Oscar speeches are, of course, one of the most potentially cringe-making occasions known to man. Classic examples of toe-curlingly bad speeches abound: who can forget Sally field’s “You really like me!” or Tom Hanks’s craven “God Bless America”? But there are plentiful counter-examples, if you dig back into the archives. And thanks to the wonders of Youtube, we can enjoy many of them all over again, at our leisure. In fact, these clips have become little mirco cultural artifacts in their own right. And so, as part of our Oscars count-down, Oomska will be running a series contemplating some of the best Oscar acceptance speeches.
We begin with an absolute corker: Bob Dylan picking up the statuette for a song that, for Dylan fans, seemed to come out of the blue, back at the start of the Noughties. Providing the theme tune for Curtis Hanson’s sweetly depressing comedy of dysfunctional academic manners, ‘Wonder Boys’, in 2000, Dylan’s ‘Things Have Changed’ richly deserved the acclaim it received, and brought a little magic to the 2001 Oscars ceremony – “live by satellite from Australia”.
Introduced by Jennifer Lopez – a singer who could not be much farther removed in style or sensibility from Bob Dylan, but hey, they do have in common the fact that they look good in leather trousers – Dylan performs the song whilst seemingly peering out into total darkness, or possibly into overly bright lights. Maybe there’s little difference between the two? The contrast between the performer and the audience – seen in sweeping wide shots, and in the traditional feature close up (Danny Devito munching on what looks like a carrot) – and the lyrics being enunciated by the performer, offer pungently sharp contrasts: “standing in the gallows with my head in the noose…”
Dylan’s performance is fine. But what’s truly fascinating is the speech, if only for its realness, the sense that Dylan (despite surely knowing he’d got it, after all why agree to perform from the other side of the planet?) actually is making his speech up as he goes along, a sense heightened by the typically characterful facial expressions Dylan pulls, notably when praising the Academy for choosing a song which “doesn’t pussy-foot around or turn a blind eye to human nature”. Amen.
Potential winners of 2014, please take note: this is how it should be done.