Award Season Filled With Second-Rate Acceptance Speeches


Luke Wiener, Staff Writer

It’s that time of year again. Grab some popcorn, get cozy on the couch and prepare for drawn-out, idealistic soapbox speeches. That’s right: It’s award season, baby! What began as a spirited celebration of excellence in Hollywood has recently divulged into what seems to be nothing more than a platform for recipients to preach cookie-cutter, uniform ideas to the top 1 percent of the 1 percent.

How have we strayed so far from the initial magic that made watching award shows enjoyable and entertaining?

The times of gathering with your whole family, placing bets on what’s going to win Best Picture and the pure excitement of your favorite actor taking the cake are starting to fade away. Actors have turned events that previously highlighted achievements in the entertainment industry into platforms to spew political grievances, and people are tired of it.

In January, actors gave impassioned speeches at the Golden Globes promoting equality and environmental justice. However, in typical Hollywood fashion, said actors failed to provide any real solutions to the problems in which they are so invested. This highly anticipated night was hosted by Ricky Gervais, who conducted the whole event with a rather scornful, cynical attitude. Gervais has clearly grown tired of his colleagues’ hypocritical orations, despite being outspoken about many of these issues himself.

Poking fun at the Epstein case, Weinstein controversy and Dicaprio’s interesting taste in women, Gervais provided comedic relief to a night that seemed to be filled with nonstop political outcries. In spite of Gervais’ surprisingly unorthodox performance, the 2018 Golden Globes and Oscars both hit an all-time low in viewership.

The 26th annual Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) Awards underwent the same phenomenon. Acting legend Robert De Niro’s fiery political tirade may have been a reason for this dip. De Niro accepted the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor reserved only for the most accomplished men and women in cinema. Using this opportunity to call out President Trump, De Niro said: “There’s right and there’s wrong, and there’s common sense and there’s abuse of power. And as a citizen I have as much right as anybody to voice my opinion. And if I have a bigger voice… I’m going to use it whenever I see a blatant abuse of power.”

But does anyone really care? Clearly De Niro hates Trump, as do most members of the film industry. What does this add to a speech meant to thank SAG members?

Sophomore Max Minds said, “De Niro’s speech was pretty bold… but not well-executed.” De Niro doesn’t offer anything new in this speech. He’s just recycling the same thing that we’ve been hearing over and over again. Whether you share De Niro’s political beliefs or not, you have to recognize that this is a simplistic bash, providing no solutions and no direction. Maybe if he provided his audience with ways to help support his cause, it might have inspired significant change. Minds said that De Niro “was surrounded by so many people he has worked with before and have seen him on the job. What he said may have changed their perception of him, but it still had to be said… just not in the way he said it.”

Joaquin Phoenix demonstrated both how to and how not to give an acceptance speech after winning at the Golden Globes and Oscars. Gaining international praise for his role as Arthur Fleck in the film “Joker,” Phoenix swept the award season, winning the title of Best Actor in every major show.

In his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, Phoenix hammered the duplicity present in Hollywood’s condescending mindset, in which promises are often left unfulfilled. What started as a thanks to director Todd Phillips quickly shifted gears to a lesson in “the link between animal agriculture and climate change” even though the supposed champions of the progressive mindset in the audience abuse the very environment they pledged to protect. Members of the academy, specifically those who raise awareness for environmental issues while partying on private yachts and flying on private jets, were eco-shamed by Phoenix.

He ended his time on stage by saying, “We don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs… please.” In doing so, Phoenix offered advice that could lead to realistic change. When compared with De Niro’s SAG speech, Phoenix’s Golden Globe speech seems astoundingly effective and impactful. Spreading awareness is one of the most important things someone with influence can do, but it has to be done properly. Providing intuitive solutions or emotionally provocative calls to action should always be a speaker’s first thoughts if they are to get political.

Following up his successes at the Golden Globes, Phoenix also won the equivalent award at the Oscars, this time with a lack-luster speech. He used his allotted time as an opportunity to talk about the horrors of the dairy industry, an issue close to home for Phoenix, a dedicated vegan since the age of three.

“When he started going on about artificially inseminating cows, I tuned out,” Minds said, even though he “was really looking forward to what [Phoenix] had to say. He just came on too strong with this one.” With no solutions proposed or revolutionary ideas brought forward, yet another opportunity for a meaningful speech was wasted by a top-tier actor.

So what’s the big takeaway? We have all gotten used to actors lecturing us on politics, and many of us are tired of these kinds of public addresses. These speeches, no matter how noble the intent may be, make little to no tangible difference. Actors can educate us all they want on the new crisis that’s sweeping the nation, but until their speeches gain enough substance to inspire actual change, they do nothing but waste precious airtime.