Monday, January 29, 2007

The campaign to improve oscar acceptance speeches

Because I'm trying to get some of the attention from all those oscars-obsessed sites, I thought i'd comment a little bit about some oscar-related topics. One main controvoursey at the Oscars and Golden Globes as far as I can understand as people are always wondering "how can we keep the speeches shorter?" It seems like the people in charge of the Oscar ceremony and everyone involved are making conscious efforts to keep the speeches short, but if they were really determined to keep the speeches short than people might confide in their oscar-nominated friends beforehand, "you know, I know you like me and appreciate what i do for you and you don't have to waste America's time for an extra 3 seconds to let the country know it on national television." But somehow it doesn't work that way. It seems like the winners are somehow obligated to list their influences in front of an audience like it's show-and-tell and it's a mandatory part of Kindergarten class.

Take Hugh Laurie at the Golden Globes, for example. Let me first just say, I loved his speech. I especially like the part about how he said, "I want to thank my crew, because they're truly great. Now, logically we can't all have great crews. Somewhere, there's someone operating with a crew of drunken thieves. But that's not our crew, our crew is great." And that's absolutely true! When every actor praises their crew and costars when asked about them in interviews, it just becomes an exercise in political correctness and none of it really feels sincere.

What was also interesting about Laurie's speech was how he remarked on how he wishes he had a speech on him. Well, from the standpoint of an audience member, I'm perfectly happy you don't have a speech on you, it means the ceremony is going to go quicker. But nevertheless, he did give a speech because "that was the thing to do." I remember the 2004 Oscars, Charlie Kaufman really was uncomfortable with public speaking and stated he just wanted his speech to be over. Charlie buddy, relax! You just won an oscar, your life and career will be drastically improved. This should be a time of celebration for you, just do what you want. If the speech is that much of a hastle, Charlie, just say thanks, and get off the stage.

But it seems like people have to earn their oscar with a speech, like it's a silent agreement. Well, if that's the case who's the agreement between, anyway? Is the agreement between the presenter and the people running the ceremony and, if so, why? Do the people running the ceremony demand that the stars get on stage and speak a little for the entertainment benefit of the audience? Because, if so, the speeches don't really seem aimed at entertainment, per say. It doesn't personally entertain me to hear a laundry list of names anymore than watching the end credits of a movie entertain me. If these awards ceremonies are really entertainment, have the stars get up and juggle or so. Since we're rewarding there acting, I'd love to see them (especially stars like Kate Winslet, Naiomi Watts, Hugh Laurie, and Christain Bale who are really talented at accents) jump into their character for a couple lines and spit off a couple quotes from their movies. Maybe Julia Roberts could've accepted her award for Erin Brockovitch in character and acted like a total bitch (which would've been a change of pace from her annoyingly phony smiley self), Jamie Foxx could have played a little piano when he won for Ray, George Clooney could have shot someone when he won as an assassin for Syrianna, etc. Someone actually did this in 2004: the best original song winner got on stage sang the song himself (it was performed that night by Antonio Banderas), said thank you and got off. From watching the post-win interviews that year, I'd say it was pretty unanimously the best loved acceptance speech from the folks in the press room.

But I digress. With this precedent set, the fact that remains that it has now become the de facto proper etiquette for the nominees to read off a laundry list of names, so it would just be flat-out rude to not give a long list of names of everyone associated with you or your production, boring as it may be. And with Hollywood having a reputation of being composed of shallow self-serving people, it's hard to blame people for wanting to show grattitude. It's also really hard to blame someone for speaking their heart out. Some people (at least one or two on a messageboard I frequent) complained about Jamie Foxx's lack of originality (he already gave it at the Golden Globes) or oversentimentality when he gave that speech thanking his grandmother and crying, but personally I just don't feel that that's up for judgement. I think it's their moment and an oscar winner saying whatever he truly feels and thanking his grandmother, is not something we have a right to criticize. But, as I've said all along, I just wish that the majority of them didn't have to be so boring.

One of the only times in recent years I've seen anyone breaking this contract of mass-thanking was Stephen Sodebergh upon his win for Traffic. He said "I have some people that I want to thank but I'll thank them in private. Instead, I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating. I don’t care if it’s a book, a film, a painting, a dance, a piece of theater, a piece of music. Anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us. I think the world would be unlivable without art.”

What a beautiful speech! It makes me almost want to forgive him for Ocean's 12. It also makes me want to write and blog even more for my possibly non-existent audience, because he inspires me to make art just for art's sake.

My only question is how many people got pissed off at him for their 2 seconds of fame being taken away by not hearing their name heard? Maybe, they didn't get pissed off. Maybe they didn't care, and if that's the case, why do many people feel obliged to name so many names in every other oscar speech in the last ten years?

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