Photo Credit: JorgeEduardo – stock.adobe.com
ICYMI: The 95th annual Academy Awards are this weekend on ABC. So, as we prepare for another four-ish hours of the beautiful people thanking their people and serving up the random sociopolitical diatribe, let’s not forget the times Oscar gave back.
The times when you thanked God for live television. You know, those moments everyone and their mother discussed the next day surrounding the water cooler? It was then when it became acceptable you spent all that time on the couch eating ice cream. Why? Because Will Smith acted like a crazed idiot and pimp-slapped Chris Rock. (No, that will never get old on YouTube.)
The Oscars have always been an escape for the common folk. The pomp and circumstance are on full display, but when there is more circumstance than pomp, that’s when the ratings skyrocket. And, let’s be honest, the Oscars could use all the ratings assistance it can muster.
On that note, let’s rate these among the most bizarre moments in Academy Awards history. There are plenty to go around, and some you may not have seen before.
2020: Joaquin Phoenix, Got Milk?
The nerd’s champion, Joaquin Phoenix, accepts Best Actor for his marvelous depiction of Joker. Sure, he’d like to thank all those who made this moment happen, but that’s another day. Instead, Phoenix goes extemporaneously in full rage mode against those of us evil individuals who are destroying our planet’s resources. His focus for the evening: Dairy Farms. Wait, what?!
His passionate plea about dairy farmers “artificially inseminating a cow to steal her baby” were dumbfounding. The icing on the lactose-free cake was “and even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable,” speaking of Elsie the Cow. Welp, thanks for a nice evening, Arthur.
2017: Moonlight was Sunsetted by the Academy Awards
Steve Harvey was not the first person to read the wrong envelope. That Razzie award would go to Hollywood legend Warren Beatty. There he is, standing center stage with the incomparable Faye Dunaway (his co-star in Bonnie and Clyde for their 50th anniversary). Suddenly, chaos ensued. “For best picture…and the Oscar goes to La La Land.” Ta-dah!
The winners are on stage, breaking out their thank-you lists amid the celebration. Then, someone else shares with the film’s producer, Jordan Horowitz, that…eh, not so much, buddy. See? Warren Beatty was handed the Best Actress envelope, so congrats to Emma Stone. Surprise?
The winner was Moonlight. The
winners…uh, losers were magnanimous with grace considering what just happened. But the look on everyone’s faces (wait until you see The Rock) was priceless.
2003: The OG of #MeToo Gets a Curtain Call
Two words that cause cringe to many upcoming thespians–and human beings with decency–is Roman Polanski. The director is a fugitive, for real. It was 46 years ago when he was charged with six indefensible acts against a 13-year-old girl named Samantha Gailey. His charges included rape by use of drugs, sodomy, and unlawful intercourse with a minor. Yet, Hollywood turns its lazy eye away. He pled guilty but left for London and then Paris and its non-extradition rules never to be seen in the states again.
In 2003, he directed a beautiful film, The Pianist. Then, this miscreant was awarded Best Director to a sea of applause among a standing ovation from Hollywood’s elite. Of course, he wasn’t there to accept because, you know, the law. He wasn’t “canceled.” No one was “woke.” And he still has his Oscar. Stay classy, Hollywood.
1989: Snow White’s Eighth Dwarf, Rob Lowe
Yeah. This happened. Mel Brooks and Merv Griffin (the guy who created Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, kids) set the stage for teen heartthrob Rob Lowe becoming Snow White’s prince. Only the millions who watched the Academy Awards wished that girl was still asleep from an apple coma.
A segment from “America’s Funniest Videos” broke out when the two sang “Proud Mary.” It was abysmal. To make matters worse, Allan Carr produced the segment. He also produced the classic musical Grease, so surely he couldn’t miss, right? Boy, did he ever miss! This would be the last Hollywood thing he would ever do.
1985: Going to the Dogs
The year was 1985, and it was like the umpteen time another Tarzan movie was out in theaters. (Fun fact: There have 45 Tarzan movies!) This time, it was Christopher Lambert as Jungle Boy in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. (Want to bet that swag looked like crap?) The movie was up for Best Adapted Screenplay against acclaimed films like The Killing Fields, A Soldier’s Story, and the winner, Amadeus.
Robert Towne adapted the screenplay, which was considered a favorite. The guy wrote the screenplay for Chinatown. When he turned his script in, he felt the movie studio created a hatchet job with edits. Additionally, he was up to direct the film, but that role was given to Hugh Hudson (he was the behind the camera for Chariots of Fire, so he’s no slouch).
Ergo, he demanded his name be taken out of consideration. Only Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures still wanted the movie nomination. Magically, Towne’s name vanished, his partner Michael Austin stayed on the ticket, and another talented person named P.H. Vazak took Towne’s place. That was by Towne’s request.
You see, that was his sheepdog! Yes, a dog has been nominated for an Oscar. Take that, AKC Kennel Club!
1974: A Streak of Academy Awards Greatness
The regal gent on the Academy Awards stage is Oscar-winning British actor David Niven (Around the World in 80 Days, The Pink Panther, The Guns of Navarone). He is regaling about entertainment and preparing to introduce a counterpart of acclaim, Elizabeth Taylor. Then, an interruption arose, so to speak.
Robert Opel was a professional photographer, so getting backstage with a press pass was no difficult feat. However, what he did after that was impossible in the early 1970s–darts across the stage wearing nothing but a smile and holding up a peace sign.
To understand how great an actor was Niven, watch his follow-up. That was a mic-drop. Brilliant!
1973: Marlon Brando Takes a Wounded Knee
If you’re not a fan of actors going rogue and lambasting the government, you may have Marlon Brando to blame for that trend. Everyone on the planet knew he would take Best Actor for his role as The Godfather, even him. Unfortunately for Hollywood, he made a point instead of a speech.
When 007 Roger Moore and Oscar-nominated Liv Ullmann introduced Brando as the winner, here comes Sacheen Littlefeather to everyone’s surprise. (Not for nothing, but you may see her in this year’s “In Memoriam” segment.) Security wasn’t that tight, so she was permitted 2.5 minutes to tell Oscar what he could do with his award and protested the “poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry.”
In actuality, six security guards were busy restraining John Wayne (or all people) from bum-rushing the stage and kicking her off it. The ringleader behind the stunt was Brando. Man’s game, Marlon!
1940: And the Academy Awards Give the Most Ironic Oscars To…
If you don’t know the name “Hattie McDaniel,” you should. She is considered a patriarch of civil rights and Black history. In 1940, she became the first African-American to win an Oscar (much less, sniff a nomination) for her role as “Mammy” in the iconic blockbuster Gone With the Wind.
Here is a movie that showcased racism in the deep south and how someone would overcome it. Yet, back where life imitates art, Hattie McDaniel wasn’t allowed to attend the Oscars because she was the same Black actress that was nominated. The producers of the film rose a big stink so Old Man Oscar acquiesed and Hattie received her Best Supporting Actress gold statue. One minor thing about that granted access, she had to sit away from her team at a segregated table.
Funny how all those tables were adorned with white sheets, huh?
Since he saw ‘Dune’ in the $1 movie theater as a kid, this guy has been a lover of geek culture. It wasn’t until he became a professional copywriter, ghostwriter, and speechwriter that he began to write about it (a lot).
From the gravitas of the Sith, the genius of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or the gluttony of today’s comic fan, SPW digs intelligent debate about entertainment. He’s also addicted to listicles, storytelling, useless trivia, and the Oxford comma. And, he prefers his puns intended.