Most of the award winners during this past Oscar season have been foregone conclusions, so the only element of unpredictability is what they're going to say when they hit the stage. Some pull out a prepared list and rotely thank their agents and publicists, but Vulture prefers the ones who wing it (particularly if they've had a glass or two of champagne before accepting). Here, then, are nine of our favorite award speeches from this past year, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Most Revealing: The writers of Modern Family
When the Modern Family writing staff took the stage after winning the Writers Guild award for Best Comedy, showrunner Steven Levitan said, "Our show is based on the lives of our family and friends, and we thought that tonight, each of us might apologize to those whose lives we have exploited for your entertainment and our financial gain." Turns out that virtually every major storyline was based on fact, even the weirder ones: For example, Cameron and Mitchell spilling wine on a rich woman's carpet and trying to cover it up? A writer did that to Patti LuPone!
Cutest: Jacki Weaver
The 63-year-old Animal Kingdom actress had to send in her Australian Film Institute acceptance speech via video, but that made it only more adorable. "When I was young and green, I used to think awards didn't mean that much, but now that I'm not young and green but quite ripe, I love getting prizes!" she enthused. "In fact, I'd like to thank everyone I ever married. I still love all of you, but I won't name you, because we haven't got enough time."
Best Presenter: Bill Murray
Murray's speech introducing Sofia Coppola at the National Board of Review Awards was so good that we printed it in full, packed with one-liners like, "I, for one, am sick of these directors with the homely kids," and "You show me an actor doing a shit movie, I'll show you a guy with a bad divorce." Also, he sucked on a Red Hot the whole time so that he wouldn't exceed his two-minute allotment. (He still did, but no one minded.)
Best Presenter, Runner-Up: Stephen Colbert
If it weren't for Murray, Stephen Colbert definitely would have been the funniest presenter at the NBRs; asked to introduce The Social Network, he said,
Tonight we honor the story of a young nerd who beat the odds to make a fortune, David Fincher. But we also honor his film The Social Network ... Finally, a film that tells the gripping tale behind the technological breakthrough that allows people I barely remember from middle school to update me on the pants they just bought. Jeggings, skinny jeans — I don't know if I don't log on.
After singling screenwriter Aaron Sorkin out in the crowd — "You, sir, look so old" — Colbert finished thusly: "Bottom line, I loved this film. And I am not alone. It has been a huge success, grossing $94 million domestically. $94 million dollars. To put that in perspective, that is only $6 million dollars less than Mark Zuckerberg gave to the Newark school system to seem like less of a jerk after the release of The Social Network."
Most Oversexed: Betty White
This honor goes not to Natalie Portman's "I'm sleeping with a hot balleriiiiina, everybody" overshare at the Golden Globes, but to Betty White's delicious statue-stroking at the SAG awards. (Bonus points for her sharp line after the audience clapped at the mention of her age: "You didn't applaud when I turned 40.")
Weirdest: Will Gluck
The Easy A director started out well when his movie won Best Comedy at the Critics Choice Awards:
I think a big reason why all of us here were so attracted to this movie is because it's about pretending to have sex in high school, which is something we're all very familiar with. And I think a lot of the critics out there are too, so thanks a lot. And the online critics. And The Social Network table.
Then, he just kept going, telling star Emma Stone, "You went to home school, you didn't go to high school, so I hope you didn't pretend to have sex with anybody at home. Except your brother's kinda hot. Super hot." You be the judge!
Best Awards Substitute: Edgar Wright
The Scott Pilgrim vs. the World director couldn't make it to the SFX Awards or the ceremony for the Houston Film Critic Society, so he sent in a videotaped message to both. And instead of clutching the awards he didn't yet have, he held a banana. Why not?
Best Cameos: Brad Bird
Still, his taped acceptance speech couldn't hold a candle to Brad Bird's video for the Annies, where the director revealed that he was held hostage by Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg. (Skip ahead to about five minutes in.)
Most Redemptive: Christian Bale
Bale's been an unlikely speech standout during this awards gauntlet, and he didn't disappoint at the Golden Globes, where his speech was so warm, funny, and generous that it immediately relaxed Oscar voters who may not have wanted to throw their votes to a notorious hothead. If he's able to fend off a surging Geoffrey Rush for the Best Supporting Actor trophy at the Oscars, he'll have this speech to thank.