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I usually like what fellow blogger Kris Rasmussen has to say, but had to disagree with her praise of Robert Altman and pan of George Clooney when it came to Oscar speeches. She called Clooney’s “the worst, most self-aggrandizing speech of the evening” and gave props to Altman for “utter(ing) some of the most eloquent words I have ever heard spoken at the Oscars.”

Beauty’s obviously in the eye of the beholder because I scored them completely in the reverse. I thought Altman bordered on arrogance in bragging that he’d opened a show the night before in London and then shamelessly promoting his current film, which opens this summer. The fact that he wasn’t as obnoxious as usual didn’t make his speech redeeming. As for the comment about his heart surgery 10 years ago, it was touching but also a shameless announcement to potential investors that he’s present in the marketplace and desiring to make more movies.

I found Clooney’s speech among the most gentle, self-deprecating, humorous, and humble speeches in Oscar history. Absent was the controversy of Jane Fonda, sour cloud of Vanessa Redgrave, nervous pall of Sacheen Littlefeather (for Marlon Brando), or fumbled racial comments of Eddie Murphy. And there were no references to politicians or parties “red” or “blue.”

Instead, Clooney was funny (“so I’m not winning Director”), self-deprecating (twice mentioning his “Batman” turn, which almost killed the franchise), and modest (his last big win was a magazine award in ’97) while humbly praising the “stellar” performances of William Hurt, Matt Dillon, Paul Giamatti, and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Regarding his politics, he mentioned Hollywood’s efforts regarding AIDS, civil rights, and racism, which are every spiritual person’s concerns and should be apolitical in nature. “I’m proud to be a part of this Academy, this community,” he said to a rising chorus of applause, ending with a gentle smile that contributed a nice start to a night of politically charged movies. That achievement, as social and political statements go, made him a winner in my book.

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