Loads of emotion. Skilled performance. The world stage. Just imagine if you took the ten most celebrated performers any given year, made them stand on the world stage to deliver a speech performance that could make or break their career by doing what they do best: enact a manuscript. Just imagine what wonders we would see! It would be fantastic television! It would be TED for the best performers in the world!
Or maybe not… Because you don’t have to imagine, really. You can just watch the Oscars and fall to sleep during the acceptance speeches. I have a hard time remembering ANY academy award acceptance speech since the emotional outbursts of Roberto Benigni last century. It was memorable in its raw emotion and breach of convention, but was it really a speech or was it a happening?
It seems most of what we remember is raw emotion, breach of protocol or stumbling failure. And while those can be useful tactics few are remembered as ‘speeches’. Because most ARE NOT speeches. Not any more than the State of the Union (as argued by Vital Speeches editor David Murray) or Queen Elizabeth’s “most gracious speech to both Houses of Parliament at the State Opening of Parliament 2015”. Traditionally, Oscar speeches are mostly lists of thank-yous that were never meant to be communicated verbally, the State of the Union is most often of laundry list of policy proposals and Queen Elizabeth’s Opening speech is not even trying.
Though the Monarchy is about to change, there have been indications that the U.S. president might. This year Obama signaled that he would ditch the laundry list and talk about the visions and values for America going forward. The jury is still out on that one. The Academy Awards have made a similar promise on behalf of the coming Oscar recipients: By putting the thank-yous in a pre-prepared ticker in the bottom of the screen they hope for better speeches from the podium.
We can only hope. Many of the nominees tackle important and serious issues that fully deserve their time on the world stage. Just think of suicide in 2015 – or issues of absence such as #OscarsSoWhite. After all Hollywood actors are rarely speechless when it comes to addressing current world affairs. This could be a path to more powerful speeches to the advantage of the award winners, the industry and the event itself – even public debate. And when every nominee needs a prepared speech – just in case – our profession could benefit as well. Or it could all fall flat as in: Please clap.