Oscar Podium Meltdowns

Deep in everyone's fantasy life, maybe while standing before a mirror with a shampoo bottle for a microphone, they've thanked friends, family and everyone they've ever met for some great award. Why then on Oscar night are so many glamorous stars reduced to babbling idiots?

An Academy Award is supposed to be Hollywood's crowning achievement. But nobody denies that a major screw-up at the podium is worse than losing -- or never even being nominated.

Sally Field has been living down her 1985 best actress acceptance speech for more than two decades, and sadly, it might loom over her like the ghost of the Flying Nun. In the glow of her victory for "Places in the Heart," she stood before a clapping audience of showbiz elite and told the world, "You like me! … Right now, you really like me!"

Perhaps that's just the fun of watching a live -- or almost live -- event. It's the chance for that unscripted moment when stars let down their guard -- the possibility of seeing the rich and famous fall on their silicone-sculpted butts.

No one's quite sure what a 26-year-old Gwyneth Paltrow was even saying with her tearful ramblings in 1999, when she won for "Shakespeare in Love."

"I would not have been able to play this role had I not understood love with a tremendous magnitude," she said, spurring million of TV viewers around the world to collectively utter "Huh?"

Then there's the unrestrained hubris. "I'm king of the world," James Cameron proclaimed in 1998. "The Titanic" director, of course, was quoting the big line from the film that would garner a record-tying 11 Oscars, so he had reason to celebrate.

But Cameron also takes himself very seriously, and he wanted us all to acknowledge that his movie was based on a real-life tragedy, so he called for a moment of silence "in remembrance of the 1,500 men, women and children who died when the great ship went down."

Then, the giddy director reverted back to hyperventilating hysteria and yelled, "Now let's party till dawn!"

Will Clooney Ruffle as Many Feathers as Littlefeather?

Of course, Oscar Night offers winners a chance to speak their minds. Who can forget Michael Moore's infamous "Shame on you, Mr. Bush" tirade of 2003, just days after American troops entered Iraq. Moore achieved what some may have considered impossible -- getting a largely Democratic Hollywood crowd to boo.

This year you can probably count on triple nominee George Clooney to say something, if he reaches the winner's circle for "Good Night, and Good Luck" or "Syriana." He already made a crude Jack Abramoff joke at the Golden Globes and joked recently that Vice President Dick Cheney would be his Oscar date.

With the stars of "Brokeback Mountain," "Crash," "Munich" and "TransAmerica" up for awards, we could be up for an evening of celebrities weighing in on gay cowboys, Los Angeles race relations, Middle East politics and transsexuality.

And that comes on top of the usual ego bath that comes when celebrities gather to toast one another and hand out awards.

Political controversies have long been a staple at the Oscars, especially when winners are called to the podium and can say whatever they like. When Marlon Brando won best actor for "The Godfather," he famously sent a woman who called herself Sasheen Littlefeather to the podium to reject the honor in protest of Hollywood's treatment of American Indians.

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