The Academy Awards, commonly known as The Oscars, is an annual American awards ceremony honoring achievements in the film industry. Winners are awarded the statuette, officially the Academy Award of Merit, that is much better known by its nickname Oscar. The awards, first presented in 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, are overseen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences(AMPAS).
Among this year’s winners were the British director, Steve McQueen’s, 12 Years a Slave in the “Best Picture” and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity in the “Best Directing” standings (the latter starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney).
Interestingly, Steve McQueen and Alfonso Cuaron both appear to come from the same film directors’ stock; neither was previously nominated for Oscar. McQueen started in a specific genre known as video art and Cuaron made his name in Mexico due to his erotic road movie Y tu mama tambien (2001) and box-office Hollywood premiere of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). Critics wrote that it was the first production that conveyed the author’s original message.
12 Years a Slave is perhaps too straightforward and not the best movie made by McQueen. He told The Day in December 2013 that slavery was a deep psychological wound from the outset, that it was hard to put up with the very concept, but that it was much easier for people to turn away from the problem than to study it. Looks like American and Western society in general are keenly aware of this trauma, hence the Academy’s top award, compared to the restrained approach to Tarantino’s more professional, light and ironical production Django Unchained dedicated to the same subject.
Gravity won the Oscar mainly due to its special effects and its director was also awarded most likely for his usage of the latest computer technologies, whereas the plot doesn’t seem to rate the prize. The Academy, however, considers the audience’s choice first and foremost. Hence the Oscars conferred on productions that obviously differ in quality, like 12 Years a Slave and Gravity.