And chief among those surprises was that the best picture won the best picture:, not always the case with an Academy where the old, white, wealthy and easily dazzled hold the voting power.
This time the Academy saw beyond the fun but fundamentally shallow American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, and went for a mould breaker.
But Steve McQueen's slavery drama does not deserve to be dismissed as merely a worthy winner.
This is an arthouse success that is on the way to the lower end of blockbuster riches.
With a production budget of just $20 million (£12m) - a fraction of what the average superhero movie costs - 12 Years has so far grossed $140m worldwide. And it has turned Solomon Northup's nineteenth century memoir into a 21st century publishing phenomenon.
As for what McQueen does next, he can now name his price and project.
The rest of the night belonged to Gravity (like 12 Years the only other film to be awarded five stars by The Herald), an international success story that both sides of the Atlantic could share.
Also worth a mention are the plucky little Baftas, for calling the awards split correctly. Similarly, the Glasgow Film Festival - which ended on Oscar night on another ticket sales high - showed it was no mean picker of winners.
It had scheduled 20 Feet From Stardom, the Oscar-winning documentary about backing singers, back when it was a mere glint in Academy voters' eyes.
From Glasgow's Rose Street to the Hollywood and Highland Centre, home of the Oscars ceremony, the lights go up on a surprisingly vintage year.