Oscar acceptance speeches: How to make them better
When it comes to the Academy Awards, everybody is always complaining about something. “The show was too long.” “The host wasn’t funny.” “The half-hour they spent on the short-film Oscars was so boring.” None of that really bothers me. I usually watch with a big group of people and/or a few bottles of champagne, so why would I want the show to be shorter? The hosts only really matter during the opening monologue, and the only great opening monologue in recent Oscar history was Chris Rock’s scorched-earth act. And short films are awesome! But there is one big gripe I have with the Oscars, and with all the various award shows that cling to the Oscars like oxpeckers in the ear of a noble rhinoceros: The big acceptance speeches are incredibly boring.
Sometimes the winners just list the names of everyone who has ever helped them, which is roughly as much fun as reading an Acknowledgments page. Worse, everyone is rushing, because the Oscar magistrates only give you 45 seconds to talk. Over at Slate, Daniel Radosh proposes an interesting lateral-thinking solution to both problems: Give every winner unlimited time on stage, but only allow them to thank three people. It’s a smart idea, to which we add our four modest suggestions:
1. To the nominees: Don’t repeat yourself.
Thanks to the never-ending awards campaign season, most of the winners on Oscar night have given acceptance speeches on at least three other televised awards shows. (The most egregious offender: Jamie Foxx, who repeated his charming Ray Charles Golden Globes tribute at the Oscars.) This is no time for a stump speech; it’s the big show!
2. Establish rules on speech length and follow them.
It’s only natural, perhaps, that the brilliant craftsmen who win the technical Oscars would get less airtime than the front-page celebrities who win the acting awards. But even within the actors’ branch, the laws that govern how long someone can speak are not particularly consistent. If you cry — like Gwyneth Paltrow in 1999 — you get more time. If you’re Tom Hanks, you’ll never get played off. Either let everyone babble as long as they want, or cowboy up and pull Crying Gwyneth off the stage.
3. Let the nominees choose their own exit music.
There’s nothing more annoying than seeing a nominee — right in the middle of thanking their dead mother for always believing in him or her — suddenly wince when they notice that the conductor is playing them off with heavily orchestrated elevator music. What if, before the show, all nominees have to select their own specific exit music — kind of like how baseball players have their own personalized coming-up-to-bat music? Wouldn’t you want to hear what Christopher Plummer’s favorite song is?
4. Bring back the honorary Oscars!
A few years ago, the Academy Awards decided to trim a major part of the show in order to save time. Did they remove the silly montages which always feature The Wizard of Oz and Titanic? No. Did they remove the always unmemorable appearance from the good people at PriceWaterHouseCoopers? No. Did they remove the draggy banter between famous presenters who just met backstage? No. They did, however, remove the honorary Oscars, which used to provide the ceremony with some genuine jolts, since honorary Oscar winners are A) awesome, B) old enough not to care what people think about them, and C) old enough to know that nobody cares what their agent’s name is. This year’s Honorary Oscar winners were James Earl Jones and Dick Smith, the guy who did the makeup for The Exorcist and The Godfather and Taxi Driver. Don’t you want to hear from those guys?
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