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Monday, February 28, 2011

Over The Years: The Academy Awards' best YouTube moments

Longtime observers of the Oscars sometimes talk about YouTube moments -- essentially onstage highlights or gaffes that become water-cooler fodder for the morning after. Every Oscar producer knows that, for all the constraints put in place to keep the show orderly and dignified (and moving along), a moment of choreographed spontaneity never hurts -- think Hugh Jackman pulling Anne Hathaway up from the audience, Courteney Cox-style, during the opening number two years ago. (True spontaneity, of the David Niven/streaker variety, is nearly unheard of these days.)

Here's our rundown of Oscar's top five YouTube moments -- click on the links to see video -- from the last 25 years.
5) Cuba Gooding's expression of love (1997)
He was a discontented football player in "Jerry Maguire," but he was far more ... exuberant when it came time to accept his supporting actor prize. Gooding shouted his love for everyone in Hollywood even as the orchestra played behind him, a kind of sonic war of wills, while, in the crowd, Tom Cruise, Steve Martin and others couldn't contain their laughter.

4) Anna Paquin's moment of silence (1994)
People always hold their breath when a youngster gets up to accept an award. They just don't expect the winner to do the same. The first 10 seconds or so of the 11-year-old Paquin's speech -- she won for supporting actress in "The Piano" -- featured pauses, sharp inhalations and other false starts, but no words. When she finally spoke, the New Zealand ingenue, rocking a Heidi dress, thanked a few collaborators directly and then left the stage without further ceremony.

3) Roberto Benigni clambering over seats (1999) and James Cameron proclaiming himself king of the world (1998)
There was something similar about their exuberance -- Benigni, winning best actor for "Life Is Beautiful," shouting "I love all of you" after he took the longer route to the podium. And Cameron, upon winning best director, ending a rather prosaic speech with an ode to his "King of the World" line from "Titanic," shouting it and then continuing to hoot and holler even as he was ushered away from the podium.

2) Jack Palance's one-armed loopiness (1992)
Jack Palance had had a remarkably diverse 40-year career in entertainment -- theater, film, music and television -- when, at the age of 73, he won his first Oscar, a supporting actor statuette for his role as a leather-faced cowboy in "City Slickers."  Rather than accepting his career capper with quiet dignity, Palance gave the lie to the notion of a graceful Old Hollywood. He began his speech with "Billy Crystal, I've crapped bigger than him" -- referring to the host and his costar -- soon got down on the floor to do one-armed push-ups and then meandered bizarrely into an off-color routine about prostitutes.

1) Adrien Brody's work of art (2003)
Everyone remembers The Kiss -- maybe because Halle Berry could be seen stage right wiping her lips after it happened. But when Adrien Brody accepted his best actor trophy for his role as a Warsaw Ghetto survivor in in "The Pianist," he also gave one of the most unexpected speeches -- and that was after he planted one on Berry. Brody seemed genuinely flustered at first, and talked his way out of it with a series of self-deprecating jokes. ("There comes a time in life when everything seems to make sense. This is not one of those times.") Then he was overcome with emotion and actually silenced the music, successfully, when the orchestra tried to prod him off the stage. These Oscars were held just at the start of the Iraq war, and Brody wrapped up his remarks with an unexpectedly emotional plea about the troops and Allah that got the audience on its feet. It was like three speeches in one. Or one great YouTube moment.
--Steven Zeitchik, LA Times

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