With the 82nd Academy Awards airing this weekend (March 7th), there’s bound to be some memorable speeches as always. Maybe James Cameron will win and make a complete egotistical jackass of himself, or surely Gabourey Sidibe will give an amazing speech if she wins (fingers crossed!) Who will get the music (everyone but Meryl Streep), and who will deliver the most noteworthy speeches of the 2010 Oscars? We’ll have to wait and see, of course. But in the meantime, here are my picks for some of the most interesting, most poignant, most ridiculous, but overall most memorable acceptance speeches.
Cuba Gooding Jr., winning in 1997 for Jerry Maguire – Jovial and genuinely ecstatic, Cuba Gooding Jr. is enjoyable to watch during this speech. Unfortunately for him, that year’s Oscars were heavy-handed with the rude “hint to get off the stage” music during everyone’s speeches. But Cuba? He doesn’t care – he just keeps on going. As one YouTube commenter said, “It’s almost like the music was designed to go with his speech.”
George Clooney winning in 2006 for Syriana – “Alright, well I guess I’m not winning DIRECTOR,” the charming Clooney jokes. While he won for this role in Syriana, he was also nominated in the Best Director category that year for Good Night, and Good Luck. It starts off on a light note, but Clooney takes the opportunity to also give Hollywood more credit than it’s usually given – “This academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when Blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters.” This probably gets the award for least “all about me with 1,000 people to thank” acceptance speech. Clooney used his time in a different way.
Tom Hanks winning in 1994 for Philadelphia – Tom Hanks gave one of the classiest, yet profoundly candid speeches with this one for Philadelphia. Since his role in the film was a gay male living with AIDS, he was very careful to speak respectfully and appreciatively of gays and people living with HIV or AIDS. This one is a tear-jerker, especially when he pays homage to his two gay theatre teachers.
Catherine Zeta-Jones winning in 2003 for Chicago – This one’s just cute. Catherine Zeta-Jones gets up onstage – extremely pregnant, but looking gorgeous – and admits that the combination of things is too much for her hormones, which gets a laugh. The other great part is when she tells her husband, Michael Douglas, that she shares the award with him “and this one too.” Though the camera cuts away in a most untimely manner, we can only assume she’s pointing to her belly.
Dustin Lance Black winning in 2009 for Milk – When Dustin Lance Black got onstage to accept the award for Best Original Screenplay for the biopic about gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, the first thing I was struck by was how young and handsome he appeared. Then, I proceeded to bawl my eyes out as he gave a very touching (understatement) speech about how Harvey Milk helped him personally growing up as a gay male in a conservative family. He also shares some empowering words ensuring young gay Americans that one day they will have the federal rights they deserve. A truly beautiful and incomparable speech. It makes me cry every time I watch it.
Halle Berry winning in 2002 for Monster’s Ball - You really can’t talk about Oscar speeches without mentioning Halle Berry’s. “74 years here, I gotta take this time!” she shouted as she became the first Black woman to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actress. In her shocked and vulnerable state, she poured her heart out and made all of her fellow nominees cry along with her. This is now a historical Oscar acceptance speech, and might just be the most memorable and noteworthy of them all. Not only did she fully deserve the award for her amazing performance in Monster’s Ball, but she made history when her name was called.