How to Give a Great Oscar Speech

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In case you ever win an Academy Award, here’s how to deliver a great speech.

1. Avoid the Rolodex.

Nobody wants to hear a bunch of names listed one after the other without any indication of what they did or who they are. Though you want to make it clear that you didn’t win the award without any help, you might end up sounding like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. Don’t try to thank everyone because you’re definitely going to forget at least someone.

2. Be spontaneous!

We know some have been practicing their speeches in the mirror since they were five, we just don’t want to see a thoroughly rehearsed speech. Go wild! Go Cuba Gooding Jr! The ceremony is already so rehearsed, that the speeches are the only potential moments of euphoric spontaneity. Or, instead of giving a speech, you could just break out into song.

2. Get political, but not vapid.

This is especially true if the film in question has prescient socio-political overtones. If you’ve made a film about AIDS, it would be weird to not mention at least something about it in your speech:
For instance, look at Tom Hanks speech. He’s humble, poetic and specific in naming actual gay men he was close to that died of AIDS.

And now look at Jared Leto‘s or Matthew McConaughey‘s, who both won for Dallas Buyers’ Club. Leto dedicated his Award to AIDS victims, but nothing more than that. His nod to those watching in Ukraine and Venezuela felt trite -because of course, even if you’re fighting for you life amid mass protests and under a government siege, you’re not gonna forget to tune in to the Oscars! Remember that this is an awards show, not a UN summit.

3. Avoid excessive weepiness.

Enough said.

4. Be brief, but don’t be Joe Pesci.

After Greer Garson gave a whopping 6-minute speech in 1943 for Mrs. Miniver, winners were given a cap of 45 seconds before they were played off by the orchestra. This has led to a kind of furor on stage. It’s inspired some wonderfully concise speeches, as well as plenty of frantic and jumbled ones. Your best bet is to prepare something brief and riff on it.

5. When in doubt, copy Meryl.

Meryl Streep is f*cking great at giving speeches. I mean, she’s had a lot of practice. She manages to tow the line between self-awareness and genuine gratitude. Her speeches seem to acknowledge the pretenses of the Oscars: yes, it’s a huge honor, but at the end of the day, it’s just an award.

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