Culture Junkie: On Hollywood, the Oscars and why there should be no time-limits on ‘Thank You’ speeches
First of all, I’d like to thank Hollywood, and all writers and directors, and of course, the actors, without whom we would not have the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Razzies and, most of all, the Oscars.
Yes, the Oscars. It’s that special time of year again.
“Acceptance Speech Season.”
I love this time of year, as the great entertainment machine goes into tinsel-powered overdrive. It’s when some of us obsessively strive to see every movie nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, and an envied few-dozen nominees begin mentally crafting whatever-it-is they might say should their name be announced on Awards night. It all leads up to the actual Oscars, of course, which this year fall on Sunday, February 24. That’s when millions of us will gather around television screens to find out who’s won what, and to witness the one-of-a-kind spectacle of mostly famous people walking, running, bouncing, stumbling and sashaying to the podium to deliver a speech they may or may not have written down, but have certainly been thinking about.
Some of those speeches will be short. Some will be longer. Some will be boring. Some will be beautiful. Some will leave us scratching our heads or wiping away tears or laughing at the sublime pleasure of a perfectly timed and delivered joke. And if we are lucky, some of those winner’s words will be so instantly memorable as to earn a place amongst the best, boldest and most unforgettable Oscar acceptance speeches of all time.
We all have our favorites. Julie Andrews, in 1965, accepting for her performance in “Mary Poppins” by saying “I know you Americans are famous for your hospitality but this is ridiculous!” Marlon Brando sending out activist Sasheen Littlefeather to decline his award for “The Godfather” in 1973. Dustin Hoffman, while accepting for his performance in “Kramer vs. Kramer,” remarking (of the shiny Oscar statue itself), “He has no genitalia and he’s holding a sword,” then flaming the Academy for passing over Robert Duvall’s performance in “Apocalypse, Now” (for Melvyn Douglas’s in “Being There),” and finally delivering a passionate tribute to all the movie artists who are never named or awarded.
There was the year that second-time Oscar winner Sally Field admitted to some Flying Nun-style insecurity before saying, “I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it. And I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” There was that other time when Jack Palance demonstrated one-armed pushup while accepting Best Supporting Actor for “City Slickers,” slamming Hollywood for its reticence to hire aging actors. There the time when James Cameron, attempting to describe how good he felt after winning Best Director for “Titanic,” accidentally came off as pompous and superior my shouting “I’m the king of the world,” a failed callback to the character Jack’s boyish glee in one of the film’s most indelible moments.
And of course there was that time in 2000 when Angelina Jolie momentarily alarmed and surprised the world, while accepting the Best Supporting Actress award for her performance in “Girl, Interrupted,” when she began by saying, “I am so in love with my brother right now.” It was, of course, the then-25-year-old Jolie’s first Oscar nomination. She was clearly in a bit of shock. When announcer James Coburn spoke her name, Jolie’s brother, seated beside her, immediately hugged Jolie and told her how proud he was. A nice sweet moment. So she clearly meant her warm-and-gooshy remark about her beloved bro to be just that, a nice thing. Not a creepy thing. And 19 years later we still remember it.