It's nearly the end of awards season. Steven Spielberg has at this point been showered with so much gratitude by Daniel Day-Lewis that he's almost dripping wet. Ben Affleck has probably logged miles upon miles on the red carpet. And Anne Hathaway, we presume, is still on a stage somewhere breathlessly shouting thank yous into a long-muted microphone.
Finally, on Sunday night, the Academy Awards will be handed out, and a few select actors will address millions of viewers with their acceptance speeches, in what may well be the most watched moment of their entire career. It's a moment that will be played on loop whenever this actor is in the news, and, more morbidly, when he or she dies. Really, it's often not the winning films and performances that people remember — it's the award-show moments, the speeches. Everyone remembers Sally Field's "right now... you really like me" moment, but who remembers the film she won for? (It was Places in the Heart.)
With that in mind, here's a round up the 10 best and worst Oscar speeches from years past, to serve as both a field guide and cautionary tale to the likes of Hathaway and Day-Lewis on Sunday night.
Tom Hanks, Best Actor for Philadelphia
When he won his first Best Actor Oscar, Tom Hanks was everything you'd expect Tom Hanks to be: eloquent, poignant, humble, and stirring. But back in the early '90s, he wasn't Tom Hanks the Acting Icon, he was Tom Hanks the Next Great Actor. His heartfelt expression of love to wife Rita Wilson elicited an odd, glorious mixture of swoon and sob. His grounded acknowledgment of his nominees solidified his status as Hollywood's classiest act. And his tribute to two proud gay men who profoundly affected his life was perfect, as Philadelphia was a story of one gay man's crusade. "I know that my work in this case is magnified by the fact that the streets in heaven are too crowded with angels."
Gwyneth Paltrow, Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love
Whenever I have a cold-medicine-induced daydream of winning an Oscar, it makes me cry. So when an A-lister wins the golden statue and robotically restrains their tears, I find it absolutely infuriating. That's what makes Gwyneth Paltrow's Oscar speech for Shakespeare in Love so endearing. She's positively brittle with emotion, wiping tears throughout her entire walk to the podium, acknowledging her talented co-stars (classy move!), and, most importantly, blubbering like a baby while she thanked her parents. Heaving guttural sobs while talking about how much you love your parents is the number one best thing to do while giving an Oscars acceptance speech, and Paltrow aces it.
Sandra Bullock, Best Actress for The Blind Side
Charming opening zinger? Check. ("Did I really earn this, or did I just wear you all down?") Gracious to her fellow nominees? Check. ("Carey [Mulligan], your grace and your elegance and your talent... makes me sick.) Two shout-outs to Meryl Streep? Check. ("...you're an excellent kisser.") Paltrow-worthy tearful tribute to mothers? So many checks. Bullock was America's Darling in the year leading up to her Oscar win, and with her emotional, witty speech, she lived up to her title.
Julie Andrews, Best Actress for Mary Poppins
Not all great Oscar speeches need to tear-soaked and histrionic. Case in point: Julie Andrews's humble, short, and sweet acceptance for Best Actress for 1964's Mary Poppins. "You Americans are famous for your hospitality, but this is really just ridiculous," she begins self-effacingly. The rest of her speech is clearly rehearsed, well structured, thanks only one executive — Walt Disney, of course — and lasts just one minute. Adorably giggly throughout, it's no wonder Andrews became one of cinema's greatest treasures.
Emma Thompson, Best Adapted Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility
"Before I came, I went to visit Jane Austen's grave in Winchester Cathedral to pay my respects and tell her about the grosses. I don't know how she'd react to an evening like this but I do hope she knows how big she is in Uruguay." — Emma Thompson, proving with her speech why she's an Oscar winner for writing and acting.
Louise Fletcher, Best Actress for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Sometimes, it's refreshing to learn just how unlike their characters some actors are. Such was the case during Louise Fletcher's 1976 acceptance speech. "All I can say is, 'I've loved being hated by you," she deadpanned in her very sweet speech for her performance as the terrifying Nurse Ratchett in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Sure, there were a few cracks about her co-stars and mental institutions, but most touching was her thank you to her deaf parents — conducted in sign language.
George Clooney, Best Supporting Actor for Syriana
It's possible that we've discovered the one thing to criticize about George Clooney: his speech-giving. It turns out South Park discovered to, as the animated comedy later ravaged the strange, wandering speech, in which Clooney oddly rambled on about how Hollywood is out of touch while also trying to seriously bring up AIDS and civil rights.
Jennifer Connelly, Best Supporting Actress for A Beautiful Mind
NO. NOTECARDS. EVER.
Angelina Jolie, Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted
"I'm so in love with my brother right now." We all remember this, right?
Marlon Brando, Best Actor for The Godfather
For this performance, the role of Marlon Brando will be played by a politically active Native American named Sacheen Littlefeather.
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