The biggest night of the film calendar is almost upon us, and rather than burden you all with yet another predictions post, I thought I would honour the Academy Awards by listing my ten favourite acceptance speeches. The question of ‘what would you say’ is one I often ponder whilst in the shower or on a long bus ride, and whilst I know I will never make it up to the stage myself, I take great satisfaction in watching the winning performers stumble and bumble their way through what is effectively the greatest moment of their career. My selection may not contain some of the most memorable, but I wanted to avoid such ballers as Gwyneth Paltrow and Halle Berry, nobody needs to see those tears again. So, in no particular order:
1. Sally Field – Leading Actress In A Motion Picture – Places In The Heart (1985)
A classic case of miscommunication in 1985 when Sally Field ended her speech with a line from the film for which she had won the award. Clearly not many of her peers in the room had seen Places In The Heart, missed the joke, and this made for a memorable and slightly cringe worthy cry of ‘you like me! Right now, you like me!’ that went over their heads!
2. Denzel Washington – Lead Actor In A Motion Picture – Training Day (2001)
A poignant evening at the 74th Academy Awards when Denzel Washington became only the second black man to win Best Actor on the same night that Sidney Poitier, the first, received an honorary award. Their exchange is heart warming and to round it off, it had been Washington who presented Poitier with his honorary Oscar earlier in the evening.
3. Adrien Brody – Lead Actor In A Motion Picture – The Pianist (2002)
Who can forget that fateful night when Adrien Brody took to the podium and gave Halle Berry much more than a congratulatory handshake. His kissing became something of a tradition, as infulling his duty the next year of presenting the award for Best Actress, he came on stage with mouth wash and prepared himself for a smooch with the lucky recipient, Charlize Theron.
4. Julia Roberts – Lead Actress In A Motion Picture – Erin Brockovich (2000)
After two previous nominations Julia finally got her hands on a statuette for Erin Brockovich, and the speech descends in to a classic ramble of thanking just about everyone she can, highlights being her instruction to the orchestra’s composer to put his stick down and let her talk, and a reprise of the infamous Pretty Woman laugh that we all know and love.
5. Cuba Gooding Jr. – Supporting Actor In A Motion Picture – Jerry Maguire (1996)
The living example of a man who will NOT BE TAKING ANY OF YOUR ORDERS. Probably the closest to how I think I would react myself, Cuba Gooding Jr. cannot contain the sheer joy of his triumph and a small thing like an orchestra playing him out is absolutely not going to get in the way of his happiness!
6. Emma Thompson – Leading Actress In A Motion Picture – Howard’s End (1992)
Nothing sensational or immensely striking about this one, but I love it because it displays all the British giddiness and wit that Emma Thompson has in abundance. She remains the only person in Oscar history to have won statuettes for both acting and writing. Bravo!
7. Meryl Streep – Leading Actress In A Motion Picture – The Iron Lady (2011)
Perhaps the greatest actress of the last forty years, Meryl Streep was well aware of her popularity with the Academy and upon accepting her third Oscar for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, exclaimed “When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, ‘Oh, no. Come on… her again?’ You know. But, whatever.”. You’re wrong there Meryl, you could win one every single year and I wouldn’t have a single thing to say about it.
8. Kate Winslet – Leading Actress In A Motion Picture – The Reader (2008)
Speaking of Meryl, one of the highlights of Kate Winslet’s acceptance speech for The Reader was her telling the legend of film to ‘suck it up’ after losing out to her, all in jest and with love, of course! She also gets her father to wolf whistle so she can locate her parents among the crowd.
9. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon – Best Original Screenplay – Good Will Hunting (1997)
The sheer joy and disbelief on the faces of Affleck and Damon is lovely to behold. Like Ben says in the speech, they were just two young guys and here they really do seem it, a far cry from the Hollywood veterans they would turn in to. It’s the fresh faced optimism that I like in this one.
10. Tom Hanks – Leading Actor In A Motion Picture – Philadelphia (1993)
Perhaps my very favourite of them all, Tom Hanks gives a rousing and heart felt speech in which he thanks a couple of male, gay role models in his life and laments on the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. An unforgettable quote, “the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels”, gives me goosebumps to this day.