Oscars 2015: 9 Politically-Charged Acceptance Speeches
There may have been few surprises among the winners at Sunday night's Academy Awards, but one surprise was how political their speeches were. After all, in recent years, political statements have largely been unwelcome guests at the Dolby Theater.
In past years, artists from Vanessa Redgrave to Richard Gere to Michael Moore have been criticized for using their time at the Oscar podium to raise controversial issues before a worldwide audience. In an evening of glitz, glamour, and self-congratulation, mentioning the sometimes cruel realities of life beyond Hollywood Boulevard makes winners seem like party poopers. Mentioning God, your cast and crew, your spouse and kids, and Harvey Weinstein is fine, but mentioning the plight of migrant farm workers is a little too much reality for the dream factory.
Nonetheless, several winners at the 87th annual Oscar ceremony used their victory speeches to mention causes important to them. Some of those causes were at least relevant to the movies they were being recognized for, and some were not. But in a year when the Academy was taken to task for its dearth of minority nominees, and when actresses used the #AskHerMore hashtag to prompt red-carpet interviewers to ask them about their achievements instead of treating them as walking fashion mannequins, it's understandable that winners would feel encouraged to be more vocal about their politics. Here's what the issue-minded winners had to say; judge for yourself if they did their causes a favor by touting them at the Oscars.
1. Patricia Arquette
The "Boyhood" Best Supporting Actress winner ended her speech with calls for wage equality and equal rights for women. Many viewers probably wondered what these issues had to do with her role as a mom in "Boyhood." She did imply a connection between motherhood and her pet issues: "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. "It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America."
2. Mat Kirkby and James Lucas
The Oscar-winning live-action short "The Phone Call" is about a suicide hotline, a topic close to the hearts of filmmakers Kirkby and Lucas. Though Kirkby started his speech with a joke that his Oscar entitled him to a free donut at his favorite bakery, he turned serious, saying, "We'd like to thank all the volunteers around the world in crisis centers who give their time for nothing, including our mums."
3. Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry
Kent and Perry won the Best Documentary Short prize for "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1." Director Kent said that the honor "really goes to the veterans and their families who are brave enough to seek help." The topic of suicide is one producer Perry knows all too well; her son Evan killed himself at 15, an event that was the subject of her 2009 film "Boy Interrupted." In her brief remarks on behalf of "Crisis Hotline," Perry said, "We should talk about suicide out loud."
4. Laura Poitras
Poitras won the Best Documentary Feature prize for "Citizenfour," chronicling her interview with fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. "The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don't only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself," she said. "When the most important decisions being made affecting all of us are made in secret, we lose our ability to check the powers that control. Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage and for the many other whistleblowers. And I share this with Glenn Greenwald and other journalists who are exposing truth."
5. Common and John Legend
When they won Best Original Song for "Glory," their tune from "Selma," both men emphasized that the movie about the civil rights protest in Alabama 50 years ago remains relevant today. Common said that the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the bloody confrontation depicted in "Selma" took place, is now a symbol of hope. "The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South Side of Chicago dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression, to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy." Legend noted that the Voting Rights Act -- the legislation passed as a result of the Selma march -- was now being weakened (thanks to a 2013 Supreme Court decision that all but overturned the 1965 law). He also observed that America is "the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850." The musicians' speeches echoed the theme of the movie and the song, that the battle for human rights continues.
6. Graham Moore
Moore, who won Best Adapted Screenplay for "The Imitation Game," noted that his film's subject, World War II codebreaker and computing pioneer Alan Turing, never got to bask in adulation at a podium like the one at the Dolby Theater; instead, he was persecuted by the British legal system and hounded to suicide because he was gay. In perhaps the night's most moving speech, Moore noted just how personal Turing's story was for him because "when I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I'm standing here." He encouraged kids who feel like he did to stick around and do something great so that they, too, can be recognized for their achievement and pass the message of hope on to a new generation. "Stay weird," he advised. "Stay different."
7. Julianne Moore
Moore won Best Actress for playing an early-onset Alzheimer's patient in "Still Alice." Said Moore, "I'm thrilled that we were able to shine a light on Alzheimer's disease, So many people who have this disease feel marginalized. People who have Alzheimer's disease deserve to be seen so we can find a cure."
8. Eddie Redmayne
Like Julianne Moore, "The Theory of Everything" star Redmayne won his lead acting prize for playing someone with a debilitating ailment -- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-afflicted physicist Stephen Hawking. "This Oscar belongs to all of those people around the world suffering with ALS," Redmayne said. "It belongs to one exceptional family -- Stephen, Jane and the Hawking children," Of the Oscar trophy, he said. "I will be his custodian."
9. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu
The "Birdman" filmmaker, who took home three trophies (for Best Original Screenplay, Best Directing, and Best Picture), noted that he was the second Mexican in a row to win the Directing prize. (Last year, his pal Alfonso Cuaron won for "Gravity.") In his Best Picture speech, Iñarritu called for justice for Mexicans, both at home and in the United States. He expressed a wish that his countrymen in Mexico could "find and build a government that we deserve." As for Mexicans in America, he said, "I just pray they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones that came before and built this incredible, immigrant nation."