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Oscar’s thanks

Sonia Rao | Monday, February 26, 2007

As the most glamorous night in Hollywood, the Oscars have become something of a pop culture Super Bowl.

For People Magazine junkies, watching the red carpet is like being a kid at Disneyworld with all of your favorite characters. Every personality that has graced the pages of those glossy magazines is there, parading around for fans, taking pictures and signing autographs.

For the fashionistas, Joan and Melissa Rivers are there to revere and rip on the elegant (and not so elegant) ensembles.

For the musically inclined, there are performances of movie songs nominated for awards, not to mention the orchestra that gracefully ushers long-winded winners off of the stage.

It’s those acceptance speeches, though, long or short, that are the real trick of the night. In 60 seconds, including the time it takes to reach the stage, a winner has to think of something to say that manages to thank everyone they know, is somewhat entertaining and maximizes the moment, all while trying to think straight after having won the top honor in film. In a sense, it is its own art form.

Some speeches have been unforgettable, and others we want to forget. When James Cameron won an Oscar for Best Director of Titanic, he asked that the audience observe a moment of silence in remembrance of those who died on the actual ship.

It could have ended there, but unfortunately Cameron ruined the reverence of the moment by screaming, “I’m king of the world!”

At times, such exuberance is accepted, as Sally Field’s shrill “You like me! Right now, you like me!” has demonstrated.

Others tend to go for a drier feel, like Louise Fletcher’s witty speech in 1976 in which she thanked Jack Nicholson for making “being in a mental institution like being in a mental institution.” And, as Jack Nicholson said when accepting his Academy Award, “I guess this proves there are as many nuts in the Academy as anywhere else.”

Ben Affleck remained frank when he said, “Losing would suck and winning would be really scary. And it’s really, really scary.”

And there are the more eloquent speakers – some so eloquent that they become incoherent. When Lawrence Oliver accepted his Honorary Oscar, he spewed out nearly every world in the thesaurus when he said, “In the great wealth, the great firmament of your nation’s generosities this particular choice may perhaps be found by the future generations as a trifle eccentric, but the mere fact of it … the prodigal, pure, human kindness of it … must be seen as a beautiful star in that firmament which shines upon me at this moment, dazzling me a little, but filling me with warmth of the extraordinary elation, the euphoria that happens to so many of us at the first breath of the majestic glow of a new tomorrow.”

When it doubt, sometimes it’s best to stick to a simple “thank you.”