The 85th Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, and in celebration of Hollywood’s biggest night and the big kahuna of awards shows, I present to you my top 10 list of the best Oscar moments of all time:
1. Halle Berry wins Best Actress for “Monster’s Ball,” 2002: “This moment is so much bigger than me,” said Berry, the first African-American to win Best Actress, in a moving, tearful speech that honored Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne and contemporaries such as Jada Pinkett Smith.
2. Heath Ledger’s family accepts his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “The Dark Knight,” 2009: Ledger’s posthumous win for his stunning portrayal of The Joker (he died of a prescription drug overdose in January 2008) was made even more poignant by the acceptance speeches of his parents and sister, who dedicated it to Ledger’s young daughter.
3. The streaker, 1974: David Niven gave one of the most memorable quips in Oscar history after a man ran au natural behind him just as he was welcoming Elizabeth Taylor to the stage to present the Best Picture award: “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?”
4. Marlon Brando’s middle-finger salute via proxy, 1973: When Brando won Best Actor for “The Godfather,” it was respectfully refused by Sacheen Littlefeather of the Apache nation on his behalf to protest the treatment of Native Americans on film and in real life. This was met with both cheers and boos and, in what was perhaps a prelude to his infamous chair speech, a rant by Clint Eastwood.
5. Chris Rock punches a large hole in the Oscar balloon, 2005: Host Rock skewered the nominees in his opening monologue, then showed a clip of himself going to an L.A. multiplex to ask average filmgoers if they had seen any of the Best Picture nominees. Most hadn’t — but they did heap praise on such mindless fluff as “The Chronicles of Riddick.” He never hosted again.
6. David Letterman brings “Stupid Pet Tricks” to the Oscars, 1995: Enlisting Tom Hanks for help, Letterman poked an even larger hole in the Oscars’ oft-stifling pretentiousness by showcasing Sadie, the spinning dog. “That was just as good as winning somethin’, wasn’t it?” Dave quipped to a visibly perturbed Hanks afterward. Letterman never hosted again either.
7. Sally Field gives the most misquoted acceptance speech of all time, 1985: For the record, she said, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me! Right now, you like me!” Really, really.
8. Cuba Gooding ignores the “wrap it up” music, 1997: Honestly? If I won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, I’d take all the time I wanted in my acceptance speech too. Especially if I had to endure a film shoot with Tom Cruise to get it.
9. Bob Hope surprised by an honorary Oscar, 1966: Hope, who hosted the Oscars more than anyone else (yes, even Billy Crystal), was visibly stunned when the award was presented. And although he joked about it while he showed the award to the cameras, he couldn’t hide the tearful cracks in his voice.
10. Matt Stone and Trey Parker stroll the red carpet in drag, 2000: The duo — nominated for Best Song for “Blame Canada” from “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” — admitted to Jimmy Kimmel years later that they were high on LSD at the time.
Pick up this week’s issue of the Maine Sunday Telegram for our Oscar preview, including a profile of a Mainer who has been nominated for an Academy Award and will be attending the ceremony.
Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or: