What Meryl Streep’s Speech Should’ve Been
Half the country hated Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech and half the country loved it. I’m one of the rare people that hated it, but not because I’m a Trump supporter. I’m not. It’s because, as a movie critic and film lover, I’d rather awards shows celebrate the love of film. La La Land was a love letter to the arts, and Los Angeles. Had Streep done a speech like this, it would’ve been a love letter to acting, and she could’ve still gotten digs in at Trump in a more dignified way. Here’s what her speech should’ve been:
Thank you to the Hollywood foreign press. Now, the press is being vilified these days. So are some foreigners, or at least, they might feel like they are. A lot of us actors in Hollywood, are lucky. We get rich doing something we love. Yet that wasn’t always the case. We started out, many of us, with nothing or very little and many, from places other than La La Land. I was born and raised and went to public schools in New Jersey. Viola Davis was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina. Her co-star, who also directed, Denzel Washington, from New York — terrific in the movie Fences. We could watch those two for two hours, painting a fence and watching the paint dry. They’re both that amazing and mesmerizing on screen.
Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. And she played another smart, strong woman — Marcia Clark, .
Sarah Jessica Parker, one of 7 kids, grew up in Ohio. We’ll never forget how she brought Carrie Bradshaw to life in the big city, and her husband Matthew Broderick, who still continues to do interesting work. He went from Ferris Bueller, ditching class, to roles where he plays a teacher ditching voter ballots in Election. And speaking of the election…many of us may have been upset with how it turned out, but…let’s instead think of the terrific actors in this room, and not the people that might let Russians in the Lincoln bedroom.
I see Amy Adams over there. She was born in Italy. She made us believe we could communicate with aliens…no, not illegal aliens that Trump thinks he’ll keep out with his wall. These are aliens from space. Also this year, Adams made us believe a book could be so captivating and scary, you’d drop it on the floor after reading certain passages.
That’s a movie written and directed by Tom Ford, who went from being this fashion icon, to crafting two beautiful films. If you haven’t seen his debut, A Single Man, go find it.
It stars Colin Firth as a gay man dealing with the death of a lover. Firth also played a stuttering king. These actors always inhabit such different characters, and they always have us believing every word, or caring about their plight. We don’t shun them if they’re gay — whether on screen or in real life. We don’t care about color. And let’s hope that the way people are treated in Hollywood, can also be the way they’re treated in the real world, no matter who is in office.
The beautiful Ruth Negga. She was born in Ethiopia, raised in Ireland, and is nominated for playing a small town girl from Virginia that helped get laws passed against interracial marriage. You guys want to praise me for my acting, look at her. She says so much with those expressive eyes and facial expressions. That performance is as good as anything I’ve ever done, and she has only been in the business a few years. Her co-star in the movie, Joel Edgerton — he and his brother came to Hollywood as stuntmen from New Zealand. Now he’s a big movie star here, and occasionally writes a great screenplay.
And Natalie Portman, who was born in Israel. She can go from a beautiful girl, that would have us believe that an adult could fall in love with her as a teen, to playing Jackie O, a First Lady everyone loved. And we all loved Michelle Obama as a First Lady. Many people have been commenting on the future First Lady, which really isn’t right. Maybe she did some nude modeling, but didn’t we all get upset when the Oscars’ host joked about women that have done nude scenes? But back to Portman, who was in a few Star Wars films, which reminds me of a recent, painful loss. She was known as Princess Leia to most people, but Carrie Fisher to me. As Steve Martin recently got in trouble for pointing out…she wasn’t just about her looks, but was a talented writer, who made everyone around her laugh.
Ah, the people I’ve met here in La La Land. And the movie La La Land…who would’ve thought the Hollywood musical would make a comeback. Damien Chazelle was born in Rhode Island, went to Harvard, and somehow ended up here. And how lucky we are he did. The writer/director gave us whiplash last year with Whiplash, and now this. It stars Emma Stone, so beautiful on screen. She was terrific in Easy A, and she deserves an “A” for a tremendous career at such a young age. Her co-star, like all the nicest people, is from Canada. Ryan Gosling always does such interesting work. Remember how he broke our hearts in Blue Valentine, which starred Michelle Williams, who also broke our heart this year in Manchester by the Sea, a tremendous movie. That writer/director also did the wonderful You Can Count on Me, and we can count on Kenneth Lonergan to write great parts for both men and women. Laura Linney was terrific in that movie, just as she was in her one brilliant scene in Nocturnal Animals. And on the subject of “nocturnal” I think about Moonlight. It’s a shame the brilliant performance of Mahershala Ali got a snub, but he’ll surely see an Oscar nomination for it. He was born in Oakland, raised as a Christian, and converted to Islam. Surely he’s a Muslim that not even the Alt-right would fear. Even in this picture, as a drug dealer — we can see he has a heart of gold. Let’s hope he wins some Oscar gold.
Moonlight is the kind of movie that would’ve never been made 50 years ago. Hell or High Water…feels like the type of western that would’ve. Yet you’d be hard pressed to get a cast then, as good as this diverse and talented crew. Ben Foster, who can play scary very well. There’s Native-American actor Gil Birmingham. He holds his own with Jeff Bridges, the son of a terrific actor, and the lead, Chris Pine, also the son of acting parents. He shows he’s not just the pretty boy from Star Trek. All this directed by a Scot, and with a message. Last year proved you can do a movie about the housing crisis and make it entertaining.
Of course we had superhero movies. Who would’ve thought the Green Lantern’s Ryan Reynolds would ever do one again, and he made us all laugh with his raunchy Deadpool. Doctor Strange, showed Benedict Cumberbatch had some range. A British actor playing an American doctor, and a little bit of controversy when one of the top actresses today — Tilda Swinton — played the “Ancient One,” when many felt an Asian actor should’ve gotten that role. Perhaps Hollywood does have a ways to go, just like maybe the country does.
The villain was played by a Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen. Another Danish actor, Viggo Mortensen, starred in Captain Fantastic, which sounds like a superhero movie. We know he’s terrific, but who knew you could have that many kids act and help carry this picture?
Everyone in this room, has spent many, many hours in a green room. Well, you’ll never see a Green Room as scary as the one in which Patrick Stewart, playing a skinhead, terrorizes a punk band. It stars an actor we lost in a horrible accident — Anton Yelchin, a Russian. And speaking of scary movies, it’s not just sunny Los Angeles Chazelle writes about. He co-wrote the creepy 10 Cloverfield Lane, with a menacing performance from John Goodman. So instead of wondering if things are going to get scary at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, take a trip to a street that has a movie theatre in your local town. Movies aren’t supposed to always be experienced on pay per view, or on demand, or Netflix. Go see them in the theatres. Instead of arguing politics on the computer, you can argue with your friend in person, over whether to order Raisinettes or popcorn with your feature.
If you’re a bit sullied by the election results, forget about it for a few hours, and watch Sully. Perhaps you’ll get a bigger splash, watching A Bigger Splash. Another Tilda Swinton performance, with Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson. Let’s not forget about the terrific foreigner in that — Matthias Shoenaerts, a Belgian actor and one of the most underrated in the business.
This year, we had Ireland’s Colin Farrell become a lobster…and Ginnifer Goodwin became a rabbit in Zootopia.
And that reminds me…I’ve complained about actresses in Hollywood making less money in previous years, but it was nice to see women in movies getting some good parts this year. Check out the leads in Elle, Marguerite, Julieta, and Aquarius. They might be foreign films, but they’re outstanding performances from some older actresses. So you can stop thinking I’m the only woman over 50 making movies.
Younger actresses were impressing us, too. Check out the Queen of Katwe or Edge of Seventeen. We knew Hailee Steinfeld was great after True Grit, but she brings this teen comedy to a higher level.
Oh, I forgot an older actress that we seem to get lucky enough to see in a movie each year — Helen Mirren. The politics in Eye in the Sky were thought provoking, and unfortunately, it was the last film from the talented English stage actor Alan Rickman.
And remember how scary Barkhad Abdi was in the Oscar nominated performance terrorizing Captain Phillips? He’s a lot nicer in this film.
Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, and here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. And speaking of Australia, there’s an actor who became a director, from down under. He said some vile, hurtful things over the years; against women, blacks, Jews, police officers… but he’s got his drinking in check, cast a terrific Jewish actor, Andrew Garfield, in his war picture Hacksaw Ridge. And if he could change, perhaps maybe the President-Elect can, too. Obviously there are many in this room that don’t agree with his policies or some of the things he’s said in the past. The terrific Tom Hanks said it best when he said he wants Trump to do a great job, so he can vote for his re-election in 4 years. But really, we’re not here to talk politics. I just had the stage and wanted to let a few things out before telling you all how thankful I am for this award. I think so many in this room are as talented, or more talented, than I. And they’re going out and making movies, which can be an escape. They can be a place you go to dream for a few hours, to forget about the stress in life. Whether that’s stress at home, or the anger you have with the current election results. We won’t ask these actors, from all over the globe, to provide birth certificates. We won’t fight with police while protesting in the streets. If you want to argue, why not make it about what movie should win the Oscar, and if you want to protest, and I encourage you to….do it peacefully.
The band has now been trying to play me off for the last 10 minutes, so many of you probably didn’t hear any of the movies or actors I mentioned. You only heard the orchestra sounds which…reminds me of another small little Irish picture — Sing Street. The 3rd musically driven picture by John Carney. And….wait, wait. What is this huge hook grabbing me? I’ve got more movies to talk about. Really? Security is grabbing me now! Is all this really necessary?