The Oscar Acceptance Speeches You Wish You Heard

The 2020 Academy Awards looked a little too white and a little too male. Here’s what really should have gone down.

Lupita N’yongo winning Best Supporting Actress for “12 Years a Slave” at the 86th Annual Academy Awards on March 2, 2014. Photo: Robert Gauthier/Getty Images

At an awards ceremony honoring the film industry’s liberal elite, one might think there would be an effort to include a heterogeneous mix of groundbreaking stories and performances that reflect the times in which we live — you know, stories about race, immigration, gentrification, or the post #MeToo movement. Instead, we got Janelle Monae as reparations for every person of color who should’ve been nominated, and a premature lights out for the entire cast of Parasite.

It feels as if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences visited the good ol’ boys’ club of America and watched this year’s screeners in a time machine set to the year 1991. The choice of year isn’t arbitrary — multiple 2020 nominees also received Oscar nods in 1991.

This year’s Oscars excluded people of color, women in non-gendered categories, and young artists who failed to get noticed in a sea of crusty celebrities starring in tedious replicas of their old films (have you seen The Irishman?). The Academy Awards are too white, too male, and too similar to Bush Senior’s America to possibly reflect the diverse array of exceptional movies made in 2019.

I could rant about this inequality until next year’s awards ceremony, but complaining leads to poor health, so I’m instead turning to Quentin Tarantino’s favorite revisionist plot device and changing the ending of this year’s Oscars to include a more diverse array of winners. In this reimagined ceremony, those robbed of an Oscar nomination are now winners in their respective categories.

Here are their acceptance speeches.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

The actual nominees were Kathy Bates in Richard Jewell, Laura Dern in Marriage Story, Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit, Florence Pugh in Little Women, and Margot Robbie in Bombshell.

And the award goes to: Awkwafina for The Farewell

(Awkwafina, dumbstruck, jumps out of her chair like a surprised meerkat. She giggles her way to the stage, clutching an imaginary set of pearls.)

AWKWAFINA: When I uploaded a video to YouTube in 2012, rapping, “My vag is JLo’s booty,” I never expected to be nominated alongside J.Lo for Best Supporting Vag at the Academy Awards. [Editor’s Note: In this fantasy, Jennifer Lopez was also nominated for her work in Hustlers.] Oh crap — I mean — you know what I mean! New York in the house, J.Lo!

(The orchestra begins playing her exit music.)

I’d like to thank Lulu Wang, my fearless director, for taking a chance on me, and Zhao Shuzhen, my on-screen grandma. I share this with you both. To my dad and my real-life grandma, who taught me everything I know — I hope I’ve done you proud.

(The music gets increasingly louder.)

Oh, Jesus. I’m going as fast as I can! The last time an Asian woman won this award was in 1957, and while there aren’t a ton of us winning these trophies now, I know this is just the beginning. Thank you.

Achievement in Directing

The actual nominees were Martin Scorsese for The Irishman, Todd Phillips for Joker, Sam Mendes for 1917, Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, and Bong Joon-ho for Parasite.

And the award goes to: Greta Gerwig for Little Women

(Greta clasps Noah Baumbach’s hand, as if hearing her name was a mistake. They embrace. Greta stands up in an elegant, form-fitting tux, and marches to the stage in a state of disbelief.)

GRETA: Um… I thought a man was going to win this award. They always do. I guess wearing a blazer around Hollywood for the past few months finally tricked the Academy into thinking I’m a guy! But seriously — I’m only the second woman to win in this category, and the first one to win for making a movie that’s actually about women. (She throws her head back and laughs.) This is insane!!!

Oh, man — I want to thank everyone at Sony Pictures for giving me the chance to remake Little Women for modern audiences. Louisa May Alcott’s text is a timeless musing on womanhood, and I hope this retelling shapes the current generation just as much as her novel continues to shape me. I am forever indebted to my exquisite cast — Saoirse, Florence, Emma, Eliza, Laura, Meryl, and Timmy — I may have painted the portrait, but you’re the ones who brought it to life. Noah — thank you for your endless guidance and support. I love you. And to Harold, our one-year-old, who’s probably pooping in his diaper and has no idea what’s happening right now: Mommy is doing the same thing — metaphorically — I swear!

I keep thinking about how lucky Noah and I are to be raising a child in 2020. Harvey Weinstein’s henchmen might be silencing the voices of women in court, but we are part of a progressive industry that’s finally celebrating the voices of women in cinema.

(The orchestra begins playing her exit music.)

As Jo says to Beth, “Be loud! Don’t go quietly — fight!” To all those little women out there — listen to Jo! Our stories are not niche; they’re commercially viable, and people want to hear them. The success of this movie is proof. Thank you!

Performance by an actress in a lead role

The actual nominees were Cynthia Erivo in Harriet, Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story, Saoirse Ronan in Little Women, Charlize Theron in Bombshell, and Renée Zellweger in Judy.

And the winner is: Lupita Nyong’o — Us

(Lupita lets out a yelp. She’s genuinely stunned. After regaining composure, she hugs the people around her and glides toward the podium in a fire-red gown that makes her look like Oscar de la Renta’s fever-dream version of a ballerina.)

LUPITA: I can’t believe I’m standing on this stage for a second time, or that I’m only the second black woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress. My gratitude is boundless. Thank you to the Academy for honoring me with this gift. To my on-screen family — Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex — I couldn’t ask to be tethered to a better bunch. To Madeline Hollander and Fabrice Herrault, the movement and choreography coaches who worked with me tirelessly throughout the project — I love you. Beth McGuire — my vocal coach — thank you for helping me find Red’s voice and protecting mine in the process. And, of course, thank you to the inimitable Jordan Peele, who coaxed me into giving two fully realized performances that stretched me farther than I thought I could go. Jordan made a movie with a black family as the focal point, yet Us is not about their blackness. I hope his progressive approach to filmmaking shifts the perspective on who gets to play the everywoman in American films. Thank you, Jordan, for letting me exist in a movie without direct reference to my race. Thank you for making me your everywoman.

(Lupita floats off stage like a fairy goddess.)

Performance by an actor in a lead role

The actual nominees were Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory, Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, Adam Driver in Marriage Story, Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, and Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes.

And the award goes to: Eddie Murphy for Dolemite Is My Name!

(The camera pans to Murphy, in a dapper black suit, looking faux-shocked. He leaps out of his chair and shimmies his way on stage. Once he reaches the podium, he takes the trophy and kisses it on the ass.)

EDDIE: Oh, good Lord, I thought you white folks were never going to let me have this statue because of that time I called out the Academy in 1988 for overlooking black actors. But holy shit! Here I am! I’d like to thank all those motherfuckers who take a 10% cut of everything I do — my agent, my manager, and the five mothers of my children. Most importantly, this is for everyone who worked on Dolemite Is My Name and should be nominated tonight, too. Here’s to Wesley Snipes and Da’vine Joy Randolph, costume designer Ruth Carter, and three white dudes who weren’t afraid to make a movie about black people: our director, Craig Brewer, and our writers, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. To Netflix and everyone else that helped make this movie a success — thank you. And speaking of success, I’d like to shout out the most important people in my life — my kids: Eric, Christian, Bria, Myles.

(The exit music begins.)

…Shayne, Zola, and Angel.

(The music gets louder.)

…Bella, Max, and Izzy, and…

(Murphy directly addresses Eímear Noone, the Oscar’s first female conductor in history.)

Oh, hell no, conductor lady — you can put that stick down. I am only the 5th black man to win an Oscar for Best Actor, and I am reclaiming all of our time, thank you very much!

(Noone stops the orchestra and puts down the baton.)

At the beginning of my film, Snoop Dog says to my character, Rudy, “Sometimes your dreams just don’t come true.” Rudy spits back, “They still can!” You know who’s right? (Murphy pauses to think.) Better yet, I’ll let you answer that question for yourself. This is for my brother, Charlie.

Okay, conductor lady, I’m done now.

(Murphy grooves his way off stage.)

Best Picture

The actual nominees were Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, and Parasite.

And the award goes to: The Last Black Man in San Francisco

(One of the producers from Plan B Entertainment, Christina Oh, manages to find the mic first and begins speaking.)

CHRISTINA: In a category replete with so many violent blockbuster films about white men, it’s an honor to have our gentle art-house film about a black person included in this category. Between our movie, Parasite, and Little Women, it’s moving to see such diverse films get the recognition they deserve. The Last Black Man in San Francisco celebrates men who choose vulnerability over violence. We can all stand to learn a little something from these two vulnerable filmmakers, Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails, who poured their souls into this film. This award belongs to you both. Take it away, boys.

(Writer and actor Jimmie Fails makes it on stage first, with writer and director Joe Talbot following behind. Tears of joy stream down their faces.)

JIMMIE: Whoa. Whoa! WHOA!!! Am I dreaming? Pinch me! (Joe pinches him.) Oh my god! Oh my god!?

JOE: Oh MY God! We want to thank Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Khaliah Neal, Christina Oh, and all the other producers who took a chance on two first-timers with big dreams for a feature film!

JIMMIE: To Sundance for giving us our start! To our cinematographer, Adam Newport-Berra! To our editor, David Marks! To Emile Mosseri, who elevated the film with his magnificent score!

JOE: To our cast — Jonathan, Rob, and Tichina! To Danny-freaking-Glover!

JIMMIE: To Jim Tyler, who let us use his beautiful Queen Anne house for filming!

JOE: To our families!

JIMMIE: To our families! And to San Francisco!

JOE: To San Francisco!!! And also to you, Jimmie. (Joe speaks to Jimmie through the microphone.) You were brave enough to share your own story with me and the world. Working as a team to transform that story into this film has been the most fulfilling artistic achievement of my life.

(The two young filmmakers embrace in a tight bro-lock as the orchestra swells with their rendition of Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco. The audience goes wild.)

Writer, teacher, and performer based in NYC.

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