Not surprisingly, I've been an avid Academy Awards viewer since I was a youngster, and I have many fond memories of the telecasts over the past 20 years. As I prepare for this year's big show (Sunday, February 27 on ABC), I've spent some time looking back on my favorite winning moments from the past two decades. Below are my top 10 winning moments. Do you agree?
10. Kathryn Bigelow's win for Best Director for The Hurt Locker (2010 telecast)
Watch Kathryn's winning moment here
Bigelow's winning moment was not only groundbreaking--she is the first female Oscar winner for Best Director--but also a bit dramatic, as Bigelow beat out the favorite (and her ex-), Avatar director James Cameron. To make things more uncomfortable, Cameron was seated directly behind the winner! That awkward moment was quickly replaced by another, when diva extraordinaire presenter Barbra Streisand tried to take Bigelow's Oscar while the director gave her acceptance speech. Bigelow politely, but firmly, declined Babs' offer, opting to hold her Oscar while speaking to the Academy audience. To top it off, the house orchestra played the two women offstage with a rendition of the 70s female empowerment anthem "I Am Woman." I loved this winning moment for its historic significance, but more for its extreme awkwardness.
9. Hilary Swank's upset Best Actress win for Boys Don't Cry (2000 telecast)
Watch Hilary's winning moment here
2000 was supposed to be Annette Bening's year, as she had swept many other acting awards for her performance as an uptight suburban wife in American Beauty. In the Oscar upset heard 'round the world, Hollywood newcomer Hilary Swank took home the Best Actress prize for her role as transgendered teen Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry. Adding to the drama, Swank forgot to thank her then-husband Chad Lowe during her acceptance speech. The actress was berated for her oversight until her second win in 2004 for Million Dollar Baby, when she redeemed herself by including Lowe as one of the first "thank-yous" in her speech. Swank's first Oscar win catapulted her to Hollywood stardom, and she continues to earn many acting accolades.
8. Marion Cotillard's surprise Best Actress win for La Vie en Rose (2008 telecast)
Watch Marion's winning moment here
Though Marion Cotillard received great acclaim for her transformative performance as French singer Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, she was not expected to win the Best Actress Oscar, as she was largely unknown to American audiences. Fellow nominees Ellen Page (Juno), and Julie Christie (Away from Her), had received a great deal of industry buzz leading up to the big show, and had been heavily favored to take the prize. Marion's reaction to her unexpected win was memorable for her genuine shock, and heartfelt speech. With a shaky voice and an effervescent smile, Marion proclaimed "Thank you life, thank you love, and it's true: There's some angels in this city."
7. Adrien Brody's surprise win for The Pianist...and his sloppy kiss with Halle Berry (2003 telecast)
Watch Adrien's winning moment (and kiss with Halle) here
Until earning his Best Actor Oscar for The Pianist, Adrien Brody was a little-known actor, who had mostly appeared in small, character roles. He was the underdog among his fellow Best Actor nominees that year, who included favorites Jack Nicholson (nominated for his performance in About Schmidt), and Daniel Day-Lewis, (nominated for his memorable role as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York). When presenter Halle Berry called Adrien's name, the audience erupted into surprised applause. The elated actor ran onstage and shocked Berry by giving her a dramatic smooch before launching into his acceptance speech. The actor's winning moment would have been memorable enough for the upset and the kiss, but Adrien sealed his place in legendary Oscar win history, when he made a heartfelt plea for a swift end to the war in Iraq. Little did the actor know that both the war and the impact of his winning moment would last for years to come.
6. Angelina Jolie's Best Supporting Actress win for Girl, Interrupted, and odd tribute to/sloppy kiss with her brother, James (2000 telecast)
Watch Angelina's winning moment here
What a difference a decade makes. When Angelina won her Best Actress Academy Award in 2000, she was known for her kooky behavior, but nothing could prepare the Oscar audience for her antics that night. The actress showed up in a Morticia Addams-inspired getup, and when she won, Jolie accepted her Oscar by proclaiming, "I'm so in love with my brother right now." If that weren't odd enough, after the ceremony, the actress open-mouth kissed her sibling. Guess she's recovered nicely from this infamous gaffe, as she's now dating Brad Pit, enjoys a lucrative acting career, and is the mother of six gorgeous children. As much as I enjoy the stable Angelina, I kinda miss the old, blood vile-wearing one.
5. Anna Paquin's Best Supporting Actress win for The Piano (1994 telecast)
Watch Anna's winning moment here
She's best known these days for her role as Sookie Stackhouse on the HBO drama True Blood, but in the early 1990s, Anna Paquin made a name for herself by becoming the second-youngest Oscar winner in history at the age of 11 (the youngest is Tatum O'Neal, who won for her supporting role in Paper Moon when she was 10). Paquin won the Best Supporting Actress prize for her role in the Australian film The Piano. Her speech may go down as the cutest in Oscar history, as the youngster remained speechless for a lengthy period before thanking a few people, and quickly leaving the podium. What a way to launch a career!
4. Halle Berry's historic/hysteric Best Actress win for Monster's Ball (2002 telecast)
Watch Halle's winning moment here
"This moment is so much bigger than me." Humble, she's not. But gosh did the 2002 Best Actress winner give a memorable, melodramatic acceptance speech. Clocking-in at just under five minutes, Halle Berry's winning moment had it all: The endless thank yous to no-name industry people (including her lawyers, who had recently helped her with a controversial hit-and-run incident), effusive praise to trailblazers like Sidney Poitier and Oprah, and sentimental acknowledgement of her family. Though it was thrilling to see an African-American woman win the Best Actress prize for the first time, it became less thrilling and more uncomfortable as the actress bawled uncontrollably, and kept reminding the audience of the moment's importance.
3. Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s enthusiastic Best Supporting Actor win for Jerry Maguire (1997 telecast)
Watch Cuba's winning moment here
Cuba Gooding, Jr. set the standard for accepting an Oscar when he won the Best Supporting Actor award for his role in Jerry Maguire. About 10-15 seconds into his speech, the Academy orchestra started to play him offstage. Instead of surrendering to the exit cue, Gooding continued his speech, shouting his thank-yous over the music. By the end of his acceptance, he had proclaimed his love for everyone in the room, and set his Oscar on the stage floor so he could leap with joy. Though Gooding has acted in many films since his Academy Award win, he remains best known for this legendary winning moment.
2. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's Best Orignal Screenplay win for Good Will Hunting (1998 telecast)
Watch Matt and Ben's winning moment here
These Boston-bred buddies burst onto the Hollywood scene with their Academy Award win for Best Original Screenplay for their film, Good Will Hunting. Though their movie was wonderful, it was their Oscar acceptance speech that really catapulted the two to stardom. When they heard their names called, the young men ran onstage, proceeded to shout their thank-yous, stated their love for their mothers, "the most "beautiful women [in the room]," and fist-pumped their Oscars into the air as they ended their speech. Both actors are now huge stars, but in my heart, they will forever remain these excited young winners.
1. Roberto Benigni's Best Foreign Language Film win for Life is Beautiful (1999 telecast)
Watch Roberto's winning moment here
Roberto Benigni's Best Foreign Language film win for Life is Beautiful tops the list. This winning moment was, in my opinion, the most outrageous and amazing in recent memory. When presenter Sophia Loren announced his film as the winner, Benigni leaped atop the back of his neighbor's chair, and jumped joyfully from seat to seat. When he finally landed on stage, he made some of the most memorable statements of the evening, including "I want to kiss everybody because you are the image of joy," and "I feel I want to dive into this ocean of generosity." The director's genuine enthusiasm was a treat to watch, and likely made the most cynical of award show viewers believe in Oscar night magic.