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In a particularly competitive year, emotions were running high at the 86th Academy Awards — and that showed in the winners’ speeches.
Jared Leto kicked off the night, accepting the first award — for best supporting actor — for his turn in Dallas Buyers Club. Leto began his speech by calling out his mother (“Thank you for teaching me to dream”) and brother (“The best big brother in the world, you’re a true artist”).
Leto’s speech took a turn for the political as he spoke to those watching from Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging them to keep dreaming and keep pushing, offering his full support. As his film is centered around the issue of AIDS, Leto also spoke to the victims of the disease.
“This is for the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love; tonight I stand here in front of the world with you and for you,” Leto said.
Morgan Neville, the late Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers won the best documentary feature award and, with Janet Friesen standing in for her late husband, accepted the award on a brighter note, bringing 20 Feet From Stardom subject Darlene Love onstage with them. The film is about backup singers, and Love soon broke out in song. She sang, “I sing because I’m happy! I sing because I’m free. ‘Cause his eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.” Her song was met with a standing ovation.
Leto’s female counterpart, 12 Years a Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o, claimed the Oscar for best supporting actress. A teary-eyed Nyong’o, speaking directly to the subjects of the film, began her speech: “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of [her character] Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon [Northup], thank you for telling her story and your own.”
Nyong’o — who was born in Mexico and is of Kenyan descent — wrapped up her speech by addressing the dreamers out there, keeping her speech sentimental and moving. “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid,” Nyong’o said.
12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley accepted the award for best adapted screenplay. Ridley thanked the original author, Northup, who penned the autobiography on which the film is based. “All the praise goes to Solomon Northup,” Ridley said. “Those are his words. That is his life.”
Matthew McConaughey — who played the now-deceased AIDS victim Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club — took home the award for best actor. A religious man, McConaughey first thanked God, then his family, discussing what his parents, wife and children taught him and how he wants to make him proud.
He ended by discussing his hero — himself — throughout his life and what he aspires to be. “Every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I’m never going to be my hero. I’m not going to attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”
Steve McQueen concluded the evening, accepting the best picture award for 12 Years a Slave. McQueen also mentioned Northup, saying, “Everyone deserves to live, not just survive.” When the speech wrapped, McQueen began jumping up and down in excitement.
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