There are the upsets, the cringe-worthy misses (like the Franco/Hathaway hosting fail) and of course the pre-show red carpet moments, followed by their inevitable evaluations the next day. Whether it’s style hits or misses, first timers or veterans (who doesn’t love it when Jack Nicholson shows up just for the hell of it?), gracious losses or big wins, some people—and moments—go down in Oscar history.
Best Acceptance Speech
Oscar is no stranger to long speeches. Greer Garson, who won Best Actress in 1943, spoke for five and a half minutes; Julia Roberts famously warned the conductor not to play her out at the 73rd Awards. Short ones aren’t unexpected, either—Alfred Hitchcock spoke just two simple words, “Thank you” (and then added, “very much indeed”). But every now and then, a winner gives the most warm and inspiring remarks.
Lupita Nyong’o did just that when she took home the award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in 12 Years a Slave, saying, “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.” She ended with a note for young dreamers everywhere: “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.”
Most Up-For-It Presenter
No one brings quite as much fun and flair to presenting as Ben Stiller. The actor donned full Avatar makeup in 2010, spoofed Joaquin Phoenix in 2009, wore a green motion capture suit in 2006 and was the perfect foil to Emma Stone’s first-timer glee at the 2012 show.
Host with the Most
Comics tend to make excellent hosts. Whoopi Goldberg took advantage of costume changes at the 71st awards, and Ellen got the most retweeted selfie ever following her hosting of the 86th awards.
But no one quite pulled out all the stops the way Hugh Jackman did at the 81st. The former Tony Awards host’s opening monologue hit all the marks when it tied in the economic relevance of the recession with classic Jackman charm.
Best Political Statement
In 1973, veteran actor Marlon Brando declined the Academy Award for Best actor following his performance in The Godfather. He sent actress and then-President of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, Sacheen Littlefeather, in his place. She was booed by the crowd, but said that she hoped they would “meet with love and generosity” in the future.
The day following the awards his full statement was printed in The New York Times. The actor made eloquent remarks on the subject, saying that “The motion picture community has been as responsible for degrading the Indian and making a mockery of his character … when Indian children … see their race depicted as they are in film, their minds become injured in ways we can never know.”
Best Milestone Moment
In 2002, Halle Berry was the first African American actress to take home the Best Actress statue, for her work in Monster’s Ball. Berry was so stunned by her win she could hardly speak and shed a few light tears as she made her acceptance speech.
As she collected herself she highlighted the long road to an Oscar for women of color. “This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. It’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
Best Red Carpet Fail
Bjork wore a swan. Lizzy Gardiner wore American Express Gold Cards, and Whoopi wore a purple and neon green suit-dress hybrid. But the prize for the worst (and perhaps most inappropriate) red carpet look goes to Cher, for her 1988 Bob Mackie near-nude ensemble.
Most Endearing Moment
That moment we all hope won’t happen, when we trip and fall at an important event, was the moment that endeared Jennifer Lawrence to the masses. The 2013 Best Actress winner’s Dior gown got the best of her as she made her way up the steps to accept the statue for her work in Silver Linings Playbook. When asked what happened by press later in the press room, Lawrence replied, “I tried to walk up stairs in this dress, that’s what happened.”
It takes a lot of effort to look effortless, to develop a head-to-toe look with timeless appeal. In 1975 it was Lauren Hutton’s fur-topped Halston dress. In 2001 it was Julia Roberts’s streamlined black and white Valentino. In 2006, Michelle Williams stood out in a citrus Vera Wang. Cate Blanchett took the crown in an intricately detailed Givenchy Haute Couture number in 2011. And In 2012, Octavia Spencer impressed in a gilded number by Tadashi Shoji. The ultimate stunner, however was Nicole Kidman at the 2007 show, as statuesque as Oscar himself in a gorgeous Balenciaga gown.
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