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« 12 Days Till Oscar. What Happened to the Juvenile Oscars? | Main | Curio: Oscar Unsheets, Part III »
Tuesday
Feb142012

Burning Questions: Undelivered Speeches?

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. 

You can follow Michael C. on Twitter at @SeriousFilm or read his blog Serious Film. Previous Burning Questions...

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Reader Comments (37)

Ohhh…. You devil. I love these.

I will do the top 5 individual awards (acting and director) from the last ten year (or else I will be here all day)

Best Actor – Peter O’Toole for ‘Venus’ – would you not have loved to hear his speech. That wonderful voice and dry wit. If only……

Best Actress – Gabourey Sidibe for ‘Precious’ – it would have been a moment of pure delight. She has proven herself bubbly and fun and I am fairly sure she may have let out an f or s bomb.

Best Supporting Actor – Ian McKellan for ‘Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring’ – Another one with the gift of the gab, and I am sure there would have been something gay thrown in there.

Best Supporting Actress – Maggie Smith for ‘Gosford Park’ – Not my pick, but I remember her attending and don’t we all just want to listen to her talk all day long?

Best Director – David Lynch – ‘Mulholland Drive’ – I mean what would he say? What would he make of it? So many wonderful opportunities lost for ……. Ron Howard.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

Ohhh…. You devil. I love these.

I will do the top 5 individual awards (acting and director) from the last ten yeasr (or else I will be here all day)

Best Actor – Peter O’Toole for ‘Venus’ – would you not have loved to hear his speech. That wonderful voice and dry wit. If only……

Best Actress – Gabourey Sidibe for ‘Precious’ – it would have been a moment of pure delight. She has proven herself bubbly and fun and I am fairly sure she may have let out an f or s bomb.

Best Supporting Actor – Ian McKellan for ‘Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring’ – Another one with the gift of the gab, and I am sure there would have been something gay thrown in there.

Best Supporting Actress – Maggie Smith for ‘Gosford Park’ – Not my pick, but I remember her attending and don’t we all just want to listen to her talk all day long?

Best Director – David Lynch – ‘Mulholland Drive’ – I mean what would he say? What would he make of it? So many wonderful opportunities lost for ……. Ron Howard.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

Oh my what an idea!? I'd love to hear Viggo's speech for Eastern Promises, if only because I find the man so interesting and to hear his thoughts on such an accolade would be fascinating.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Z

Oh my what an idea!? I'd love to hear Viggo's speech for Eastern Promises, if only because I find the man so interesting and to hear his thoughts on such an accolade would be fascinating.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Z

Oh my what an idea!? I'd love to hear Viggo's speech for Eastern Promises, if only because I find the man so interesting and to hear his thoughts on such an accolade would be fascinating.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Z

Diane Ladd for "Wild Heart," if only to see just how much she'd drop her tense air if she had heard her name called. She fascinates me in the '74 and '90 Oscar clips. Would she bring her flower?

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterzig

I don't mind that she lost (I haven't seen the film, but the nomination is widely said to be undeserving), but I really would have liked to hear Lauren Bacall's Oscar speech.

Sally Kirkland just for the potential craziness?! Though I guess she wasn't that crazy yet in 1987.

And what about those who won but didn't show up? Marlon Brando, Hayao Miyazaki, Taylor for Virginia Woolf, Woody Allen (!) etc... so many potentially great moments.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRax

I second Michael's mention of Gabourey Sidibe. That would've been just a moment specially right aftrer Oprah's emotional intro.

While her speech for playing Kate Hepburn was short and only memorable for the line about her son marrying Scorcese's daughter, would love to have seen what Blanchett would've done with winning as Bob Dylan. Specially as she was pregnant.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMurtada

Off the top of my head: Diana Ross' speech for Lady Sings the Blues (Best Actress); Clark Gable's for Gone With the Wind (Best Actor); Thelma Ritter's for All About Eve (BSA); Madeline Kahn's for Blazing Saddles (BSA); Burt Reynolds' for Boogie Nights (BSA); Robert Downey, Jr.'s for Tropic Thunder (BSA).

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

John Glover for Best Supporting Actor (1990) for Gremlins 2: The New Batch {Snubbed}
Val Kilmer for Best Actor (1991) for The Doors {Snubbed}
Grace Jones for Best Supporting Actress (1992) for Boomerang {Snubbed}
Eddie Murphy for Best Supporting Actor (2006) for Dreamgirls {Nominated}
Vanessa Redgrave for Best Supporting Actress (2011) for Coriolanus {Snubbed}

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter//3|RT

John Glover for Best Supporting Actor (1990) for Gremlins 2: The New Batch [Snubbed]
Val Kilmer for Best Actor (1991) for The Doors [Snubbed]
Grace Jones for Best Supporting Actress (1992) for Boomerang [Snubbed]
Eddie Murphy for Best Supporting Actor (2006) for Dreamgirls [Nominated]
Vanessa Redgrave for Best Supporting Actress (2011) for Coriolanus [Snubbed]

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter//3|RT

John Glover for Best Supporting Actor (1990) for Gremlins 2: The New Batch --Snubbed
Val Kilmer for Best Actor (1991) for The Doors -- Snubbed
Grace Jones for Best Supporting Actress (1992) for Boomerang -- Snubbed
Eddie Murphy for Best Supporting Actor (2006) for Dreamgirls -- Nominated
Vanessa Redgrave for Best Supporting Actress (2011) for Coriolanus -- Snubbed

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter//3|RT

Michael - I almost thought they would give it to Sidibe that year just because it would obviously be such a thrilling moment. If they read out her name that room would've exploded.

Paul - Ooh, Burt Reynolds. I'd want to hear that one too.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C

I think this is a really good year for speeches, at least in the acting categories (particularly Jean Dujardin and Viola at SAG, Meryl at the Globes, and Octavia and Christopher Plummer everywhere). In terms of frontrunners, I'm looking forward to Octavia's continued eloquence, Plummer's wit and warmth, Viola's touching graciousness, and Jean Dujardin's crazy adorability.

That being said, I'd love to see a Melissa McCarthy Oscar speech, as well as a Kristen Wiig one.

When it comes to past shows, wouldn't it have been totally wonderful to see Amy Adams win for Junebug? Also, I'd kill to see Julianne Moore make any acceptance speech for the sheer and bewildering fact that I don't think I've ever seen her win anything.

And if I may go into the future, I can't wait to see Jessica Chastain's first and second (and third?) Oscar speeches. I do believe we've got a Meryl on our hands here.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

I would have to say Whoopi Goldberg for The Color Purple, definitely.

And probably Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

I have no idea what would have happened if Banksy won last year, but I know it would have been great.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel

From the "weren't even nominated but should have won" file:
Dennis Quaid(Supporting Actor:Far From Heaven-1992)
Jean-Claude Van Damme(Actor-JCVD-2008)
Maureen O"Hara(Supporting Actress-Only the Lonely-1991)
and with the speech and the mpment that probably would have burned brightest
Marilyn Monroe(Actress-The Misfits-1961)

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterken

From the "weren't even nominated but should have won" file:
Dennis Quaid(Supporting Actor:Far From Heaven-1992)
Jean-Claude Van Damme(Actor-JCVD-2008)
Maureen O"Hara(Supporting Actress-Only the Lonely-1991)
and with the speech and the mpment that probably would have burned brightest
Marilyn Monroe(Actress-The Misfits-1961)

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterken

Turner, Close, Pfeiffer, Bening.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

This is a chain reaction of snubbed winners. Give Mickey Rourke and Bill Murray their Oscars, and give Sean Penn the 1995 Best Actor Oscar that Nicolas Cage shouldn't have. If those three would have turned out like that, everyone would be a lot happier.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBen

Off the top of my head Bette Davis in 1950 for "All About Eve". I wish I could see the look on her face as well as Anne Baxter and Gloria Swanson when their names weren't called. Davis is bar none my favorite actress ever and 1950 is one of my favorite years in film.
1961 Marilyn Monroe for "The Misfits".
Gloria Grahame for "In a Lonely Place" in 1950 (she wasn't nominated but I think it was her best role).
Olivia de Havilland in 1942.
Humphrey Bogart in 1950 for "In a Lonely Place" (hey! it is one of my fave films). These are just what come to mind first.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngelica Jade

Madeline Kahn for Blazing Saddles and Annette Bening for Being Julia. Especially for the first I would die.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTan

Jane Fonda for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? - SO interesting
Great Glenn for Fatal Attraction
Mickey Rourke and Bill Murray
Kate Hepburn for anything
And most importantly: Elizabeth Taylor for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - What would she have said when honored for her career-best performance?

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdinasztie

Oh come on, dissing Ethan Coen's vaguely annoyed Twitter-length speeches of 2007?

"I, eh, I don't have much to add to what I said earlier" complete with absent-minded ear-scratching was by far my most treasured moment of that telecast.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMikadzuki

I'll third the love for Gabourey - and I'll add Kathleen Turner. For anything - I just love to hear that voice, and you know she would have made the most of her moment in the most diva-licious way.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

Bette Davis for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. Aside from deserving it, I would love to see how Bette handled the whole Joan Crawford actively campaigning against her situation.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Russell Crowe for A Beautiful Mind because of the negative campaign against him

Cate Blanchett for Im not There all preggy and stuff

Liv Ullmann for Face to Face...her sweet voice and warm heart

Bjørk for Dancer in the dark...how it really was to work with Lars von Trier

Christian Bale for American Psycho...cause he was AWESOME in it

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

Sam - Oh, man. Banksy. Good call.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C

*Anne Bancroft, for The Graduate. Sadly, there is no available footage of her accepting an award on her own behalf.
*Helena Bonham Carter, for The Wings of the Dove.
*Anjelica Huston, for The Grifters.
*Melissa Leo, for Frozen River.
*Jill Clayburgh, for An Unmarried Woman (Jane Fonda was so ungracious, campaigning like mad to win for a mediocre performance in a crap film. It would be have been a delight to see her get her comeuppance).

And finally, Ellen Burstyn for Requiem for a Dream, just to see the look on Julia Roberts' face.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

Ah ah I can't believe no one mentioned Michelle Pfeiffer/FABULOUS BAKER BOYS up until now!

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

Why limit to people who were nominated but didn't win? Why not include those who won but were not present? I would have loved to see Hayao Miyazaki give a speech after winning for Spirited Away back in 2002.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

I'd pick, oh I don't know, James Cameron for Directing AVATAR because, honestly, how could you not want to hear another self-congratulating speech from 'the king of the world'?

Now seriously, I'd love to have heard Meryl Streep's speech if she'd won for Devil Wears Prada. She'd probably go all Miranda Priestly on everyone and that would be amazing.

I'd also be very curious to see what Ellen Page would say if she'd won for Juno.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

David Fincher last year :it seems his speech started by "now we can answer to the question:apple or orange " and he looked so ill at ease

Eddie Murphy (dream girls) just because

Mickey Rourke because his acceptance speech were epic

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercaro

Ooh, I agree about Ellen Page.

In terms of winners that just weren't present, I wish Sophia Loren had been there.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

"And finally, Ellen Burstyn for Requiem for a Dream, just to see the look on Julia Roberts' face."

I'm obsessed thinking about this now. Haha. Remember how she couldn't hide her disappointment when she presented Ang Lee with what she thought was going to be Soderbergh's Globe?

We also would have had a replay of Joan Allen's 1996 nominee box when a surprise winner was called over the presumed front runner. I've always loved her face when Binoche's name was called. Hershey's too.

Now this has me thinking: I know the Q and As wont start up again until after the Oscars, but I'd love to hear Nathaniel's favorite reactions to Oscar winners being read aloud(besides the now famous Turner face when she lost to Matlin). Right off the top of my head, I love Ann Margret keeping her head down with her eyes closed right up until they announce Cloris Leachman's name. She pops her head up and does the "good loser" face immediately, complete with the head nod and "yeah, she deserved it" smile. It's a riot.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Barbra Streisand for The Way We Were

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor both winning for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and being there to accept.

Grayson Hall for The Night of the Iguana

Babe for Best Picture

Lily Tomlin for Nashville

And a real game changer, admittedly off-topic: What if the producers of Charlie's Angels allowed Kate Jackson to do Kramer vs. Kramer? Would she have been nominated? Would she have won? What sort of impact would it have had on Meryl Streep's career if she hadn't played that role?

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClaude North

Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler - his speeches were so off the cuff that year and actually seemed sincere (thanking his dogs at the Globes, thank Marissa Tomei for being naked at the BAFTAs).

Chiwetel Ejiofor for Dirty Pretty Things - because it's shameful that he had no major award traction for that performance.

Eddie Murphy for Shrek (just the first one) - no, I'm not joking. If it weren't for him, that movie would have been unbearable. I love that he was nominated for a BAFTA for it.

Ridley Scott for, well, anything he's been nominated for. I can't believe the only "major" award he has is an Emmy for being an executive producer (albeit for a good TV movie).

Susan Sarandon and/or Geena Davis for Thelma & Louise - just cuz

I wish Eminem would have shown up when he won for Best Song. I honestly probably would have hated anything he had to say because that was during his SUPERANGRY phase, but it would have been interesting.

Ed Harris for anything just so he won't have to keep looking so obviously pissed about losing.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterK
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