Joaquin Phoenix is no stranger to the political statement while accepting an award, but his speech while accepting the Best Actor award at the 2020 Academy Awards (for Joker) took a few weird turns and ended up at…. milk.

“I’m full of so much gratitude right now,” he began. “And I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees or anyone in this room because we share the same love – the love of film – and this form of expression has given me the most extraordinary life. I don’t know what I’d be without it. But I think the greatest gift that it’s given me, and many of us in this room, is the opportunity to use our voice for the voiceless.”

So far, so good. Phoenix continued: I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively, and I think at times we feel or are made to feel that we champion different causes. But, for me, I see commonality. I think, whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism, or queer rights or indigenous rights, or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice. We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender, or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity.”

Equating racism to animal rights is certainly a choice, but okay. Phoenix goes down this path a little further:

“I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world and many of us what we’re guilty of is an ego centric world view – the belief that we’re the centre of the universe. We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and when she gives birth we steal our baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. And then we take our milk that is intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”

Milk. We got to milk.

Phoenix ended his speech by calling for forgiveness and empathy, making a profound personal statement that he himself was only onstage thanks to the forgiveness and empathy of others.

“I think we fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something to give something up but human beings at our best are so inventive and creative and ingenious and I think that, when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, development and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all beings and to the environment,” he said.

“Now I have been a scoundrel in my life. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been cruel at times. Hard to work with. And I ungrateful but so many of you in this room have given me a second chance and I think that’s when we are at our best, when we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other toward redemption. That is the best of humanity.”

And finally, he mentioned his late brother River Phoenix, a musician, actor and animal activist who died of a drug overdose in 1993.

“When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric,” Phoenix said. “He said, ‘Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.’ Thank you.”

There were some great messages in Joaquin’s speech, but TBH everyone got really, really hung up on the milk thing.

It meant that when Renée Zellweger won for Best Actress a few minutes later, everyone was still reeling about the milk thing, and not quite ready to hear a normal speech thanking family and directors and so forth. Oh well! You can’t win ’em all – except for ‘Parasite’, which won heaps. You truly love to see it.

Image: AAP