Your Oscar Speech

Tonight, the millions who tune in to the Oscars will hear dozens of short speeches.

A few people who have been blessed with incredible opportunities to do what they do best will go to the microphone, blink back tears, and thank the people who helped them do their work. While the Oscar winners will get the attention, their pictures plastered all over the news for the next 48 hours as if this statuette is actual confirmation that they are the best, the acceptance speeches will indicate, for a few fleeting moments, that it really isn’t about one glamorous celebrity. It’s about a creative community who made something good happen. It’s about a team effort that enabled them to contribute in a way that earned the appreciation of Hollywood. (For whatever that’s worth.)

It’s my favorite thing about the Oscars. I won’t be tuning in tonight. (I’m hosting a Boycott the Oscars party for dozens of moviegoers who would rather watch WALL-E, Shotgun Stories, The Dark Knight, Flight of the Red Balloon, and other films that actually deserve high honors. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Academy blow it as badly as they did this year.)

I love to hear people give thanks to other people in public. I love it so much that I think I’ll host a little Oscar Speech party right here.

The spotlight is now on YOU.

Think back over 2008, or the past couple of months in 2009.

Think about the opportunities and blessings you enjoyed. Then think about all of the people who were involved in making that happen.

This is your chance. Thank them. In public. I don’t have Oscar’s audience of a bazillion viewers in the audience worldwide, but I do get, oh, between 1,500 – 2,500 readers a day… so that’s a decent audience for you. If the spotlight fell on you, and you had 30 – 60 seconds to thank people in your life for parts they played in 2008, who would you thank?

It’s okay if you cry. We’ll cheer anyway.

Make a quick list of four, five, ten people to whom you are grateful. Post your personal “speech.” Then contact the friends, family, colleagues, and others who you thanked. Give them this link. Let them know you mentioned their name in the spotlight.

I’m going to make a list of my own. If I receive 10 responses in the comments below, I’ll post it. Since we’re all here, let’s make something memorable out of it.

Gratitude. It does a body good.

And congratulations to everybody involved. Especially the Director.

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  • Joe Sundstrom

    I appreciate this award, but I must give all the thanks to my Lord, Jesus Christ, and immediately throw this beautiful statuette at His feet.

    In 2008, I was cast in “Crying Out to God” for which I will be eternally grateful.

    That screenplay included the memorable lines: “don’t hold onto this life too tight” and “take it day by day” and “be grateful for the amazingly luxurious lifestyle you enjoy” and ” I am sufficient for you.”

    I thank especially my wife, Dolly Sundstrom, who has put up with me for almost 18 years.

    Thank you, Christian academy, for this great honor, with Christ’s help I will someday deserve it.

  • I was blessed and fortunate enough to publish a film book, Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema, in 2008. (

    My name is on the cover, but if publishing a first book was a learning process, the most important lesson I learned (well had confirmed, really) is that the bigger the project (and mine was relatively small but big enough to teach me this lesson) the more dependent one is on others.

    Before a single word was written, I was given a research grant from my institution. This allowed me to defray some of the costs of pursuing the project until such time as I had publication ensured.

    Several people reviewed the manuscript at various points and shared professional advice about how to craft it for particular audiences and which venues would be most likely to publish it. They did so without compensation, out of love for the subject and professional courtesy.

    Doug Cummings and Mike Hertenstein helped me review numerous proposals, especially those that fell outside my own areas of expertise, in order to craft the best possible table of contents.

    Joe Cunneen agreed to provide a chapter on Robert Bresson in the midst of his personal and professional business, lending his considerable name and reputation to a project being shepherded by someone without a reputation or name that could match his own.

    Mike graciously took on the most difficult and important task of writing an introduction that both tied together the thoughts and insights of a group of disparate thinkers and provided the initial impression for anyone reading or considering the book…and hit a home run.

    Doug designed and created the cover.

    Most importantly, of course, eleven other contributors provided essays that allowed “my” book to have a breadth and scope of knowledge and insight beyond anything I could have dreamed of achieving on my own.

    When one is writing criticism, one is also dependent in another way. Dependent on the artistic community for making works of surpassing and transcendent meaning that provoke, challenge, enlighten, and otherwise engage you. My contribution to a larger dialogue would not have been possible without Paul Schrader, Jean and Dale Drum, the producers of the Criterion Collection and others who began a dialogue about a filmmaker whom ten years ago I had never heard of. But, beyond that, there would not have been a dialogue at all without the films themselves, so ultimately, perhaps the people I’m most thankful to for “my” book are Bergman, Rossellini, Kieslowski, Bresson, Dreyer, Rohmer, the brothers Dardenne, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Sembene, del Toro, and Costa.

    I have a very specific memory of watching the Oscars when I was young and stupid and thinking, “This is so boring; all they ever do is thank people. If I ever win an Oscar, I would use that time to say something interesting.”

    What can I say, I was young. And stupid.

  • I know Jeff does not mean for this to be self-serving, but as I thought over recent months, “my” event stands in my mind as “eternity impacting.” This “moment” happened over two-day’s time during which Northwestern College of Iowa, where I teach in the English Department, had the great privilege of hosting Jeffrey Overstreet on campus. I’d like to thank Dave Nonnemacher, director of the Lilly Program, for funding this great adventure. To Robi Bogdanffy, beloved student from Romania, I offer my deep gratitude for clearing his schedule completely to be available to provide Jeff navigagtion around campus, witty remarks that kept us laughing through meals, and well-though-out critical response to issues covered in those two days. To my TA, Ashley Wright, I offer humble thanks for cleaning my house–not a normal TA duty–and for being Johnnie-on-the-spot for all needs throughout Jeff’s visit. I’m grateful for my community of students and the larger student body for attending sessions with Jeff, opening their minds and hearts to view film from new perspectives, and writing wonderful papers on Jeff’s presentations and on movies he recommended to us. Our most active/avid movie-viewing Resident Director, Brian “Morrie” Moriarity deserves kudos for hosting two discussions, for men only, on Shotgun Stories. But most of all, I’d like to thank dear Jeff, who opened his mind, heart, and soul to us in chapel, lectures, and discussions. Here is a man of great insight and overwhelming compassion. Thank you, Jeff, for teaching even my most resistant students to see the Divine in the most unlikely places. Finally, I thank God for creating this unique movie critic, for allowing me to come across him randomly on line, and for providing the series of “God-incidences” that impacted our campus with an ever-rippling, eternal effect.