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Jamie Foxx: His Great Acceptance Speech and the Love of a Grandmother
Act like you got some sense. Act like you've been somewhere.
This is probably sacrilegious for a movie fan to say, but I don't care how the Oscars go. I like using them in retrospect as a marker for film history, like how seeing Green Book win Best Picture was alarming at best. I like them as a complete and total shitshow, from The Slap to the Moonlight/La La Land disaster.
But the awards season discourse? I find it exhausting. This person won the BAFTA but not the Golden Globe - does that hurt their chances at the Oscars? Snooze. Can you believe Insert Name didn't get nominated in 2004? It's boring to me.
One thing I can always get down for, however, is a good acceptance speech. From Brando's Native American protest to Sally Field's "You like me!", there have been plenty of memorable speeches over the years.
But there's one that's always stuck with me. It spoke to me in a way that made this movie star feel like someone I knew. Or maybe even, feel like me.
When Jamie Foxx won his Best Actor statue at the 77th Academy Awards, he was up against some tough competition: Don Cheadle, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Clint Eastwood. Tough enough competition that his 11-year-old daughter turned to him right before it was announced and said, "If you don't win, Dad, you're still good."
But he did win for playing Ray Charles in Ray, a film that received five other nominations that night. When it was time for his speech, he started it exactly how you should. First, thanking the man whose shoes he lived in:
Give it up for Ray Charles and his beautiful legacy. And thank you, Ray Charles, for living.
Then, his director:
I'm going to start it out with Taylor Hackford. Taylor, you took a chance, man. I mean that love for Ray Charles was deep down in the earth somewhere and you opened it up.
Then, of course, his agents.
Next, three people that he believes helped pave the way: Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, and Sidney Poitier.
Finally, the part of his speech that has stuck with me for years, thanking his grandmother, Estelle Marie Talley.
She was my first acting teacher. She told me, "Stand up straight. Put your shoulders back. Act like you got some sense." We would go places and I would wild out, and she says, "Act like you've been somewhere." And then when I would act the fool, she would beat me. She would whup me. And she could get an Oscar for the way she whupped me because she was great at it. And after she whipped me, she would talk to me and tell me why she whipped me, said, "I want you to be a southern gentleman." And she still talks to me now; only now she talks to me in my dreams. And I can't wait to go to sleep tonight because we got a lot to talk about. I love you.
It has always touched me, but after losing my grandmother three months ago, I've thought about it a lot. That relationship. That bond. How a grandmother can raise a grandson in a very special, unique way.
I won't get too into the details of my life, but this is a personal essay after all, so here goes nothing.
The night after my grandmother passed, she visited me in my dreams. With my grandfather, who passed away more than fifteen years ago. They haven't done it since and who knows if they will do it again, but it was shocking that it was so immediate. She had been sick for a long time and was a long ways away from the woman who hit my butt with a flyswatter or showed me Singin' in the Rain or taught me about balancing a checkbook. But when she came to me that night, she was that person again.
Alright, I'm done. I'm starting to cry now. This piece is going to be a mess from this point on.
What I'm trying to say is this: In the days after she passed, Foxx's speech kept playing in my head. I felt this connection with him. Someone I've never met, only seen a handful of his movies (haven't even seen Ray), someone who it seems as though I would have nothing in common with, a black man the same age as my mother.
But instead, how we have so much in common. How we were raised similarly and brought up with the same values and same love and same discipline.
I've probably watched his speech two dozen times in the past three months. I also think I inadvertently plagiarized it a tad in my eulogy, which was my time to honor my grandmother's life and the love we had for one another.
Even though she called me Scruffy my entire life, who was a dog that died 10 years before I was even born.
Jamie Foxx and I aren't the only people who were raised significantly by a grandmother, but it's a special bond I feel like I have with him. His Oscar speech formed that bond and in the wake of my grandmother's passing, it's a bond that's only grown stronger.
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