By Indiewire | Indiewire February 21, 2013 at 11:35AM
The Oscars are just a couple days away, and surely one of the big highlights of the event will be the speeches -- for better or for worse. As Melissa Leo can surely attest, a bad or bizarre (or both) Oscar speech can be the next morning's top water cooler topic, and haunt you for the rest of your career.
So Indiewire asked our trusty New York interns -- Cristina Alejandra Gonzalez, Mark E. Lukenbill, Cameron Sinz and Erin Whitney -- to browse through the Academy's archive of past Oscar speeches and pick out 10 that stood out as examples for whoever makes it to the podium this weekend (note that they are all from the past 15 years or so, as the Academy archive doesn't go back much further).
For your consideration...
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (Best Original Screenplay, 1998)
Hollywood loves a feel good story and no story is sweeter than that of childhood friends who grow up to not only act together but write an Oscar-winning film. Looking back at Ben Affleck's and Matt Damon's Oscar speech for "Good Will Hunting" we can see just how far the pair have come. Understandably nervous and joyous at their first big win they rush through their thank you's, Ben's voice cracks on several occasions and they make charming asides about their haphazard speech. Adding to their appeal, their speech ended with a thank to the city of Boston; demonstrating their humility and appreciation for a pivotal moment in their lives. While they are now regularly cool calm and collected, their creative endeavors are still plentiful as we can see from this year's "Argo" and "Promised Land." [Cristina Alejandra Gonzalez]
Michael Caine (Best Supporting Actor, 2000)
It's not uncommon for award winners to mention their fellow nominees in their acceptance speeches, but none have gone so far to dedicate their speech to the others as the humble Sir Michael Caine did. Honored with his first Oscar in 1987 for "Hannah and Her Sisters," Caine was kept from accepting his golden statue by filming "Jaws: The Revenge," two terribly unfortunate things. Twelve years and five Oscar nominations later the Cockney actor finally got his chance to take the spotlight with his Best Supporting win for “The Cider House Rules,” but instead turned it over to admire the other nominees. After a 20-second standing ovation Caine insisted that while he won the Oscar, he was not the winner and went on to admire the performances and careers of Jude Law, Tom Cruise, Michael Clarke Duncan, and specifically pointed out 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment, giving him probably the best compliment of his young life. If anyone knows how to accept an Oscar with genuine respect and finesse it's a knighted Sir. [Erin Whitney]
Marion Cotillard (Best Actress, 2007)
It's always exciting to watch an actor completely lose themselves to the shock and joy of winning on stage, but the bursting emotions of Marion Cotillard in 2007 were a genuine delight. Approaching the stage for her Best Actress win for "La Vie En Rose" with hands clasped over her mouth -- almost as surprised as fellow nominee Cate Blanchett's excited reaction -- Cotillard was the true definition of speechless. Nearly shaking she gasped for air to thank director Olivier Dahan, gasped a few more times, then not knowing what more to say spoke from the heart exclaiming, "Thank you life! Thank you love! It is true, there is some angels in this city!" Sometimes the best speeches come from those who truly let themselves unravel on stage, letting reactions say more than words. [Erin Whitney]
Glen Hansard and Market Irglova (Best Original Song, 2008)
John Carney’s "Once" is a ragged, sweetly affectionate ultra low-budget film that turned into an international sensation. In a whimsical move fitting of the musical’s story, stars Glen Hansard, then best known for fronting the Irish folk-rock band The Frames, and Marketa Irglova, virtually an unknown, won an Oscar for “Falling Slowly,” the gorgeous song that served as the film’s finest moment. The two Irish lovebirds, who at the time were a real-life couple, approached the podium beaming ecstatically. Hansard launched into totally humble and sincere stream of graciousness, but when Marketa got up to the mic she was immediately cut off the music, so she just nodded and smiled obediently. Luckily, host Jon Stewart was impressed by the duo’s humility and brought Marketa back on stage later in the show to make up for it, and the audience was treated to an eloquent, adorable, and heart-wrenching minute of Marketa praising the merits of hope. The duo’s genuine underdog humility is more than a little refreshing in a night usually weighed down in self-congratulation. [Mark E Lukenbill]
James Marsh, Simon Chinn, and Phlippe Petit (Best Documentary Feature, 2008)
"Project Nim" director James Marsh might not be on the best terms with the Academy recently after last year’s (totally justifiable) remarks that their inability to pick the best documentaries of the year as nominees made them “look stupid,” but back in 2008 Marsh’s thrilling breakout hit "Man on Wire" nabbed the prize for Best Doc. As soon as Marsh and producer Simon Chinn took the stage, Marsh commanded, “Philippe, you’ve got about twenty second to get up here,” and up sprang his compellingly odd subject, the giddy tightrope walker Philippe Petit. Both Marsh and Chinn have short, charming thanks to their families before quickly turning over the mic to the showman Petit. “May [my kids] continue to have big dreams, but may they please not do what this man does,” Chinn gave as introduction to Petit, who was met with loud cheering and applause from the expectant audience. Petit didn’t disappoint. First, he made a coin given to him by Werner Herzog disappear and thanked the Academy for believing in magic and then balanced the Oscar on his nose. We’re not saying being a magician is an Oscar prerequisite (Surely Michael Haneke must know a card trick or two?), but it certainly makes for more compelling television than your average laundry list of thank yous. [Mark E Lukenbill]
Luke Matheny (Best Live Action Short Film, 2011)
The odds seem to be stacked against Luke Matheny when his short film "God of Love" won the award for Best Live Action Short during the 2011 Oscars. The competitors ranged from the tragic existentialism of "The Confession" to the cancer-stricken virginity lost sort "Wish 143," and Matheny's NYU-financed quirky love story hardly held the same thematic elements. But while the subject matter of both his speech and his film may have been lacking some of the "depth" of his fellow nominees, he was more than able to make up for it with his sheer earnest charm, which was likely what got him the award in the first place. Beginning with an off-hand remark lamenting not cutting his hair before the evening, Matheny’s speech was filled with the kind of goofy charisma lacking in much of the Hollywood industry. During an Oscar reception as dull as any in recent memory, Matheny’s win was a noticeably encouraging moment for the industry, and hopefully an example of the kind of up and coming independent winners we will see much more of in the ceremony’s future. [Cameron Sinz]
Mo'Nique (Best Supporting Actress, 2010)
One of the most powerful, moving, and revering of acceptance speeches -- of and from the winner -- was surprisingly made by a stand-up comedienne. Mo'Nique's speech for her Best Supporting Actress win for "Precious" was one of sheer gratitude and praise as she dedicated it to the first ever African American Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel. Not only showing tribute to the "Gone With the Wind" actress through words, Mo'Nique also honored her and all that her achievement had done for black actors by wearing a similar royal blue dress and flower hair piece that McDaniel wore at the 1940 Oscars. Mo'Nique also addressed the previous controversy behind many journalists urging her to campaign harder to win by repeating her husband's for sound advice saying, "Sometimes you have to forego doing what's popular in order to do what's right." [Erin Whitney]
Christopher Plummer (Best Supporting Actor, 2012)
The fact that this speech saved last years’ Oscars from being a total drag makes it all the more noteworthy. In an otherwise lifeless and insipid ceremony, Christopher Plummer not only won his first Oscar, but became the oldest recipient of an award in Oscar history at 82 for his subtle, tender role as an ailing, recently outed gay retiree in Mike Mills’ Beginners. Opening with the brilliant line, “You’re only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all of my life?” Plummer proved himself to be a class act and a champion of patience. He even took a moment to sincerely congratulate all of his fellow nominees by name, which for peculiarly nominated "Moneyball" actor Jonah Hill should be a prestigious honor all in itself. The extraordinary, uplifting circumstances of the award aside, Plummer proved himself to be so damn good at gracious acceptance speeches that the Academy had to be kicking themselves for not awarding him sooner. Watch it here (embedding was disabled). [Mark E Lukenbill]
Steven Soderbergh (Best Director, 2001)
With Steven Soderbergh bowing into an early retirement this year, it only seems fitting to look back at a watershed year in the director’s career. In 2001, Soderbergh was nominated for Best Director in not one but two films: "Erin Brokovich" and "Traffic," both of which were also nominated for Best Picture. So odds were clearly in his favor when he won the Directing prize (for "Traffic"). Still, the pre-bald director didn’t gloat, and opted to dedicate his award to “anyone who spends part of their day creating.” He backed the statement up with a few extraordinarily eloquent, and yet clearly improvised, lines in favor of making art and thanked artists worldwide, as “life would be unlivable” without them. It’s inspiring stuff, and certainly a nice, selfless way to get at what the awards are (or should be) really about. [Mark E Lukenbill]
Three 6 Mafia (Best Original Song, 2006)
The simple act of awarding Three 6 Mafia an Oscar would likely be enough to instantly put this award on any short list of Academy Award recipients. But when the trio took the stage after shockingly beating out the likes of Dolly Parton and a contribution from that year's best-picture winner "Crash," the most memorable part came when all three members got on stage and did the one thing strangely absent from most year’s broadcasts: they genuinely celebrated, in the process thanking everyone from their family and choreographers to Ludacris and George Clooney. Best Original Song is a notoriously sterile category, and after Eminem’s refusal to make an appearance for his 2002 win for “Lose Yourself,” Three 6 Mafia’s win and speech marked a major step forward for the award’s consideration, and provided some great television in the process. As host Jon Stewart described after they left the stage, “that’s how you accept an Oscar.” [Cameron Sinz]