And the winner is... memorable Oscars moments
Sunday 27 February 2011
From winners sobbing uncontrollably to shocking political outbursts, bizarre snubs and streakers, the Oscars have seen it all, and Sunday's Academy Awards could provide fresh drama of its own.
Organizers of Hollywood's biggest night are white-knuckled as they brace for more unscripted moments that could anger viewers or throw the finely-calibrated global telecast off schedule.
But the raw emotion and surprise events, in what remains a tightly choreographed extravaganza, are also what makes Oscars night memorable.
With a global television audience in the billions, the temptation to use the event as a platform for political statements has proved irresistible for past winners, from Marlon Brando to Michael Moore.
Boos rang out around the Kodak Theater in 2003 when maverick filmmaker Moore launched a vitriolic attack on then-US president George W. Bush for waging war in Iraq.
But Moore was only following the tradition of turning the winners' podium into a bully pulpit.
Arguably, the most famous example came in 1973, when a woman calling herself Sacheen Littlefeather stood before the stunned audience to collect Marlon Brando's best actor Oscar for "The Godfather."
Littlefeather promptly refused to collect the award on Brando's behalf to protest the movie industry's treatment of Native Americans.
Four years later, Vanessa Redgrave drew gasps and boos from the Oscars faithful when she thanked the Academy for honoring her in "Julia" despite "the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums."
Oscars presenter Paddy Chayefsky chastised her to much applause: "I am sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal propaganda.
"I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple 'thank you' would have sufficed."
Sometimes, the choice of awards recipients can stoke controversy.
The decision to grant director Elia Kazan a lifetime achievement award in 1999 divided the glitterati, with dozens of stars refusing to rise or applaud, in protest at the filmmaker's decision to co-operate with the authorities during the 1950s communist witch-hunts.
Politics aside, Oscars night has been littered with memorable one-offs.
In 1974, a naked man invaded the stage as actor David Niven was hosting the show, prompting him to quip: "The only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping... and showing his shortcomings."
More recently Italian Roberto Benigni euphorically leapt from seat back to seat back when he won best foreign film for "Life Is Beautiful" in 1999 - the same year Gwyneth Paltrow famously sobbed her way through her victory speech.
Then in 2003, actor Adrien Brody stunned viewers and superstar Halle Berry by kissing her passionately on the lips as she presented his best actor statuette, creating an Oscars signature moment.
Last year, the most memorable moment arguably came when Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman in history to win the best director Oscar, for Iraq war drama "The Hurt Locker."
"Well the time has come," screen legend Barbra Streisand said as she announced the winner.
Meanwhile, organizers have again urged winners of the coveted statuettes to avoid dull acceptance speeches reading off a list of names of people to thank.
Veteran Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks reminded all Oscar winners to keep it "short, sharp and shiny," in a video played to a lunch for all this year's nominees on February 7.
"Looking down to read a long list of names only shows us your bald spot," warned Hanks.
This year, the 45 seconds they have will be underlined by a visual aid: a warning triangle on a monitor in front of the lucky winners, which grows relentlessly toward its point as they use up the precious time.
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