Oscars 2014: Decoding the winners’ acceptance speeches

Will Jennifer Lawrence be taking a trip up to the stage once again? Who will turn on the waterworks? Communication coach Robin Kermode analyses tonight's big moments on stage...


Acceptance speeches are about as important as the awards themselves, right? So, the pressure’s on for tonight’s celebs as they step up to the Oscars stage and thank their mothers/brothers/agents/third-cousins-once-removed. 


Last year we saw Jennifer Lawrence take a tumble and Ben Affleck choke up, but what does this year have in store? Well, we’ve enlisted some expert help to analyse the brief moments each winner gets before that familiar music begins playing in the background. Communication coach Robin Kermode will be with us throughout tonight’s ceremony, decoding and analysing tonight’s acceptance speeches below…

05:36: Director Steve McQueen was clearly very moved and highly emotional, “I’m sorry, I apologise for the paper but otherwise I’ll just bore you all – but I’ll try not to.” He thanked his team largely, made up of women, “I have all these powerful women in my life.” He was racing against the clock to get as many ‘thank you’s in as possible and there was one person on his list he couldn’t actually pronounce but he said, “Sorry, you know who your are, I’m just very nervous.” He ended with great dignity, “And lastly … Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live. This is the most important legacy of the Solomon North film. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery. And the 21 million people who still suffer in slavery today.” An emotional speech about an emotional film.

05:23: Matthew McConaughey’s was probably the best speech of the night. “Thank you to the Academy – all 6000 members.” He congratulated his fellow nominees, “All your performances were impeccable. I couldn’t see a false note anywhere.” He went on to deliver this message: “There are 3 things I need each day. Something to look up to, something to look forward to and someone to chase. I want to thank God – who I look up to. My family – who I look forward to. And my mother who demanded we respect ourselves, so that we are better able to respect others. And to my hero – that’s who I chase. My hero is me in ten years time. Every day, every month, every year, my hero is always ten years away. I’m never going to become my hero. We must have someone each day to keep on chasing. So whatever it is we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to and whoever it is we chase I say All right, all right, all right! I just keep living. Thank you.” His speech was delivered without notes, with great pace, with a lovely humanity and a real purpose. Really well done.

05:09: Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett – winner for best actress – genuinely congratulated all her fellow nominees: “Yet again this is another year of extraordinary performances by women. Amy Adams – your performance blew my mind; Meryl – what can I say?; Sandra, I could watch that performance till the ends of time and I sort of felt I had!; Julia – hashtag suck it, you know what I mean!; Judy Dench – at the age of 79 still filming a sequel, what a career.” Cate was stylish, full of clarity and with poise. She also made an impassioned plea for more films about women. “They are not niche, audiences want to see them and they earn money. The world is round, people!” Never losing her control, she remembered many names without use of notes. A stylish award speech.

04:44:  Gravity’s best director winner Alfonso Cuarón spoke well and launched straight in which I love, “Like any other human endeavour making a film can be a transformative experience. It’s good because it took so long – but not a waste of time! What really sucks is for a lot of these people that transformation was wisdom for me it was just the colour of my hair! I want to thank the wise guys at Warner Brothers – sorry, the wise people at Warner Brothers.” He spoke with no notes, great pace and he ended his speech speaking in his native Spanish to great effect. Gravity with gravitas. Good work.

04:36: A very popular win. Spike Jonze wrote and directed Her which has just won best original screenplay. He said, “I have 42 seconds to speak so I’d better hurry.” He then described the scene from stage, “Natalie crying, Brian smiling, Megan who is very shy and is hiding at the back … All of my friends, everyone I love. We made a movie about relationships and intimacy and that’s what we shared together and so this for all of us.” One of the most genuine smiles of the evening, Spike was very real. Wonderful.

04:24: Best original song winner, Steven Price for Gravity: 

Another good thank you speech from a Brit, this time, Steven Price. It was nicely delivered speech, rounded off with “This is a film about Ryan Stone – we got to bring her home and celebrate life. And this [award] is dedicated to those with whom I share my life: my family. Sorry I made so much noise when I was growing up.” Well done Steven. 

03:36: And best editor, Mark Sanger…

Another well delivered speech from a Brit. Mark Sanger managed to make this feel like a speech at a Village Hall rather than at the Oscars. We saw no nerves, heard no over-reverential voice or over-inflated words. Just a simple speech of thanks but with style and class. Proud to be British tonight.

03:34: A flurry of Gravity acceptance speeches as it takes its total to five. First up, Emmanuel Lubezki for best cinematography: 

Great pacing and sexy accent! A genuine speech of thanks. I particularly liked, “I would like to thank my teachers, not all of them but some of them!” Again, many actors can learn from techies – good speech Emmanuel. 

03:26: Best supporting actress, Lupita Nyong’o…

A very popular award, receiving a standing ovation with cheers.  And a great speech from Lupita Nyong’o. “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s.” She got a little tearful half way through but recovered well. “I’m certain that the dead are standing and watching; they are grateful and so am I. When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me of every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” Epic, touching and real. Very, very classy. Well done Lupita.

03:13: Who says techies can’t speak? Gravity’s sound editor Glenn Freemantle spoke from the heart and with clarity after picking up his award. But then he is British … ! His speech felt unscripted but had no waffle. We got the feeling he was just talking to us across the dinner table – pitch perfect. Many actors could learn a lesson here. Well done Glenn!

02:58: Best foreign film winner The Great Beauty…

“Thank you” sounds so good in Italian! Paolo Sorrentino thanked all the usual suspects but then added, “Thank you to Roma, Napoli and my great beauty, Daniella; my father and brother. Thank you.” This was short and very, very sweet. In fact, perfect.

02:48: 20 Feet from Stardom’s Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers – winners of best documentary feature:

First standing ovation of the night for one of the singers from 20 Feet From Stardom, Darleen Love, but I have no doubt we will hear more from her. She sang, open throated and open lunged, “I sing because I’m happy.” The first BIG moment of the evening!!! Wow!

02:26: The first Oscar for Gravity. And the first British accent of the evening. Tim Webber was very composed. His speech felt spontaneous, was well paced and honest. Well done, sir!

02:20: Best animated short film winner Laurent Witz…

A very human speech from a shocked winner. In a wonderful French accent, his hand shook as he took out his script, “Sorry … a lot of emotion. Sorry, I have to take out a paper. This is my first movie as director and producer. It feels like an American dream.” We totally forgave his shaking hand with his crumpled script. He spoke from the heart and we loved him. Best of all it make me want to see his film.

02:11: Next up, best costume award-winner Catherine Martin… 

Very real and quick! She took her speech script out of her bra – as she said, “Sorry – it’s a very Australian thing to do.” She thanked the Academy, her “golden girls” back home and her husband Baz Lurhmann, “he dreams the dream.” She got this one right. 

02:00: Very calm, gentle first award acceptance speech from Jared Leto. He didn’t seem over awed by the occasion, used his own voice and chose to praise his mother, “pregnant with her second child, a single mum, a high school drop out but encouraged her kids to be creative to work hard and do something special.” He also remembered all the names he wanted to mention and he ended “This for all of you who never felt justice because of who you are or who you love.”

01:32: Ok so we’re off …. Ellen is back after 7 years. Really well constructed opening speech, beautifully paced delivery with some great lines, eg. “Meryl Streep after 18 nominations can’t afford to be nominated again, that’s hundreds of dollars on hair and make-up alone.“ and “One option tonight: 12 Years A Slave wins Best Picture. Option 2: You’re all racists.”

Robin Kermode is one of Europe’s top communication coaches (www.zone2.co.uk)and author of Speak So Your Audience Will Listen