And the Winner Is… Meryl Streep for Best Oscar Acceptance Speech 2012

84th Academy Awards
Billy Crystal hosts the 84th Academy Awards on February 26, 2012 | Matt Brown, ©A.M.P.A.S. Photo

There were few upsets and little irreverence at the 2012 Oscars, but some of the acceptance speeches were memorable.

When Meryl Streep won her Best Actress trophy, she must have had a telepathic connection with my brain. I thought exactly what she said she suspected half of America was thinking.

But good for Meryl for saying, “Whatever!” She deserves the award as much as any of the nominees. Her performance in The Iron Lady was astonishing.

Sound Editing Hugo
Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton show off their Oscars for Sound Editing on Hugo | Greg Harbaugh, ©A.M.P.A.S. Photo

One of the evening’s lighthearted moments came from unlikely non-actor sources when the winners for Best Sound Editing, Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty, arrived on stage to pick up their statues for Hugo. Gearty said, “You go,” and Stockton countered with, “No, ‘Hugo.’”

Martin Scorsese, director of Hugo, did not win, but his film took home five awards, tying with The Artist for most awards of the night. (See my report of a Q&A with Scorsese in New York.) The Artist, incidentally, won three of the biggies: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. (Should The Artist have won? Jane doesn’t think so. Check out her take.)

While I was personally rooting for Janet McTeer, whose portrayal of a woman passing as a man in Albert Nobbs was equally as astonishing to me as Meryl’s performance as Margaret Thatcher, I was still happy to see Octavia Spencer walk away with the Best Supporting Actress award for her role in The Help.

She is only the fifth African American actress to win in this category. Only one African American woman has ever won Best Actress (Halle Berry), and only four African American men have won in each of the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories. A tearful Spencer took the stage to accept her golden statue.

When it came time for the Best Documentary award, once again, I was rooting for someone who didn’t win – Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky for Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. Instead, the award was given to T.J. Martin, Dan Lindsay, and Rich Middlemas for Undefeated. I haven’t seen the film, but at least one person predicted their win. During his speech, Dan Lindsay said, “A year ago today, we were sitting in our editing room, depressed thinking nobody was ever going to see this movie, and a friend said, ‘Don’t worry, next year you’ll be at the Oscars.’ And we said, ‘You’re an idiot.’ So, we’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to him and say you’re a lot smarter than we thought.”

It seems unfathomable that Christopher Plummer had never won an Oscar before this year. At the age of 82, he also became the oldest Oscar winner in history, taking home the Best Supporting Actor award for his work in Beginners. In his speech, he acknowledged that he is only two years younger than Oscar. The Academy began giving awards in 1927, but the first ceremony was held the same year that Christopher Plummer was born – in 1929.

Asghar Farhadi A Separation
Asghar Farhadi holds his Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film | Todd Wawrychuk, ©A.M.P.A.S. Photo

The only slightly political moment of the evening came when Asghar Farhadi accepted his award for Best Foreign Language Film for the Iranian movie, A Separation. I was moved by his words:

“At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us, and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or a filmmaker, but because at the time, when talk of war, intimidation, and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment. Thank you so much.”

Tell me a story – it’s one of the key ways we bridge culture gaps, whether the story is told live, in books, or on film. Maybe that’s why I love the movies so much and why I still enjoy watching the industry congratulate itself every year at the Academy Awards.



  1. Alexandra Avatar

    I found the Oscars much better than usual this year. I also was moved by the Iranian’s speech. Thanks for printing it out here.

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

      I love actually seeing some of the more noteworthy speeches in print, because they tend to fade away otherwise. Many thanks to Melanie for writing such a great piece.

  2. Sheryl Avatar

    Thanks for the wonderful recap! I missed some of the show because it ran past my bedtime :)…glad I could catch up on what I missed here.

    1. Melanie Votaw Avatar

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Kerry Avatar

    grace, class, and humour — I think Meryl Streep got her speech exactly right. and I’d not be surpised to see her up there again, either. if Christopher Plummer can win at 82, why not Meryl?

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

      Well, that’s what we wondered in this household – why she said that. I haven’t heard that she’s retiring from acting, and lord knows whatever she does will be Oscar-worthy. I have no doubt she’ll be up on that stage again not just once, but many times. I mean, I sure HOPE she’s not retiring. What a travesty that would be!

      1. Melanie Votaw Avatar

        I’m sure she was just being modest. She has shown no hints of slowing down, and we can be happy about that.

  4. Roxanne Avatar

    I only watched bits and pieces. It seemed like a lot of the humor bombed. I feel bad that Clooney didn’t win. I’ve not seen the film, but it seems like the kind of role that would win. We’re going to see The Artist later this week. Silly me. I didn’t realize that it really is mostly silent. Shows how big of a rock I’ve been under.

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

      Report back on how you liked The Artist. I think it’s definitely worth seeing – a throwback to those old black and white silent films. Yeah, I’m kind of sad Clooney didn’t win. I just read a Hollywood Reporter cover story that goes into how messed up his body has been since an accident when he was filming Syriana. Sounds like he’s in pain a lot of the time, though you’d never know it.

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