The best Oscars speeches feel spontaneous. They're the rare, inspiring moments that actually speak to what a winner is passionate about — think Patricia Arquette's call to fight wage inequality. The Academy seemed to be pushing for more of those this year by adding a "thank-you ticker" to the bottom of the screen, but the end result was just more "thank you"s.
Of course everyone still thanks the Academy
Despite winners getting the chance to thank every single person and corporate entity they could think of ahead of time, the ticker didn’t seem to significantly change the way the speeches played out. Winners still took the opportunity to verbally thank the Academy, as well as the other names you’d expect to hear — their families, studios and production companies, and the colleagues they worked with who aren't up on stage.
And who could blame them? At this point in Oscars history, starting your speech — and often using up every last second of it — with an endless string of thank you is a time-honored tradition. It's uncouth to go up without explicitly thanking the Academy. And given the chance to speak in front of millions, who wouldn't thank their family or give a shout out to someone critical to their career?
The Academy might have imagined that with the ticker it play, winners would at least cut down on thank yous, putting more time to the causes they care about. But we still got those rushed final sentences, only hearing what the winners cared about as they were being played off (to Wagner’s "Ride of the Valkyries" — aka the Apocalypse Now music — at that). Not every winner got the ticker, either. It was primarily used for awards with multiple winners so that everyone had a chance to get their names in and was suspiciously missing for the big name winners like Leonardo DiCaprio. The ticker is essentially just a safety net; there's no longer chance for a gaffe where a nervous winner forgets to thank someone important, or a group runs out of time.
The ticker did give us a few memorable moments
It means that anyone deviating from the from the thank you norm tonight still ended up with one of the 2016 Oscars’ more memorable speeches. In many cases it, it was more fun watching the ticker to see if the winners would slip in anything weird — Jezebel spotted Emmanuel Lubezki thanking The Beatles and "MEXICO!!!"
And in some cases, the ticker did seem to free up time for more substantial speeches. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who directed the winning short documentary, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, spoke about how her film may lead to Pakistan changing a law that allows murders of women to go unpunished. "This is what happens when determined women get together," she said, in some of the evening's best remarks. Alejandro González Iñárritu stopped the orchestra from playing him off as he discussed working toward a day when "the color of our skin becomes as irrelevant as the length of our hair." And Pete Docter, while accepting an award for Inside Out, urged kids to be creative — "Make films, draw, write," he said. "You can make stuff. It'll make a world of difference."
It's only year one for the ticker. No one even knew what it would look like until the awards aired tonight. So maybe it'll cut down on thank yous as nominees become more accustomed to it. But this year, Oscars speeches were the same as ever: some wonderful moments, with a lot of played off thanks in between.