Politics & Policy

Oscar Grades

The best and the worst.

Oscar time means a speech night that rivals political convention keynotes, Inaugural speeches, and presidential State of the Union addresses. So how did the 2006 Oscar winners do?

I rated the acceptance speeches in terms of emotion, style, memorability, poise, and fun.

Best of Show

Grade A+: Reese Witherspoon; Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Witherspoon hit the right emotional note by spending most of her time thanking Johnny and June Cash, the people without whom there would have been no movie. The second-greatest amount of time she spent thanking her parents. Her most memorable line: “It didn’t matter if I was making my bed or making a movie. They (her parents) never hesitated to say how proud they were of me.” She hit the right inspirational note. Witherspoon had obviously given some real thought to her speech. It had a beginning, middle, and an end. And in the end she tied together relevant strands from her own life, June Cash’s life and the movie. Nicely done.

Worst of Show

Grade C-: Philip Seymour Hoffman; Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Hoffman wasn’t awful, but on the curve, he gets the lowest marks of the evening among the major stars. For some inexplicable reason he held a piece of paper over his eyes and created a “Karnack the Magician” (from Johnny Carson days) effect. It’s nice that he thanked his mother, but does she really deserve a lot of credit for watching the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament with him as a kid? Surely there are a lot of mothers willing to meet that minimum threshold of sacrifice. Hoffman had way too many nervous “ums” and listed names to thank in a boring manner. His slow start was offset by his sincere emotion of gratitude, and he was mercifully short.

Other Notables

Grade B: George Clooney; Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Clooney used the classical oratorical arts of political jujitsu in his acceptance speech, by truing to reposition his ostensible weaknesses into strengths. He proudly embraced the banner of being an “out of touch” Hollywood liberal. Love him or hate him, while Clooney can seem smug talking about his honors and his place in history, he punctures his own balloon by realizing that he was now likely a guaranteed loser in other categories like best director. Clooney was positive, upbeat, and un-apologetic. He didn’t say anything uniquely memorable, but at least he didn’t embarrass himself like he did at the 2006 Golden Globe Awards when he made a tasteless joke about former uber-lobbyist Jack Abramhoff.

Grade B-: Rachel Weisz; Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

No surprises here. Weisz had good eye contact and delivered sincere thanks. Her emotions were positive and in sync with the moment. But she didn’t deliver any memorable lines. No mistakes or blunders, but she didn’t do anything special, funny, risky, or out of the ordinary. Ho-hum.

Grade C: Robert Altman; Honorary Oscar

Altman had the advantage of knowing in advance he was winning and giving a speech, but he didn’t put it to good use. He started by referencing that he didn’t have much time to make his speech, which is always a boring, time-wasting thing to do. He thanked his wife, but didn’t give any particular reason why. He had one memorable metaphor of moviemaking being like playing on the beach and making sand castles, but otherwise, not much interesting.

T. J. Walker is a presentation coach and media trainer to prime ministers, premiers, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and CEOs. He is president of Media Training Worldwide and is the host of a daily show “Speaking with T.J. Walker” seen here.


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