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Bruce Feiler

Bruce Feiler

Posted: February 22, 2007 08:33 AM

No Thank You: An Oscar Proposal


Contrary to conventional wisdom, the acceptance speeches should be the best part of the Academy Awards, the one time all evening when the show is spontaneous, raw, and, with luck, emotional. Yet acceptance speeches have become nearly universally maligned - for their repetition (the same winners keep thanking the same people in show after show), for their lack of originality (what do you mean you didn't expect to win; there are only five choices), and, most of all, for their endless litany of industry thank yous (not just lovers and directors, but managers, lawyers, assistants, hairdressers, "everybody I ever met in my whole life," and, de rigeur, God).

The web is full of long-winded proposals (like here and here) to shorten acceptance speeches this year. Well-meaning tips include "Drop the ums and ahs;" "Practice, practice, practice;" and, for actors, "Hire writers."

But what these proposals lack is an awareness that Hollywood is a business. Any proposal must introduce an economic incentive. In fact, the proper inducement is not to implore winners to shorten their speeches, but to offer them a way to lengthen them. The Academy should introduce a rule: If you insist on giving a laundry list of thank yous, we're going to cut you off after 30 seconds. But if you instead speak from the heart, tell a story, address your inspiration, or even - and how's this for a sure-fire Hollywood hit - talk about yourself (!), we'll let you go on for three minutes. Three minutes in front of a billion people to charm, to enamor, to sell, to"build your brand."

That ought to be enough incentive to leave the thank you list in your cleavage - or better yet, on the web. Which leads us to the ultimate money-maker: The Academy could open a portion of its website for the winners to post their gratitudinalia in the morning, which would have the added benefit of making sure, say, Hillary Swank doesn't leave off her (future) husband next time around. Think of all the hairdressers who would visit!