about the challenges of shooting in an environment with no set directions where the camera lens can shoot at any angle within 360 degrees.
“Alfonso created an environment in which all the conventional rules were thrown out, and that certainly presented a challenge editorially. I think it presented a challenge cinematographically. I think it also presented a challenge for all of the crew. What we did in the first 18 months was kind of reinvent those rules, and we had the time to do that. And, certainly, I think the way that the audience engaged in it in the end, it meant that we certainly I think we succeeded in that.”
Christopher Benstead who won for “Gravity” for Sound Mixing talked about the importance of sound in the movie and the challenge of having space as an acoustic setting.
“I think it was trying to keep the attention for an hour and a half when technically we shouldn’t be using any sound. But luckily we were able to do that with a few tricks by using the music a lot as well to create tension for a lot of this film. It’s one of the main voices.”
“Gravity” also won Best Original Score which was presented to Steven Price who gave a glimpse into how his love for music started very young.
“My house was basically full of music. My main memories of growing up are the record player in the living room at home and my mom claims I learned to speak from listening to records, and that was kind of it. So it was all the Beatles and Stones and that sort of stuff and we used to dance around the living room. So that kind of started me up on playing lots of instruments and that sort of thing. And I’ve kind of done nothing else ever since.”
Prices compares the process of navigating and forming the unique score for him to a dance.
“There’s no conventional sound in space. I had this incredible canvas to work with. You know, the music was not only carrying the emotional journey. But it was also kind of surrounding you and immersing you and hopefully, like a ballet really, I was following the choreography of the characters and the way they were looking and all that sort of thing, with the hope that we make you feel like you were the third astronaut up in space. So that was the hope.“