Michael C. here. I would never back the idea of awarding an Oscar based on anything other than quality of the work. No award for being a beloved old-timer overdue for a win, or because your film sends an admirable message, and definitely no trophy to make up for a past lost that everyone agrees was a blunder. I think most people agree with me that once you start down the road the whole enterprise of presenting awards for artistic achievement – which is shaky enough to begin with – falls apart.
Having said that, there is one criterion beyond merit which I will guiltily admit often plays a big part in who it is I root for on the big night: the possible entertainment value of the winners. And hey, voters so often make their choices based on questionable reasoning, why shouldn’t the promise of a lively and memorable show enter into it?
OK, maybe I don’t really mean it. I wouldn't begrudge The Coen brothers any of their Oscars even if they deliver acceptance speeches like someone has a gun to their back. But it is still an interesting question to ponder: If you could go back and hear the Oscar speech that someone never got to give whose would it be? Here are three of the possible speeches I would be most eager to hear if I could borrow Futurama’s What-If Machine for an hour:
Spike Lee - Best Original Screenplay (1989) – The big controversy of the 1990 Oscar’ was the lack of nods for Lee’s Do the Right Thing in picture and director while the much more conventional race relations drama Driving Miss Daisy grabbed most of the night’s big prizes. Lee did manage to grab a well-deserved nod in screenplay only to lose to the schmaltz of Dead Poet’s Society (cue sad trombone). Kim Basinger is still remembered for the moment she went off script and called out the snubbing, so I have little doubt presenting Spike with a microphone and a worldwide audience would have been one of the most discussed moments in recent Oscar history.
Mickey Rourke rises again and he is my brother."
-Sean Penn during his Oscar speech for Milk.
Bill Murray and Mickey Rourke – Best Actor 2003 & 2008 – I lump these two guys together because they were both unlikely Best Actor contenders who had a great chance of winning only to be beaten out by Sean Penn. I recall Penn giving heartfelt speeches, especially for Milk, but Murray and Rourke both brought the house down at the Globes and subsequent awards shows and their Oscar wins would have made for much more special and thrilling scenes.
Akira Kurosawa – Best Director 1985 – When it comes to memorable moments there are those that involve unpredictable stars acting out, like Brando sending an actress dressed as a Native American to accept his Oscar for The Godfather, and then there are those rare perfect moments when a legend receives a lifetime’s worth of acclaim all at once - think Chaplin’s lifetime achievement award. The Academy missed such a moment when they awarded Sydney Pollack best director for Out of Africa over Kurosawa’s work on Ran. Pollack himself lead a campaign to see Kurosawa nominated in director after he was shamefully excluded from the foreign category, so I suspect he would have been one of those cheering loudest if the living legend had been given a chance to take his bow.
I just noticed I have picked only people I think deserved to win their categories. I guess even in hypotheticals I can’t get away from the idea of merit winning the day.
So if you could go all Sliding Doors on Oscar and witness an amazing moment that never happened which would it be? I'm curious to hear your answers and the reasoning for them in the comments.