The 2015 Oscars at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on Sunday night had its fair share of good moments but, surprisingly, most of the great moments occurred during the acceptance speeches. Although most made sure to thank those who got them there (families, colleagues, agents, etc.), some made sure they got in a word on some political topic or a socially relevant matter. And if some of the actors, directors, et. al., seemed a bit rushed, well, they are coached that they only have 45 seconds to thank everyone and/or say whatever’s on their mind. But of them all — and there were quite a few in the three-and-a-half-hour Academy Awards presentation, as Entertainment Weekly recapped and ranked Feb. 23 — five speeches stood out.
Patricia Arquette, who won for Best Supporting Actress (“Boyhood”): After she rushed through her thank-you list, she went straight to the topic of women’s rights. “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” she said, leaning into the microphone. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” Actress Meryl Streep, who was nominated for her record 19th Oscar, and Jennifer Lopez were shown in a camera shot, supporting Arquette’s position.
Eddie Redmayne, who won Best Actor (“The Theory Of Everything”): Besides exuding a manic excitability, the young actor humbly acknowledged the subject of his film, the family of renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. He pointed out the courage of both Hawking and his wife, who has supported and cared for him through the years in his battle with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He then dedicated his Oscar to all the worldwide sufferers of ALS. Of course, he quickly added, he would be the custodian of the statuette for them.
Graham Moore, who won for Best Adapted Screenplay (“The Imitation Game”): Moore gave a ended his speech by making a stunning admission and following it up with a poignant and hopeful request. The young writer said he had attempted to kill himself at the age of 16 because he felt like he would never “belong.” “And now,” he went on, “I’m standing here and I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere: Yes, you do. I promise you do. You do. Stay weird, stay different. And then, when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”
Alexandro G. Iñárritu, winner for Best Picture (“Birdman”): Just seconds after Sean Penn jokingly asked who gave the man his green card, Iñárritu, a Mexican native, who had already pulled in Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Direction, took the opportunity to talk about his homeland and about the current American immigrant situation. Dedicating his third Oscar to his fellow Mexicans in Mexico, he said he prayed that they all could “find and build the government that we deserve.” As for those Mexicans making the way to and trying to earn a livelihood in America, he added that he hoped that they would be treated with the same dignity and respect as those that came before them and who built our “incredible immigrant nation.”
John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn, winners for Best Original Song (“Glory” from “Selma”): In an impassioned speech that went over like well-metered poetry, rapper Common (real name: Lonnie Lynn) talked about the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights advocates made their historic stand in March 1965. He spoke of its symbolism and what it meant for America. John Legend (a.k.a. John Stephens, his birth name) added that the struggle for civil rights didn’t end in the 1960s. He said, “Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now,” adding that America had the most incarcerated people on the planet and likened the millions of imprisoned African Americans to slavery.
There were other great moments in the myriad acceptance speeches at the 87th Academy Awards, including J. K. Simmons (Best Supporting Actor, “Whiplash”) telling us all to call our parents and acknowledging that his “extraordinary human beings” children were a reflection of their mother and Julianne Moore (Best Actress, “Still Alice”) thanking the Academy for her Oscar because she read somewhere that winning a statuette added five years to one’s life and she was older than her husband.
The 2015 Oscars were hosted by actor Neil Patrick Harris. For a complete list of 2015 winners and nominees, go to Oscar.go.com or Oscars.org.