Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Top 10 Oscar Moments

*** Guest writer Greg Rouleau recounts his 10 favorite Oscar moments

Growing up watching the Oscars can definitely be attributed to my love for film today.  While not always showcasing the most mainstream of choices, the Academy’s nominations encouraged me to seek out the movies that weren’t always taking up half the wall at Blockbuster, or to venture off to one of the Ritz theaters in Philadelphia to see something that’s only in limited release.   I don’t always agree with the winners, but the nominations are usually a solid selection of what truly represents the best of that year in films and performances.  Thankfully, in my twenty-plus years of watching the ceremony, there have been a number of moments that stuck with me, and thanks to YouTube, I’ve been able to relive over and over again.  Here are some of my personal favorites.

Honorable Mention: Not quite the crème de le crème, I have to recognize a few moments starting back in 1993 when 11-year-old Anna Paquin was stunned speechless after Gene Hackman revealed her win for Supporting Actress in The Piano.  In 2006, when Three Six Mafia’s “It’s Hard Out Here for A Pimp” won Best Original Song, which was a shocking upset but also a hilarious moment, accented by host Jon Stewart immediately after, claiming, “I think it just got a little easier out here for a pimp”.   Here’s a pair of funny moments with Robin Williams and Billy Crystal in 2004, then Seth Rogen and James Franco in 2009.  Finally, just last year we had Ellen’s Oscar Selfie, and the Apex of the McConassiance.

10 – Dustin Hoffman Keeps It Classy

The one moment on this list I didn’t experience live, is Dustin Hoffman’s humble and heartfelt acceptance speech for Kramer vs. Kramer, where he honors the hard-working crew of the film, actors everywhere attempting to break into the industry and a poignant tribute to his fellow nominees.  

 9 – Cuba Gooding’s Ecstatic Speech

It’s unfortunate that Cuba Gooding didn’t exactly capitalize on his Oscar win in 1997, with his lackluster role choice following Jerry Maguire, but his speech will always be remembered for the exuberant manner in which he kicked off the proceedings that year.  It starts slow and humble and explodes at the end once the “please get off the stage” music kicks in.  Not to be bullied, Gooding actually uses the music crescendo to start exclaiming his love for everyone involved, then a big fist pump that gets a standing ovation.

8 – Woody Allen Finally Appears

Woody Allen, is notorious for no-showing the Oscar ceremony.   A three-time winner at this point, but never there to receive the statue, the unfortunate events of 9-11 finally encouraged the New York City native to make an appearance.  Allen shows up to introduce a montage of films of New York, and makes the most of his showing with an incredibly funny speech addressing his trepidation for coming, as well as his previous awards and snubs.  

7 – Hugh Jackman Nails the Opening Number

Oscar hosts seem to usually kick-off the show one of two ways: a lengthy stand-up style monologue, or a musical number honoring the films of that year.  While some have been more memorable than others, Hugh Jackman’s opening number in 2009 stands above the rest.   His “on a budget” set – thanks to the economic recession – is a nice touch, as well as his inclusion of future Les Miserables co-star, Anne Hathaway.  A well deserved standing ovation to the host who hopefully is invited back very soon. 

6 – Tom Hanks Goes Back-to-Back

It seems rather strange to think Tom Hanks started his career off as one of the best comedic actors in the business, only to reveal that he also had the chops to pull off the strongest dramatic roles as well, a transition that not all actors can so effortlessly achieve.  Hanks won in ‘93 for Philadelphia and ‘94 for Forrest Gump, both very well deserved and he delivers two equally heartfelt speeches, one of which even inspired the 1997 movie In and Out.  

5 – Spielberg Wins His First Best Director

In 1976, a young Steven Spielberg watched in agony as he was snubbed for Best Director for Jaws.  Then in 1994, nearly twenty years later, he would receive his first of two Best Director Oscars, for Schindler’s List in one of the easiest slam dunk wins ever for arguably one of the greatest directors of all-time.  

4 – Scorsese Gets His Due

The “Will Martin Scorsese Ever Win For Director?” was a story well before I even began to follow the Oscars closely.  Finding himself on the losing end for Raging Bull, Goodfellas and The Last Temptation of Christ, I then witnessed him coming close for Gangs of New York and The Aviator, and it was starting to look like Scorsese might join Hitchcock, Kubrick and Altman, among others, as one of the greatest auteurs never to win Best Director.   But after returning to the gangster genre in 2006 for The Departed, the stars aligned and Marty, deservingly, won his first statue. 

3 – Robin Williams Best Supporting Actor

The late Robin Williams took home his first and only Oscar in 1998 for Good Will Hunting.  His acceptance speech is brief but includes some memorable quips about the young screenwriting duo of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, as well as the subliminally effective direction of Gus Van Sant.  It’s very evident how truly honored the great actor is, as well as his long-time friend, Billy Crystal, who served as host that year.  

2 – Heath Ledger Posthumous Oscar Win

In 2007, a year before the release of The Dark Knight, word was coming from set that Heath Ledger had tapped into something special with his take on the Joker.  Everyone from Gary Oldman to the veteran Michael Caine – who apparently was so stunned by Heath’s work that he forgot his lines the first time he saw him in character – were raving about the young Aussie. Tragedy then struck in January of 2008 as Ledger passed away from an accidental drug overdose, for better or worse giving the film, and his role, even more buzz.  It turned out to live up to the hype and is one of the most iconic performances ever.   Heath’s Joker dominated the award season, winning all of the major precursors and culminating with his family accepting the Oscar on his behalf at the 2009 ceremony.  

1 – Adrien Brody Upsets in Best Actor

At the 2003 Oscars, four of the five nominees were previous winners, and then there was Adrien Brody.  It was presumed the race was between Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson, and Brody had only managed to win a small number of precursors, with the National Society of Film Critics being the most notable, but nothing that would indicate this dark horse as a potential upset.   So when Halle Berry reveals Brody as the winner, the shocked look on Brody’s face is truly genuine.  He revels in the standing ovation then seizes the moment and memorably plants one on Berry.   His speech begins with a joke about the absurdity of the situation and then after nearly two minutes he actually stops the cut-off music cold to finish with a few words on the situation in Iraq, and how his experience filming The Pianist opened his eyes to the experience and “dehumanization” of war, which earns him a second standing ovation – mid-speech.   Him and the audience then fight back the tears as he caps off his remarkable win with a shout out to one of his friends serving in Kuwait.  Bravo, Mr. Brody.  Bravo.

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