The period drama
"I cannot tell you, as much as I thought the memoir and Solomon's words and work was special, I had no concept until I saw the movie for the first time," said the film's screenwriter, John Ridley, accepting the prize in that category as he referred to protagonist Solomon Northup.
The film, which is nominated for nine
Released by Fox Searchlight, "12 Years" is in part the product of the perseverance of
McQueen gave a shout-out to John Cassavetes as a formative influence when he accepted the director prize, and during his feature acceptance speech offered praise to the film's two nominated actors who didn't come away victorious.
Of Fassbender, who has starred in three of McQueen's films, he said, "Michael Fassbender is a genius," adding, "he's feminine, he's masculine. Mr. Brando would be extremely proud of you sir ... there is nothing he won't do, nothing he can't do."
And McQueen called Ejiofor, who played the lead role's free man kidnapped into slavery, "the heart and soul of this movie.... Thank you for making this movie the movie it is."
Continuing a recent career resurgence, McConaughey offered an entertaining and elaborate highway metaphor about
"It's not an autobahn film, it's not a freeway, it's not I-35, it's not even a two-lane highway," he said. "It's a feeder road … sometimes it's gravel, sometimes it's blacktop and sometimes it's dirt." He also offered an obligatory, "All right, all right, all right," referencing his "Dazed and Confused"-inspired catchphrase from the
McConaughey's costar Leto continued his powerhouse awards run by taking best supporting actor for his turn as the transgender
He stole the show with an acceptance speech that was both swaggering and self-effacing as he ran through a long list of those he wanted to thank, including Herman Hesse,
Nyong'o, who won for her turn as Patsey in "12 Years a Slave," took the stage later and, noting it was her birthday, offered a heartfelt ode to independent movies, which she said she only began to understand when she arrived in the U.S. from her native Kenya.
Continuing her dominating run throughout the awards season, Blanchett began her speech by pointing out that there were six nominees in the actor category and only five for lead actress, singling out the snub for
Blanchett concluded by suggesting the relative box office success of "Blue Jasmine" shows audiences are "interested in stories led by women, and they can also make money."
In other categories there was a hint of things to come when one of the stars of
In a moving speech that brought some in the audience to their feet, Coogler spoke not only of Oscar Grant, whose story inspired "Fruitvale Station," but also of the fact that there are "thousands of Oscar Grants every year, who are losing their lives to gun violence."
"20 Feet From Stardom," a film about the unsung lives of backup singers, took the prize for best documentary. Director Morgan Neville noted the strong field of films for the year before adding, "It's never been more exciting.... We're all out there basically trying to tell the truth."
The Spirit Awards are presented by Film Independent, a membership organization that also puts on the
The show, which takes place annually on Oscar weekend, often overlaps some of its best picture choices with Sunday's grand event but is not generally considered a predictor of those awards. This year, though, all four acting winners look like good bets to repeat at the Oscars — the first time that would happen — with Nyong'o perhaps the one wild card.