The 5 Most Heartbreaking Oscar Speeches of the 21st Century

The 90th Academy Awards are this Sunday at 8 PM EST on Disney’s ABC and it’s my favourite award show of the year because it’s the one people make the most fuss about. The pre-show Red Carpet looks are as stunning as the performances, everything and everyone is at the top of their game, except when crew members are tweeting instead of doing their one job! (Come on Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz should’ve been fired as they: accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers are chiefly responsible.) At least when things come crashing down from such a high level it happens spectacularly. I decided to collect a few short memories of Oscar speeches to prime you for Sunday that run the gamut of emotions from the zenith to nadir, so you can be properly prepared on what best to expect.

For a review of the major nominations this year that might make a moment come Sunday look here   

1. Kevin O’Connell finally wins Best Sound Mixing for Hacksaw Ridge at the 2017 Ceremony after 33 YEARS & 21 NOMINATIONS!!

This is probably the most noble explanation for the reason why Hollywood so greatly accepts a comeback narrative. Mel Gibson, a probable Anti-Semite had been kicked out of Hollywood after one too many drunken rants in the back of a police car and recorded conversations gone public that exposed his raging alcoholic temper he usually reserves for film. Kevin O’Connell whose last nomination was almost a decade previous for 2007’s quite good Transformers (which lost to The Bourne Ultimatum) had worked with Gibson twice as an actor on The Patriot and 2012’s Get The Gringo a good movie that wasn’t given a wide release due to Gibson’s name being attached. He also worked with Gibson the director on his literal passion project that God had told him to make 2004’s The Passion of the Christ which was the most successful independent film of all-time and was nominated for 3 Oscars (although Kevin himself was not nominated). The kicker here is when O’Connell here finally wins he gives a heartfelt speech about how his late mother who gave him his start in the industry told her he would thank her and make her proud the day he won his Oscar. After 21 nominations more than anyone in Academy history without a win, I’d say that’s best deserved.

2. Graham Moore’s Best Adapted Screenplay win for The Imitation Game, his first feature film, is an inspiration to deeply troubled kids everywhere!

A lot of people believed that P.T. Anderson deserved this award for adapting Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice but the story behind the winner who at one time tried to kill himself softens the blow a bit. Emotional honesty always pays off and the thought that some weird person might watch this and re-evaluate their lot in life. It’s likely a better outcome than Morten Tyldum (Passengers) and his pedestrian direction being rewarded. Moore hasn’t written anything since unlike Anderson, who will certainly have his day being nominated this year (for the 8th time in his career) for producing and directing Phantom Thread. As great as the stalwart “it’s their time so they’ve earned it” narrative is, it’s just as rewarding to see you only have to be good once “civilian” award. Outsiders rule!

3. Bankrupt Visual F/X studio Rhythm and Hues wins for Life of Pi

We didn’t say heartbreaking was always a good thing. Even if it’s a win, it can be a Pyrrhic victory as it was for the studio behind Life of Pi, a movie I found disappointing but likely not as disappointing as a studio going bankrupt two weeks before winning the Oscar. Unfortunately the presenter abuses his 45 seconds thanking everyone profusely before trying to get into a hot button issue of Visual F/X houses being worked to the bone, sometimes illegally to put dreams on the screen. They deserve more credit than this. Those who wonder why F/X have hit a wall in recent years may find answers delving into the Life After Pi as it hits at a core problem the industry needs to solve. Still it’s good to know the industry is still able to at least recognize talent even if their severe artistic challenges go ignored.

4. Best Actor in a field of winners; Adrien Brody surprise kisses Halle Berry, shuts down orchestra, thanks a rapist, gets political, all goes extremely well. Welcome to 2003!

This speech now represents a lot of what the general public might have grown tired of in the last 15 years; Actors getting self-important and political, associating themselves with controversial artists (director Roman Polanski is a convicted rapist in America and has since made movies overseas), and with the current climate of Time’s Up springing a surprise kiss on someone in the public domain might not be well received (Halle Berry for the record didn’t exactly complain). I think the reason this whole clip still works so well is that the feelings expressed here are genuine and come from a place of understanding and point of view, rather than ignorance. It helps that 2002 was excellent for movies which increased the positive mood. Adrien Brody was not very well-known at the time, and he is the only first time nominee who beat an entire field of previous winners: Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs of New York, previously won for My Left Foot ), Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt, previously won for One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Terms of Endearment, and As Good as It Gets), Nicolas Cage (Adaptation, previously won for Leaving Las Vegas), and Michael Caine (The Quiet American, previously won for The Cider House Rules and Hannah and Her Sisters). Brody was the underdog and nothing can compare to the feeling of elation of winning as Oscar as winners like Halle Berry have pointed out. Had Brody won and kissed Berry and then gave a regular pat speech this would’ve gone bad and seemed entitled like the gay fashion designer who groped Scarlett Johansson‘s breasts at the Golden Globes red carpet. Instead it his initial move is heedless, however he backs it up with a speech explaining all that he’s learned making a movie set in the backdrop of war and makes a personal connection to a friend of his serving overseas in Kuwait. The actor apparently sacrificed a lot for this role, which all pays off here as he remains the youngest winner (29) and only actor in his 20’s ever to receive the Best Actor Oscar.

5. “Falling Slowly” wins Best Original Song, and brings back out winner who didn’t get to say her speech

Stars of the independent Irish musical film ‘Once’ deservedly won the 2007 award for Best Original Song, but as you always wonder with multiple winners how can two people fit into a single 45 second time slot? Producers usually have a spokesperson or allow the little guy to go first as big time Argo producers George Clooney and Ben Affleck let partner Grant Heslov do. Unfortunately as is the case for any woman in a male/ female combinations the guy usually seizes the opportunity to say all he needs to say first leaving less time left over. It was sad to see at first Marketa Irglova win the biggest award for a smallest indie and then get cut off as soon as she starts her speech, but in a demonstration of good showmanship host Jon Stewart carved out a small window for her to come out and be allowed to give her speech. It was very good, very worthy and inspiring for a song that certainly helped mark the year.


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