Awards shows, with no exceptions, are awful. Watching a bunch of overpaid luvvies pat themselves on the back for all the mediocre crap that they’re churned out in the last 12 months inspires rage and hatred in even the most mild-mannered member of the public. That’s why the greatest awards show performances all have one thing in common – they’re subversive. Whether intentional or not, the acceptance speeches and performances we all know and love disrupt the procedures in some way, rattle the audience, and hopefully spoiling everyone’s night just a little bit.
Marlon Brando’s Oscar Rejection
It’s hard to understand what a big name Brando was after The Godfather was released. A large part of his enduring memory nowadays will be of an overweight, elderly recluse, but in 1972, he was the star of a cinema masterpiece, which everyone knew was going to sweep the Oscars. To the surprise of no-one, Brando won the Oscar for ‘Best Actor’.
However, Brando was not at the awards ceremony. In his place, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American activist, who brushed the Oscar aside, announcing Brando’s protest against unfavourable depictions of Native Americans
in cinema. The producer threatened to have her arrested, the rules were changed to stop proxy acceptance of awards, and Brando pissed off every member of the academy from the comfort of his own home.
Halle Berry’s ‘Monster’s Ball’ Speech
It’s strange that during an acceptance speech that she won for her amazingly understated performance in Monster’s Ball, Halle Berry should go so insanely over-the-top at the 2001 Oscars. It starts off fairly straightforward; a few tears here and there, but Berry valiantly thanks her co-stars, the Academy, and her manager. So far so good, but five minutes later she’s still talking.
Few members of the cast and crew escape her thanks – she even thanks her lawyer and Oprah Winfrey. By the time it was over and the producer had seriously considered cutting her microphone off, Berry had set a record for the longest speech in Oscars history, and had thoroughly irritated every single member of the audience.
Ricky Gervais and the Golden Globes
Even more than the expense, the prestige and the attention given to the Golden Globes, the most stunning thing about them is how seriously they take themselves. It seems as though the stars in the audience don’t realise that acting isn’t the most important job in the world. Anything that treats the Globes with any less reverence than a religious ritual is pretty much forbidden.
That’s why Ricky Gervais’s hosting of three separate ceremonies all deserve a place on this list. His jokes pretty much have to be seen to be believed. You have to admire the balls of a man who’s willing to accuse Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie of bribing officials into nominating their awful film, in public, in front of their friends and colleagues. Even better than the jokes are the audience reactions. Watching A-List megastars writhing in their seats and trying to look self-deprecating is one of the most satisfying things ever.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Golden Globes
The most recent entry on this list, this year’s Golden Globes, hosted by the two Queens of American comedy, were totally groundbreaking. Firstly, they were actually hilarious. Apart from Ricky Gervais, Los Angeles awards shows can be characterised by how cringeworthy the non-comedian host’s attempts at comedy are. Many of the girl’s jokes were more entertaining than most of the films that won awards. I’d rather watch Amy Poehler take the piss out of James
Cameron than watch Les Miserables, that’s for sure. More importantly though, they did a lot for women. In a world where a female comedian must be referred to as a ‘female comedian’ (or even worse, ‘comedienne’), they showed everyone that even when surrounded by superstars and genius directors, two ladies being very funny can steal the show completely.