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Oscar speeches should be fun, lively and short

Academy sent out a Tom Hanks-hosted DVD with instructions for winners
/ Source: The Associated Press

Tom Hanks ought to know.

Winning an Academy Award can be a dangerous thing — especially when the whole world is watching your acceptance speech.

That’s why the two-time Oscar winner is passing along some friendly advice.

To make Oscar night memorable — and keep the speeches snappy — Hanks and the higher-ups at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have quietly put together a lively, eight-and-a-half minute instructional video for would-be winners.

Each of this year’s 150 or so nominees got a copy of “An Insider’s Guide: What Nominees Need to Know” with their letter of congratulations and an invitation to Sunday’s big event.

Hosted by the affable Hanks, the video, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, is packed with a half-century of memorable Oscar moments, with examples of acceptances good, bad and ugly.

There’s Jack Palance doing one-armed push-ups, an ecstatic Julia Roberts, a teary Gwyneth Paltrow and a speechless Robin Williams. Director Roberto Benigni stands on a chair, Adrien Brody plants a big kiss on Halle Berry, and various famous folks fumble with crumpled speech notes.

Actor Jack Palance does a one-handed push-up on stage at the 64th annual Academy Awards March 30, 1992 after winning an Oscar for best actor in a supporting role for his performance in the film \"City Slickers.\" To minimize embarrassment -- and keep the acceptance speeches snappy -- Tom Hanks and the higher-ups at the Academy have quietly put together a lively, eight-and-a-half minute instructional video for would-be winners. The Academy Awards are being presented on Sunday, March 5, 2006.Craig Fuji / AP

On the video, Hanks, clad in jeans and a black blazer, sits inside an empty Kodak Theatre, the Oscars venue, where he warmly offers “some helpful hints to guide you through the moment with wit, flair, creativity — or at least with brevity.”

The first bit of guidance? Winners must get to the stage and finish their speech all within 60 seconds.

“Instead of hugging everyone within a 10-row radius, you might have to settle for a few fast high-fives as you sprint down the aisle,” Hanks says.

Next, he suggests that winning teams take the “one for all” approach and designate a spokesman to deliver the speech.

Tip three might be the academy’s main message: “LOSE THE LIST.” Don’t thank everyone from the key grip to the guys on the prop truck.

Instead, show “gratitude with style,” like Robert De Niro did when he thanked “my mother and father for having me, and my grandmother and grandfather for having them.”

‘Make your speech entertaining’The final piece of advice: “Maximize your moment.” Say something memorable — like Steven Soderbergh’s ode to art in 2000 or Louise Fletcher’s sign-language thanks to her deaf parents in 1975.

“You’ve devoted your passion and your dreams to the entertainment industry,” Hanks says, “so use a little of that Oscar-winning creativity to make your speech entertaining.”

It’s an Oscar tradition for the Academy Awards show producer to offer acceptance-speech advice — and admonishment — at the annual Oscar nominee’s luncheon, says Ric Robertson, the academy’s executive administrator. Veteran Gil Cates certainly didn’t mince words at this year’s affair on Feb. 13.

But not all the nominees attend the luncheon, Robertson says, so the academy began distributing the videos last year.

“We thought it was a good way to get their attention,” he says.

At least one nominee says it works.

Arianne Phillips, nominated for costume design in “Walk the Line,” heard Cates’ message at the luncheon, so she knows to leave the list of names behind. Still, it was exciting to watch a DVD just for Oscar nominees, she says.

“It felt like being invited into almost a secret society” she says. “I took everything to heart.”