Oscars 2014: 8 ways they made diversity history

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Sunday night's Academy Awards ceremony resulted in a handful of historic moments, many of them firsts and many of them suggesting that increasing diversity among academy members is having some effect.

The winners may also indicate changes in the film business more generally: Technological changes in how movies are made and distributed, evolving corporate priorities in how movie companies are integrated into larger multinationals, the reinvention of film marketing for the digital age, the emergence of new global. Are this year's Oscars a barometer of things to come? Take a look at these winners and let us know what you think in the comments below.

RELATED: Oscars 2014: Women, minorities changing the look of the Academy — slowly

  1. Best Picture, "12 Years a Slave": This marks the first such win ever for a film from a director or a screenwriter of African descent. It also marks only the third such win since 1967 (after "In the Heat of the Night" and "Driving Miss Daisy") for a film featuring a black leading man.
  2. Best Director, Alfonso Cuaron for "Gravity": This is the first win in this category for a Mexican director and the fourth consecutive win for a non-American. While Americans won 10 of 12 best director Oscars between 1990 and 2001, since that time foreign-born directors have dominated the category, winning seven times in 11 years. Cuaron's win raises that total to eight in 12 years.
  3. Best Actress, Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine": She becomes the first Australian-born performer of any gender to win multiple Oscars.
  4. Best Supporting Actress, Lupita Nyong'o for "12 Years a Slave": The Kenyan actress becomes the first African performer of any gender in any category to win an Oscar. She is also the first Mexican-born actress to win an Oscar — and only the second Mexican-born performer (after Anthony Quinn) — to do so.
  5. Best Supporting Actor, Jared Leto for "Dalls Buyers Club": Leto's is the first-ever win for a performance of a transgendered individual.  
  6. Best Visual Effects, "Gravity": This is the third consecutive win for a film released in 3D and the fourth in the past five years – all of them also best picture nominees. While the 3D format has lost traction among American viewers and has failed so far to secure a foothold as a home entertainment format, its popularity overseas remains undiminished. A win by "Gravity" would help legitimize the format and insure its continued use for the foreseeable future.
  7. Best Adapted Screenplay, John Ridley for "12 Years a Slave": Novelist and screenwriter Ridley’s screenplay is based on the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup, the third-oldest source material ever to inspire an Oscar-winning screenplay, pre-dated only by Emma Thompson’s 1995 Oscar-winning adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" (1811) and John Osborne’s 1963 Oscar-winning adaptation of Henry Fielding’s "The History of Tom Jones" (1749), the source material for that year’s Best Picture, "Tom Jones." Ridley is only the second writer of African descent to win the award, after Geoffrey Fletcher’s win in 2009 for "Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire."
  8. Best Cinematography, Emmanuel Lubezki for "Gravity": Six-time nominee Lubezki won his first Oscar in this category and becomes only the second Mexican-born winner, after 2006’s "Pan’s Labyrinth" winner Guillermo Navarro. Until Sunday, he and fellow nominee Roger Deakins ("Prisoners") were the two most-nominated living cinematographers without a win.  Lubezki's win is also the third consecutive for a 3D movie and the fourth in the past five years. It also marks five straight years that the same film has won both the Visual Effects and Cinematography categories, an unprecedented alignment between the two categories.

Wade Major of boxoffice.com and CityBeat can be heard Fridays on AirTalk's FilmWeek.

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