Oscar History

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Monologue Special: Four Acceptance Speeches

In the Monologue series (usually on Mondays, oops) we opine on those rare onscreen moments when an actor gets a whole chunk of lines to run with. It's rarer than you'd think unless you're dealing with a stage adaptation that they haven't worried about "opening up".

Not so on Oscar night where each winner gets to speak without interruption unless the "stick man" grows impatient. Thankfully, at the 86th Oscars, they didn't play people off. The Academy producers rarely show common sense in this regard so this was a special treat. For years they've misunderstood the entire appeal of their broadcast. But think of it: What is an awards show without the spectacle of ego, wit, nerves, emotion, gratitude and body language of the acceptance speech? The acceptance speech is to awards shows, what setpieces are to action films, love scenes are to romantic drama, and what song & dance is to musicals. Without the speeches, you'd be left with haphazard montages celebrating random themes, context free fashion parades the likes of which we haven't seen since they stopped interjecting them into movies, and an Ellen DeGeneres comedy show. And nobody wants those things. Or, okay we do but maybe not together and definitely not without context!  So all praise the acceptance speech.

I would like to salute three people and chastise a fourth as quickly as I can -- which is not quickly, I know. shut up! -- after the jump...


Darlene Love, Best Documentary (20 Feet From Stardom)

Lord god I praise you...I sing because i'm happy. I sing because I'm free. Cuz his eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me."

Not a monologue so much as a scene-steal so a warm up for this post. If you have the balls to thank your Lord God while winning your Golden Calf than this is the way to do it. Like you're at church and you just can't contain the Praise for Him! I am a huge fan of sung acceptance speeches because a) the human voice is beautiful and b) they're insane.

Lupita Nyong'o, Best Supporting Actress (12 Years a Slave)
53 seconds from name called to actual speech: hugs (Liza and others), standing ovation (mostly), climbing the stairs carefully. Speech: 1 minute and 54 seconds. 

Thank you to the Academy for this incredible recognition. It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own.

In addition to doing every single thing right for the past year of her life (brilliant performance, engaging interviews, perfect red carpet pizazz, the nifty trick of constant confident humility and dazzling beauty) it turns out Ms. Nyong'o is also gifted at acceptance speeches. (We need to find a flaw soon - it's getting scary!) She recovers quickly from the overwhelming minute between her name being called and this speech and then there's a quiet crescendo of emotion in the speech. Surely, it's scripted but it doesn't sound overly rehearsed. And that opening statement is, I think, the single most perfect tribute I've heard at the Oscars when it comes to actors who've won for biographical roles. And that's no small sample pool, yo.

Steve McQueen, you charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position, it’s been the joy of my life. [Tears, applause.] I’m certain that the dead are standing about you and watching and they are grateful and so am I.

Chiwetel, thank you for your fearlessness and how deeply you went into Solomon, telling Solomon’s story. Michael Fassbender, thank you so much. You were my rock. Alfre and Sarah, it was a thrill to work with you. Joe Walker, the invisible performer in the editing room, thank you. Sean Bobbitt, Kalaadevi, Adruitha, Patty Norris, thank you, thank you, thank you — I could not be here without your work.

I want to thank my family, for your training [laughs] and the Yale School of Drama as well, for your training. My friends the Wilsons, this one’s for you. My brother Junior sitting by my side, thank you so much, you’re my best friend and then my other best friend, my chosen family.

When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. Thank you.

How would you grade this speech? It's too scripted for an A+ from me but it's a damn fine one with a killer opening and closing lines. She stuck the landing.

The next speech, though...


Matthew McConaughey, Best Actor (Dallas Buyers Club)
34 seconds to get started (kisses, hugs, little run up the steps).
 Speech: 3 minutes and 8 seconds. 

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you to the Academy for this—all 6,000 members. Thank you to the other nominees. All these performances were impeccable in my opinion. I didn’t see a false note anywhere. I want to thank Jean-Marc Vallée, our director. Want to thank Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, who I worked with daily.

There’s a few things, about three things to my account that I need each day. One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase. Now, first off, I want to thank God. ‘Cause that’s who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late Charlie Laughton, who said, “When you’ve got God, you got a friend. And that friend is you.”

Matthew McConaughey is friends with Jesus! And by Jesus I don't mean Jared Leto (but him, too). The speech starts off standard and a good structure is important. "Three things" gives us a countdown of sorts but he spends longer thanking God at the Oscars than I think anyone else ever has so the speech derails quickly. Also "scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates"? What does that even mean. Is that a fancy way of saying "Karma"? I wish I believed in that because I'm sure it's comforting like "everything happens for a reason" but if I believed in either of those things it'd be awfully hard to process all the bad things that happen in the world and all the very successful people who are successful often at the expense and harm of others. See: all lobbyists and politicians and citizens and executive management which destroys the planet or poisons people or prevents them from having medical treatment or fights against people having living wages and housing and food... and the list goes on and so on. I wish karma existed. I really do. 

Speaking of karma... this webcomic about a guy in post-apocalyptic Brooklyn with a karmic deficiency is really weird and funny.


Accceptance speeches shouldn't be so long that people start immediately wondering what you're going on about and thinking big long elaborate thoughts that have nothing to do with what you're saying. Hold attention. Do not let it wander by babbling.

To my family, that's who and what I look forward to. To my father who, I know he’s up there right now with a big pot of gumbo. He’s got a lemon meringue pie over there. He’s probably in his underwear. And he’s got a cold can of Miller Lite and he’s dancing right now. To you, Dad, you taught me what it means to be a man. To my mother who’s here tonight, who taught me and my two older brothers… demanded that we respect ourselves. And what we in turn learned was that we were then better able to respect others. Thank you for that, Mama. To my wife, Camila, and my kids Levi, Vida and Mr. Stone, the courage and significance you give me every day I go out the door is unparalleled. You are the four people in my life that I want to make the most proud of me. Thank you.

And to my hero. That’s who I chase. Now when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say “who’s your hero?” And I said, “I don’t know, I gotta think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.” I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says “who’s your hero?” I said, “I thought about it. You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.” So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “not even close. No, no, no.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at 35.” So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.

I think the part about his dad where he does a little dance, would be cute IF and only if the entire speech didn't seem so inordinately self-worshipping like "aren't I cute?". The long anecdote about choosing Future Matthew as his hero is the same exact way. It's interesting and even admirable and a good suggestion ("if you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else" - can i get an amen?) or it would be IF....

But you can feel at every moment -- maybe because he leads with God so it's divine providence that's delivering him to the podium -- that he thinks he's God's gift on this night (silly man... that's Cate) and that everyone is utterly charmed by him. 

I've met him and I was (charmed) and so are a lot of these people in this room judging by the applaus but this speech which might have worked as a 1 minute speech with some of the pride shorn off, is an enormous turn off. I was frankly shocked by it though in retrospect we all surely should have seen it coming. But now he has finished his three point babbling.

So, to any of us, whatever those things are, whatever it is we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to, and whoever it is we’re chasing, to that I say, “Amen.” To that I say, “Alright, alright, alright.” To that I say “just keep living.” Thank you.

Whew, It's over!!! Sweet relief. Praise Him.



Cate Blanchett, Best Actress (Blue Jasmine)
31 seconds until speech begins (kisses, dress hike staircase). Speech: 3 minutes and 12 seconds.

Sit down. You’re too old to be standing. Thank you, Mr. Day-Lewis, from you it exacerbates this honor to and it blows it right out of the ballpark. Thank you so much to the Academy. As random and as subjective as this award is, it means a great deal in a year of extraordinary, yet again, extraordinary performances by women. Amy Adams, everything you do, but your performance in American Hustle blew my mind. And Meryl, what can I say? Sandra, I could watch that performance to the end of time, and I sort of felt like I had. Julia, #suckit. You know what I mean? And Judi Dench, I mean what a career. She’s not here tonight because at the age of 79, her film was so successful that she’s in India doing a sequel. I mean what a career that is, if I could hope.

And me, I’m here accepting an award in an extraordinary screenplay by Woody Allen. Thank you so much, Woody, for casting me. I truly appreciate it. I’m so very proud that Blue Jasmine stayed in the cinemas for as long as it did. And thank you to Sony Classics, to Michael and Tom for their extraordinary support. For so bravely and intelligently distributing the film and to the audiences who went to see it and perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.

Thank you to my mum, to my sister, to my brother, to my three glorious sons. I would not be standing here without you. To my husband, Andrew, you are a legend. Thank you to my agent, Hylda Queally, you’re behind the pillar somewhere up there. You are a goddess. To my agent in Australia, Robyn Gardiner, I love you so very much. To my publicist Lisa Kasteler. To the sublime Sally Hawkins. And to the extraordinary cast of Blue Jasmine. I don’t know how to do this with other actors and this I share with you. To the hair and makeup people who sweated me up and tried to make me look attractive. Thank you for the attempt. To Carla Meyer for getting Sally and I together and for incredible support. To Helen Robin. To everyone involved in Blue Jasmine, I thank you so much.

And finally, I would like to thank every single member of the Sydney Theatre Company, one of the great theater companies in the world. For me, working on Blue Jasmine, it was a real synthesis of my work in the theater and on film. And not only working with you for the last six years has been the most enormous privilege of my career but it’s made me a better actress. There is so much talent in Australia and Michael Wilkinson and C.M. and I are just tonight’s tip of the iceberg. Thank you so much. Thank you.

She gave the performance of the year. Oscar was wise enough to give her the opportunity to give the speech of the year too. One that is forceful enough that we can hope it leads to endless quoting from others and thus actually sinks in.


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Reader Comments (18)

She's amazing! I've heard she went to save a baby dolphin afterwards.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Jean Brodie

Why leave out Jared Leto's speech??

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

I feel like McConaughey's decision to thank God is as snarked about as his speech about his future self being his idol. There are even hints of snarking in recaps of Darlene Love's amazing acceptance song. That makes me sad. Why do we have to do the God-snarking? If McConaughey and Love believe then they believe. They aren't taking credit away from anyone else; they're thanking *a lot* of other people as well. Let them have their faith and celebrate it a bit during a really happy moment in their lives.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

Like I said before, McConaughey's speech has East Texad written all over it, from the accent to the dual themes of religion and self.

My favorite speech of the night was the Lopezes for Best Original Song. It was so clearly rehearsed but catchy and quite entertaining.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

Great points and I agree with most except not giving Lupita an A+ for her speech because it was scripted. I would much rather hear a beautiful, scripted and sincere speech than an embarrassing, rambling mess, even if the winner was the most deserving by a mile.

I also find it hard to believe that most good acceptance speeches (DDL last year which was possibly one of the best ever) weren't also scripted to some degree. You don't ad lib Cate's speech without having put thought and rehearsal into it before hand.

I would have included the Lopez' and Spike in the good speeches. Spike's was about as close to a good off the cuff speech as you could hope for.

Acceptance speeches are hard as is public speaking in general and then you throw in the emotion and pressure of speaking in front of your peers and possibly billions of people out there in the dark. Lupita did herself proud and gets an A+ from me.

Has the anal probe monologue from Passion Fish ever been discussed?

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I wish that Lupita and Matthew had thanked their fellow nominees. They both seem a bit on the arrogant side to me.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I would have given McConaughey's speech as high a grade as Cate's. Both delivered in terms of execution, laughs, sentiment, and overall content. I can see how his seems too boastful and indulgent at times, but that's what happens when you get a guy like McConaughey with no orchestra music for him to leave the stage! It's par for the course with him pretty much. And another season of it is on the way with Emmys, Globes, and SAG's for "True Detective"! I can't wait lol! And what can be said at this point about Godgend Cate? "The world is round, people!" indeed.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKyle

Nathaniel Rogers embraces Cate Blanchett? I can't wrap my head around this new reality. It doesn't matter how universally acclaimed her Blue Jasmine performance is -- you don't mind being the lone exception and often find yourself at odds with consensus. But you warmed up to Jessica Lange. The Chinese say: may we live interesting times.

You question Nyong'o's sincerity. She's scripted she's rehearsed -- my God I think she genuinely wanted that little gold man. And certainly made the effort to acknowledge all of the cast and crew of Slave because the probability that she would be the film's lone victory that night didn't fail her.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

/3rtful -- i don't question her sincerity at all. Just pointing out that it was obviously entirely scripted. That doesn't mean it wasn't sincere.

Alex -- Matthew did praise his fellow nominees at the very beginning of this speech. But it's easy to forget since he praised himself for like 2 minutes ;)

March 7, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I was thrilled that this year the ceremony gave us four juicy and memorable speeches by actors. (Thank you Stick Man and producers, for understanding why we're all watching this show!)

Leto's for me was the highlight. His nods to world events, his heartfelt tribute to mother and brother, his obvious excitement, and the fact that he remembered that Dallas Buyers Club is a film about AIDS -- he showed them how it's done.

The problem with McConaughey's thanking God isn't that he acknowledged his faith but that he came off sounding like he believed his faith had led to him being hand-chosen as The Winner. Darlene Love's God has his eye on the sparrow, but McConaughey's only had his eye on McConaughey's own heroism. His world is flat.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

I think, in my 22 years of ceremony-watching, I've never cringed more at an acting winner's speech than I did at McConaughey's. That was unbearable. And looking at it laid out, it's really in the final third... "And to me!"
But on the upside, the other three acting winners gave great speech, as did Spike Jonze and the Lopezes.
Take the good, take the bad, right?

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

So glad you included Darlene Love, hers was my favorite moment of the entire broadcast. While all the acting winners speeches, except McConaughey's, were good Darlene's singing was the most spontaneous. Since going in those four were all pretty much locked and loaded as expected winners they had time to prepared and have speeches at hand.

A smaller category like documentary feature with a title that has some recognition but wasn't as clearcut a winner affords a less rehearsed response which Darlene delivered. It was captivating. So glad that the cameraman, who by and large sucked, caught Bill Murray's joyful reaction to the moment and him jumping to his feet in a natural standing ovation which the audience followed. He usually deadpan and bored at these events but he seemed much more engaged at this one with the Harold Ramis acknowledgement and this.

Hated McConaughey's speech. I know that part of being a performer requires a certain amount of self absorption and ego to be enable them to be out there confidently on that stage, it was the baldy self loving, entitled and noxious tone of his that was a total turnoff.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

When even Cate Blanchett makes a speech that's implicitly screaming "Wonder Woman solo movie NOW!", you know WB has just completely screwed themselves over in terms of superheroes. Wait. That's exactly what's happened almost every year since post Iron Man:

2009: Release Watchmen, as a favour to Zack Snyder. This doesn't expand their portfolio or create a reasonable franchise. It's a $150 million dollar done in one.
2010: Nothing ready. Marvel releases Iron Man 2. No sign of a Wonder Woman solo film.
2011: Green Lantern. Ugh. Pointless, stupid, padded, amoral, over-stuffed. It's Spider-Man 3 in film one. Will probably NOT be in continuity with any future DCCU plans. Marvel releases Captain America and Thor. Still no sign of a Wonder Woman solo film. (Film count: Marvel Cinematic Universe: 5. DC Cinematic Universe: 0.)
2012: The Dark Knight Rises. Whether good or not, the idea that allowing the production, filming and release of a superhero film that, by it's very nature as a hyper-realist crime film guest starring Batman, won't allow them to sow the seeds Marvel had been sowing for three years at that point is kind of insane and if they REALLY wanted Justice League to start be secure, they should have BANNED Nolan from finishing what he started and started another continuity of Batman films. Marvel releases The Avengers. Still no sign of Wonder Woman solo film. (Film count: Marvel Cinematic Universe: 6. DC Cinematic Universe: 0.)
2013: Man of Steel. The mere fact that the main fandom debate was about whether they betrayed the character (personally: They totally did) and NOT who the next villain would be means that, if the studio bosses were smart, they'd FIRE the creative team. But they're not smart. Marvel releases Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and in-continuity TV Show Agents of Shield. Still no sign of Wonder Woman solo film. (Media count: Marvel Cinematic Universe: 8 films and one in-continuity show launched. Status: Currently entrenched. DC Cinematic Universe: 1 film, shows out of sync. Status: Shaky.)
2014: Nothing ready, unless Gosling and Warner Bros are going to surprise us with How to Catch a Monster actually being a DCCU film. Marvel releases Captain America 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy. (Media count: Marvel Cinematic Universe: 10 films, second season of Agents of Shield off and running. DC Cinematic Universe: 1, possibly 2 films, shows still officially out of sync. Status: Still shaky. And possibly getting shakier.)
2015: Nothing ready. Marvel releases Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, as well as four in-continuity shows on Netflix. (Media count: Marvel Cinematic Universe: 12 films, 5 in continuity TV shows. DC Cinematic Universe: 1, possibly 2 films.)
2016: Batman v. Superman or whatver it'll wind up called. Already sounds like the hero overstuffing equivalent of Spider-Man 3. Marvel releases two films of unnannounced titles.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

great Oscar coverage as always, thanks Nathaniel.

Is Cate's speech the most feminist ever at this stage? She has been on fire all season nailing each one and they have been mostly very different. I'm glad I didn't watch her spirit speech until after Oscars as it was very similar except for mentioning Gerwig instead of her fellow nominees.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

Cate just nailed her speech. Easily the best of the night in my opinion. Jared Leto's was great too and probably the most heartfelt.

McConaughey's was just....ugh. It's annoying cause I wanted him to win and thought he gave the best performance but damn it was just painful. Great actor though.

I really did love Lupita's speech too, but my only quibble is that she didn't thank her other nominees. It was particularly frustrating since all the women's Oscar clips were ON FIRE and considering you're a total newbie nominated with actresses with years of experience under their belts, I feel like it's a nice thing to mention your fellow nominees. But I'm always a sucker for that.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

I agree with all the negativity regarding McConaughey's speech, but this has just reminded me of the best/worst/most hilarious part... the beginning!

"Thank you to the Academy for this - all 6,000 members..."

Is he the first nominee in history to receive ALL THE VOTES!?

March 8, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkermit_the_frog

Kermit -- I KNOW. lol. i should have pointed that out more prominently

March 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

McConaughey's speech was excellent. It had structure, heart, emotion, wit, and intelligence. I was perfectly fine with it. Very glad he won too. Wasn't arrogant at all.

March 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIan

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