The musical numbers, guest presenters and gimmicks might be the showiest part of the Oscars, but when it comes down to it, the highlights of the ceremony are always the speeches. It’s when hard-working pros from so many fields across filmmaking are told they’ve been honored by their peers, and get between half a minute and a few minutes to thank God, the Academy and their families.
Regardless of the flaws of last night’s broadcast (and there were plenty), the night certainly delivered when it came to memorable public speaking: there were no truly bad speeches, and a few that seem destined to go down in the hall of fame. We’ve ranked every one of last night’s speeches, from the least memorable to the most (though, don’t put too much weight in this: literally everyone is a winner, and each speaker did a very fine job on stage). Take a look below, and let us know your own favorites in the comments.
24. Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher – Best Visual Effects
Franklin’s been here before (he won for “Inception,” too), and there was a slight sense of going through the motions with this speech, but I did like 1) the natty tartan scarf that one of his team was wearing, and 2) the tribute to Kip Thorne and scientists, in general. Not sure what the scarf guy shouted at the end, though…
23. Adam Stockhausen & Anna Pinnock – Best Production Design
Everyone seems to love Wes Anderson, who was praised to the skies last night, and Stockhausen and Pinnock were very professional. The result, unfortunately, was one of the least memorable speeches of the night, though Stockhausen paying tribute to his mentor was sweet.
22. Emmanuel Lubezki – Best Cinematography
It’s always tough to give a speech two years in a row, and aside from thanking a different director, Emmanuel Lubezki felt like he was treading similar ground the second time around. His friendship with Inarritu was palpable, but this wasn’t wildly exciting (Jessica Chastain‘s delighted “Chivo!” when the envelope was opened was definitely the highlight).
21. Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman – Best Sound Editing
I loved that these guys looked exactly how you’d imagine Clint Eastwood‘s team to look, and their sense of honor of working with the director was palpable. This wasn’t especially memorable, but it was pretty textbook for this kind of thing.
20. Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley – Best Sound Mixing
The technical categories tend to be the most stilted, and this was definitely no exception (it was pretty waving-at-the-audience heavy). But the team seemed genuinely delighted to be there, and did pay an articulate tribute to director Damien Chazelle in a heartfelt manner.
19. Eddie Redmayne – Best Actor
Like “The Theory Of Everything,” Redmayne hit all the right notes on paper, but never quite made it to heartfelt. Acknowledging his luck at the beginning was a nice touch, but the boyish excitement felt affected rather than genuine, and an awkward (possibly accidental?) attempt to draw a metaphor between his Oscar and caring for Stephen Hawking landed with a thud. His shout-out to his wife at the end was sweet, though.
18. Alexandre Desplat – Best Original Score
There’s been a long wait for this one, and Desplat kept it surprisingly, and perhaps disappointingly, brief. Perhaps he was aware of the power of the orchestra to cut him off. His “how we met” story about his wife was very cute, but I’d be lying if we said we weren’t expecting a little more.
17. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – Best Original Screenplay
Probably the weakest of Inarritu’s three speeches, in part because he took the mic in favor of his three collaborators before going on to give two more acceptances. Inarritu was all business here, but things got more fun when the co-writers had their brief moment in the sun, especially when one thanked “my dog Larry.”
16. Mat Kirkby and James Lucas – Best Live Action Short FIlm
I didn’t love their film, and I’m trying not to let that influence the decision, but this wasn’t my favorite of the night. There was a slight lack of urgency, including a wandering riff about getting free donuts from his local bakery if he mentioned them. But they won things back near the end by paying tribute to crisis center volunteers, including, sweetly, their mums.
15. Laura Poitras – Best Documentary Feature
Given the nature of the movie, this could have been a real firecracker of a moment (especially with Glenn Greenwald on stage): Laura Poitras was sober and controlled (but clearly very nervous) in her evocation of her subject, Edward Snowden, and the journalistic pursuit of truth, but I wish there’d been a little more passion here.
14. Tom Cross – Best Editing
The award ceremony’s secret heartthrob (that silver fox hair! that deep voice!), he did nicely, thanking the actors, and paying a truly heartfelt tribute to his director. Not one for the ages, but very much my tempo.
13. Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli – Best Animated Feature
Animators seem to be rather gracious, and these guys thanked their competitors, which wins them points in my book. It was familiar but touching stuff (Hall’s tribute to his parent’s supportiveness was very sweet), and even had a touch of raucousness with the rowdy crew cheering him on in front of the gods of the Dolby Theater.
12. Milena Canonero – Best Costume Design
A four-time winner (her first was for “Barry Lyndon“!), Canonero is an old-hand at this: she sweetly dedicated her trophy to her director, and Wes Anderson‘s delighted look suggested a real love between long-time collaborators. Good stuff.
11. J.K. Simmons – Best Supporting Actor
When you’ve already won everything, it can be hard to make things feel fresh, and Simmons’ speech slightly suffered from that. For instance, he referred to his “above-average children” in other speeches, and here it felt like a callback, but it didn’t quite land and felt like he was repeating himself rather than making a reference. That said, Simmons rocks. His love for his wife bounded off the stage, and his impassioned plea for people to call their parents was very sweet.
10. Patrick Osborne & Kristina Reed – Best Animated Short Film
I always like it when the winners are gracious in victory, and Osborne was exactly that: first thanking his fellow nominees, then the Academy for letting the category exist at all, then John Lasseter and co. for “letting me make my film.” This was touching and humble throughout (and Reed picked up the theme by paying tribute to her family for putting up with the nights they were away).
9. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – Best Director
Inarritu was much more fun here than with Screenplay, claiming to be wearing Michael Keaton‘s tighty-whities, which “smells like balls.” Surely an Oscar first. He then went to talk about ego (which, given his reputation in some circles, might have raised some eyebrows), but he paid tribute to his fellow nominees, and reminded everyone that their work will be judged in time, not by awards, while not sounding ungrateful either. Much improved.
8. Ellen Goosenberg Kent & Dana Perry – Best Documentary Short Film
Kent and Perry were fucked over by the producers and the host (the orchestra started to play them off as one mentioned Perry’s son’s suicide, and then Harris made an ill-judged joke about her dress — were you not listening, dude?), and yet despite their obstacles, like many of the best speeches last night, they graciously placed the issues first and foremost.
7. Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier – Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Scoring points for a Bill Murray name-drop, the second adoring-Wes-Anderson look of the night, and a shout-out to the late, legendary make-up artist Dick Smith, this hit all the right points, even if it didn’t go for the tear-ducts or make you laugh.
6. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu & Michael Keaton – Best Picture
The third time around Inarritu was getting into the swing of things: graciously deflecting Sean Penn‘s awkward immigration joke, charmingly mangling his English and shouting out BFFs Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro, then letting Michael Keaton take the mic after the star lost out in Best Actor. By a slight nose, the best of the three.
5. Patricia Arquette – Best Supporting Actress
Showing that working off notes isn’t the end of the world, Arquette was great in the first half of her speech, thanking a lot of people with economy and flair. The second half was even better, as she gave a fiery call-to-arms for equal pay for women. So why isn’t this higher? Well, Arquette didn’t exactly embrace intersectionality, saying that “we’ve fought for everyone else’s equal rights,” seemingly excluding people of color and the gay community from her call to arms, which struck a sour note (especially once she extrapolated on it after). Still, in the room at least, this was very good.
4. Julianne Moore – Best Actress
A very actress-y speech, if you know what I mean, but Moore was still class incarnate. Opening with a joke about her husband being younger, acknowledging her fellow nominees, and talking about her directors from the heart, as well as drawing attention to Alzheimer’s, Moore was more moving in discussing ALS (one of the directors of “Still Alice” suffers from it) than Redmayne had been. Very strong.
3. Graham Moore – Best Original Screenplay
This wasn’t the most popular winner of the night among critics and bloggers, but Moore mostly did a very good job here: getting a laugh when he thanked Oprah, thanking everyone he should have, and then getting very personal by movingly sharing a story of his teen suicide attempt. As with the film’s Oscar campaign, the image he conjured of Alan Turing on an Oscar stage felt crass, but he at least acknowledged that it was unfair, and his standing ovation felt deserved by the end.
2. Pawel Pawlikowski – Best Foreign-Language Feature
Delivering one of the most memorable moments of the ceremony early in the show, the Polish director of “Ida” became an instant legend by refusing to be played off and ignoring the orchestra, talking about his late wife while he did it. Humble, funny, remembering to thank his crew, and placing his film front-and-center, this was spontaneous and totally winning, and made me love “Ida” even more than I already did.
1. John Legend & Common – Best Original Song
Having done a great job at the Globes and the Grammys, representing the film that so many thought should have been rewarded for much more, and coming off of their barnstorming performance, Common and John Legend had a lot to live up to. But the pair made their acceptance sing. Common brilliantly (and without notes) weaved the movie and its theme into issues both close to home and far away (Hong Kong democracy protestors got a namecheck), in his honeyed delivery that makes him sound like he’s rapping even when he’s just talking. Legend brought it closer to home, bringing up voting rights issues and reminding everyone that, as their song said, “Selma” is now, while also dropping some staggering statistics. One of the best speeches in recent memory.