The powerful historical drama "12 Years a Slave" and its star Chiwetel Ejiofor received top honors Sunday from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. The harrowing film, which depicts the cruelty a freed black man (Ejiofor) endures once he's kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1850s, was awarded best picture and best actor and picked up a best adapted screenplay award for John Ridley.

It, however, failed to capture the most honors from the group of Bay Area film critics and writers. That distinction befell the lost-in-space 3-D odyssey "Gravity," which collected four awards -- best director for Alfonso Cuaron, best cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki, best film editing for Mark Sanger and best production design for Andy Nicholson.

In other honors, East Bay filmmaker Ryan Coogler was recognized for his moving, acclaimed debut feature focused mostly on the final hours of Oscar Grant's life, "Fruitvale Station."

The group awarded both Coogler and Christopher Statton -- who has been an advocate for the independent Roxie Theater in San Francisco -- with its annual Marlon Riggs Award. The designation celebrates courage and innovation in the world of Bay Area film.

Other categories and winners included: Best actress -- Cate Blanchett for her impeccable performance as a disgraced New Yorker who moves to San Francisco where she comes undone in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine."

Best supporting actor -- for a barely recognizable James Franco as the creepy drug dealer Alien in "Spring Breakers."


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Best supporting actress -- Jennifer Lawrence for her high-voltage portrayal of a mentally unstable jabberjaw in "American Hustle."

Best animated feature -- "Frozen," Disney's peppy musical version of "The Snow Queen."

Best documentary -- "The Act of Killing," which disturbingly had Indonesian death squads portray themselves and then had them re-create their crimes on film.

Best foreign language film -- "Blue is the Warmest Color," a beautiful NC-17 epic from France about the evolution of a passionate lesbian relationship.

Best original screenplay -- Eric Singer and David O. Russell for their clever handling of the Abscam scandal and '70s America in "American Hustle."

And, lastly, the group presented its Special Citation for underappreciated independent cinema to "Computer Chess," a hilarious pseudo-documentary about an '80s chess competition and the nascent attempts to make the best computer-chess program to rule them all.