Almost a whole century ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) presented the first Academy Awards, which later came to be known as the Oscars. In the award ceremony, Douglas Fairbanks, the president of AMPAS, presented the best filmed movies in 1929. This was simply held in a private dinner session in a Los Angeles hotel, with ticket admissions being sold to only 270 people. The entire event lasted only 15 minutes.
Fast forward to today, the Oscars is perhaps the most anticipated motion picture gathering, featuring movies from all around the world while being broadcasted to a global audience,surpassing language barriers. The annual celebration of movies and actors can arouse passionate emotions which sometimes invites drama as well. More than cliché acceptance speeches and stand-up host talks, the Academy Awards have a history of surprising and out of place moments that were unscripted. Here, Echo Media presents the top 10 moments in the Oscars that left a mark forever.
1. Chris Rock takes a smack across the face by Will Smith.
With a title like this article, you can’t say you didn’t see this coming. But can you believe it’s been a year since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on live television? In the 94th Academy Awards in 2022, Chris Rock was about to present the best documentary feature film award and started off with a light monologue, as expected from a comedian like himself. However, he made the mistake of comparing Jada Pinkett Smith, Will’s wife, to Demi Moore in G.I. Jane, mentioning the similarity in baldness between the two women. Will then proceeds to walk up on stage and slap Chris for mocking his wife,which then followed with him shouting the iconic line (‘nuff said). Chris tried to laugh it off, but the audience soon realised it wasn’t staged. Even without the cameras, what happened spread like wildfire and this episode is now one of the highlights in 2022.
2. Greer Garson’s speech results in a new permanent rule in the Oscars.
Some people might go overboard with their orations on stage, but Greer Garson took it a step further by lengthening her speech to five whole minutes of gratitude to the people she owed it to and her history with everyone she worked with. If you wonder why people couldn’t tolerate a five minute speech, imagine counting down from 300 while listening to someone ramble on and on about the same thing. After the Oscars in 1943, the 45-second rule for Oscar acceptance speeches can be attributed to Greer Garson.
3. Naked man turns heads as he strides across the Oscar stage.
The year is 1974. Robert Opel wakes up and decides that it’s a great day to become famous with a genius technique. Robert, who is a gay rights activist, rushes on stage, naked, and takes the spotlight from Elizabeth Taylor who’s supposed to announce that The Sting had won the Best Picture award. Instead of being arrested, he was interviewed after the Oscars where he explained that at the time, he thought it was a splendid way to jumpstart his career. Sadly, it didn’t quite work out for him as he was shot to death during an attempted robbery.
4. Jack Palance couldn’t resist doing one-handed push ups on stage.
In 1991, the charismatic Jack Palance won Best Supporting Actor for the film City Slickers. Not only did Jack give an acceptance speech, he added spice to it by getting on the ground and showcasing three amazing one-handed push ups. Mind you, he was 73 years of age! After celebrating his little stunt performance, he shrugs it off, and follows it with a “that’s nothing, really.” Not even a short of breath, or huffs and puffs. Such a show off.
5. Heath Ledger couldn’t be present to receive his Oscar award.
This could be regarded as one of the saddest days in history, even beyond the Oscars. Heath Ledger’s tragic overdose death in 2008 broke the world into tears. And if that wasn’t tearful enough, his stellar performance in The Dark Knight earned him the Best Supporting Actor award in the 2009 Oscars, but he couldn’t hold the statuette himself. The audience, including actors that had worked with him previously, watched sorrowfully as Kate Ledger, Heath’s sister, accepted the award in his stead. Rest in peace, Heath.
6. Cuba Gooding Jr. won’t allow anything to get in the way of his speech.
You ever get so excited over something you’re so proud of, you just wanna bask in the moment screaming about it and fight off everyone that tries to get you to stop? In 1997, Cuba Gooding Jr. experienced this first hand, when he refused to give up the stage after his time was up as he was giving his speech for Best Supporting Actor in Jerry Maguire. The orchestra played their divertimento, yet it wasn’t enough to drown out Cuba’s howling voice, calling out to his fellow co-stars including Tom Cruise.
7. Sacheen Littlefeather’s bold radical move
Sacheen Littlefeather approached the podium to accept Marlon Brando’s Best Actor award on his behalf, however, she held out her hand to deny the statuette and informed the audience that Brando had refused to accept the honour due to how Native Americans were depicted on screen and to support the ongoing conflict that took place at Wounded Knee.
Brando gave her a prepared eight-page speech, but show producer Howard Koch told her she only had 60 seconds. Three days later, the whole speech was published by the New York Times. Littlefeather’s words were greeted with some cheers and boos within the venue, but the general public’s reaction to her attendance was overwhelmingly unfavourable right away. Some media publications even criticised her Native American origins and reported that she rented her costume for the occasion. In a letter of regret, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has now apologised to Littlefeather after 50 years. Littlefeather is pleased with the path she forged. She was the first woman of colour and indigenous woman to use the Oscars as a forum to express her political views.
8. The most expensive selfie to date
Ellen DeGeneres started the hijinks by sprinting to the front row. She handed Bradley Cooper the Samsung Galaxy Note III. When Cooper extended out his arm, he was surrounded by Ellen DeGeneres and Meryl Streep, who was standing behind Cooper on the overlap. Jared Leto arrived slightly late and was unable to get his head in the picture as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Kevin Spacey, and Julia Roberts crammed together behind them.
The photo garnered enough retweets to reach 37 million people because of the abundance of attractive and talented celebrities it featured. Today, the well-known image has received over 2 million likes and is worth $1 billion. The success of the star-studded selfie was an enormous victory for Samsung, which offered the phone in a very clever act of product positioning. Nevertheless, the company claimed that they were equally taken aback as everyone else when the image evolved into the most retweeted post of all time.
9. An awkward mix-up for Best Picture
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were supposed to declare the Best Picture winner, but one of the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants responsible for calculating the votes and preparing the envelopes, accidentally handed Beatty the remaining envelope from Best Actress, revealing Emma Stone’s win for La La Land. Beatty quietly read it before presenting the card to Dunaway. The actors and crew entered the stage as she read aloud “La La Land”.
When the PwC representatives and other officials entered the stage to warn the La La Land cast that a dreadful error had occurred, the acceptance speeches for the film were already well underway. They ultimately opened the correct Best Picture envelope after inspecting Beatty’s envelope in detail. Jordan Horowitz, the producer of “La La Land,” then remarked, “Guys, I’m sorry, no, there’s a mistake. Moonlight. You guys won best picture.” The Moonlight cast and crew were in a state of disbelief before advancing to the stage gradually, where Jenkins delivered a perplexed but emotional speech.
10. Halle Berry’s unforgettable win
Halle Berry won the Oscar for Best Actress for her work in Monster’s Ball, making history as the first woman of colour to do so. Berry’s historic triumph was followed by Sidney Poitier’s honorary Oscar, who in 1964 became the first black man to receive the Best Actor award. Berry was aware of the gravity of her accomplishment. She made the moving statement “It’s been 74 years” in her tearful acceptance speech, alluding to the fact that she was the first black woman to receive the honour and continues to be the last to this day. Berry addressed the audience, saying, ‘‘This moment is so much bigger than me; it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of colour that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.’’
Since that evening, no other black women have been awarded best actress, and it took another black woman eight years after Berry’s victory to even receive a nomination. In an interview with The New York Times for the anniversary, Berry stated, ‘‘It didn’t open the door. The fact that there’s no one standing next to me is heartbreaking’’. She pointed out, however, that the dearth of awards doesn’t reflect the outstanding performances that her fellow black actresses have done and continue to do.
To recapitulate, The Academy Awards are full of unexpected twists and turns. No amount of prognostication from reputable sources could possibly have the audience ready for the outcomes. Despite several controversies and slanderous comments, you can always count on them to host the most magnificent evening in Hollywood. As additional accolades and recognitions are bestowed, we can only hope for more upcoming historic incidents that would unironically ‘‘slap’’.
Written by: Ruby and Ryan
Edited by: Caitlin