The fluffy red carpet chatter, those musical opening shout-outs to top contenders, the parade of gilded trophies and one speech after another thanking directors, agents and publicists — now 86 years old, Oscar night can feel like slipping on a pair of familiar old slippers.
And yet — once in a blue moon — the Academy Awards get a bit of a jolt, a minor electric shock. Maybe it's from a genuinely awkward and unvarnished acceptance speech or perhaps a surprising appearance. Sometimes, it's due to a truly terrible segment.
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As Hollywood ramps up for this year’s annual Oscars extravaganza, CBC News revisits 6 unexpected and indelible moments from the famously predictable telecast’s lengthy history.
Prize-winning smooch (2003)
You have to credit his chutzpah. Just 29 years old at the time, Adrien Brody made the most of his time in the Oscar spotlight in 2003 when he became the youngest ever best-actor winner.
Caught in an understandable surge of emotions, the star of Holocaust drama The Pianist seized the opportunity to plant a dramatic, sweeping kiss on comely actress and presenter Halle Berry as he took the stage. The first words of his acceptance speech? “I bet they didn’t tell you that was in the gift bag,” he cheekily declared to the startled Berry.
Impromptu workout (1992)
Filed under the category of “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” is Jack Palance’s supporting-actor win for the comedy City Slickers. He’d already delighted the industry crowd with his opening salvo about being able to “crap bigger” than co-star and Oscar host Billy Crystal. But when the septuagenarian dropped down to demonstrate a series of one-armed push-ups, he solidified his bad-ass, tough guy rep for all time.
A streak for the ages (1974)
Actor and co-host David Niven demonstrated an unflappable demeanour and a devastating quick-wittedness when a streaker flashing a peace sign ran past him onstage.
Lowe blows (1989)
Seth MacFarlane’s maligned We Saw Your Boobs song from last year's Oscars doesn't hold a candle to the so-cheesy-you-can’t-look-away opener from 1989, in which an aspiring actress as Snow White appeared opposite then-twentysomething Rob Lowe. The charming duo murdered the too-long musical number and even the onstage appearance of honoured guests like Cyd Charisse, Roy Rogers, Dorothy Lamour and Vincent Price couldn't save it.
It was a hot mess complete with dancers dressed as literal stars and coconut-topped Carmen Miranda-diner waitress hybrids, cutaway shots to awkward applause from audience members (including Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Hanks) and, eventually, Disney's copyright infringement lawsuit against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over the unauthorized use of its princess character.
Another postscript: Billy Wilder, Paul Newman, Julie Andrews and Gregory Peck were among the Hollywood heavyweights who signed a letter blasting the show as "an embarrassment to both the academy and the entire motion picture industry."
"And think of it: more than a billion-and-a-half people just watched that," present Lily Tomlin smirked immediately after the opening.
Baffling Benigni (1997)
Italian actor and filmmaker Roberto Benigni's sheer joy and exuberance upon winning the best foreign film Oscar for Life is Beautiful was instantly evident: how else to explain the surge of energy that propelled him onto the backs of the plush chairs in front of him and his bunny-hops towards the stage into the waiting arms of presenter (and chuffed fellow Italiano) Sophia Loren.
Benigni's charmingly discombobulated speech featured gems like "I want to kiss everybody because you are the image of joy," an attempted translation of some poetry and thanking his parents "for giving me the greatest gift: poverty."
The audience's standing ovation and beaming faces quickly morphed to confusion mixed with perhaps a touch of anxiety about just how long this acceptance speech would last. Overall, however, it proved a heartwarming moment of honesty and humanity.
Brando’s emissary (1973)
Since 1974, the Oscars have had a rule: if a winner isn't in attendance, the category's presenter automatically accepts the honour on his or her behalf.
The reason? When Hollywood black sheep Marlon Brando won best actor for The Godfather in 1973, he sent aspiring actress and Native activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his place to decline the coveted honour and to mark his protest against the film industry's misrepresentation of Native Americans and the siege against Natives in Wounded Knee, S.D.
The bold and controversial boycott (Littlefeather improvised for about a minute live and then read Brando's 15-page statement to press backstage) was later exacerbated by inflammatory reports about her mixed heritage and industry criticism of her. Brando eventually expressed some regret at his move, which tarnished her chances of ever having an acting career and continues to spark negative comments about her to this day.