Okay, I want everyone to shout out the most exciting part of the Academy Awards on the count of three. 1...2...3...THE SPEECHES. What?! That is so crazy how we all shouted the exact same thing, but, on second thought, maybe it's not so crazy after all. I mean who doesn't like listening to a bunch of millionaires congratulating themselves? I sure do; the more long-winded and self-important, the better.
The fact is that an Oscar acceptance speech can make or break the likability of an actor. Take the ESL-charm of Jean Dujardin and compare it with the pinched-faced superiority of Sean Penn, for example. And while no one likes to listen to someone rattle off a long list of names, it is interesting to see who an actor or actress thanks and how their speeches are received. Do they come off as gracious? Do they come off as arrogant? Are they George Clooney and can say whatever they want?
Slate has put together an fun interactive feature that actually allows you to see who the winners of the Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor categories have thanked in their speeches over the passed 11 years and, specifically, who got thanked first. Spouses and family members often take top billing, but, more are frequently named as the actor's big closer. Naming family members last, however, is a risky move for, as Meryl Streep noted upon one of her wins, "when you thank your husband at the end of the speech, they play him out with the music." As for non-spousal relations, moms get the top shout-out.
A lot of the statistics on who people thanked actually differed based on gender. More so than men, actresses start out by thanking the Academy, have longer lists of people to thank and are more gracious towards the those who helped them start their careers. The cynic in me says that this has less to do with politeness and more to do with the fact that women are seen as less responsible for their own success than men are. (Slate cites a speech from Clooney where he thanks absolutely no one and yet he's never seen as anything less than amiable.) Sadly, my theory is supported by the statistic that women also receive far less standing ovations than their male counterparts. At the risk of sounding flippant: boo-urns.
But what recognizable names have popped up the most? According to Slate, Oprah has been thanked twice in speeches during the last 11 years, as has Sidney Poitier. God has only been thanked in 3 speeches, as opposed to Meryl Streep who has been thanked 4 times. Some might view this as blasphemy, but maybe it's a good thing. Meryl Streep probably does have more to do with an actor or actress winning an Oscar than God does. If he exists, let's go out on a limb and say that he has bigger concerns than how moving Melissa Leo was in The Fighter. (He did comment from Heaven, however, that while he hasn't had time to see The Fighter yet, he does think that Helena Bonham Carter was robbed.)