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Oscar's most popular date: Mom

By Jill Martin Wrenn, CNN
updated 8:20 AM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
Winner for Best Actor in "Dallas Buyers Club" Matthew McConaughey with his mother, Mary Kathlene McCabe, left, and wife Camila Alves arrives on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2, 2014, in Hollywood, California. Winner for Best Actor in "Dallas Buyers Club" Matthew McConaughey with his mother, Mary Kathlene McCabe, left, and wife Camila Alves arrives on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2, 2014, in Hollywood, California.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hollywood hunks Jared Leto and Leo DiCaprio brought Mom to the Oscars
  • Angelina Jolie tearfully thanked her mother when she won a humanitarian award
  • Leto shouted out to his mother during his acceptance speech
  • Matt Damon and Ben Affleck bought their moms to the 1998 Oscars

Editor's note: Jill Martin Wrenn writes for CNN and the BBC about parenting, business and travel. She has one daughter and two sons, whom she dreams will take her to the Oscars one day.

(CNN) -- This year's Academy Awards could be called The Year of the Mom. While "12 Years a Slave" earned the Best Picture Oscar, mothers swept the date category. Many of Hollywood's hottest award contenders brought Mom along to share in their Oscar glory.

Jared Leto, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill were just a few of the nominees who escorted their mothers to Oscar night.

But these matriarchs played a bigger role than just companion for the night's festivities. They also featured prominently in their offspring's acceptance speeches.

Jared Leto set the tone for the evening. The "Dallas Buyers Club" actor gave his mother a tear-jerking shout-out early in the evening. In his acceptance speech for the supporting actor Oscar, he honored his single mother's support, especially during a rocky start in the early 1970s.

"There was a teenage girl who was pregnant with her second child," Leto said, looking at his mother smiling proudly in the front row. "Somehow, she managed to make a better life for herself and her children," he said.

While the audience clapped, he added, "I love you, Mom. Thank you for teaching me to dream."

But of course, Hollywood hunks taking their mothers along on the awards circuit is not a new phenomenon. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck squired their beaming moms when they were the new kids on the Oscar block with "Good Will Hunting," which won the award for best original screenplay in 1998. The time honored Oscar tradition crossed gender lines this year; daughters got in on the action this year, too.

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Laura Dern beamed alongside her father, Bruce Dern, a nominee for his lead role in the movie, "Nebraska." He lost out to Matthew McConaughey, who won the award for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club." McConaughey, by the way, also brought his mother, along with his wife.

So why are these guys, who have their pick of supermodels, groupies or other celebrities, taking their moms along as dates to Hollywood's most high-profile event? Experts say they're not surprised.

"That's the most important woman in their lives," said Jennifer Tardelli, a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in women's issues (she's also a mother of three whom I know through my children's preschool), "And the woman who taught them everything they needed to know to get this place of artistic excellence."

Sharing their glory with the parent who gave them their start seems to appeal to celebrities. Even stars who have lost parents managed to make that parent's presence felt.

A clip of a tearful Angelina Jolie, thanking the Academy for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, played during the Oscar telecast on Sunday. She shared how proud her mother would have been of her, giving the Oscars broadcast one of its more poignant moments.

"My mother loved art, she loved film," she said. "If she were alive, she'd be very proud," she finished, dissolving into tears. While the clip played, Jolie's partner Brad Pitt gave her a kiss. It was hard not to cry.

"Most adults strive to please their parents, and honor their parents, and show their parents how much they appreciate them," said Kris Colluro Smith, an Atlanta-based clinical social worker specializing in grief and loss. "When we get honored, or have an accomplishment, it's really natural to want to reflect back on our parents, and how our mother might have helped us get to that point."

For celebrities, it's a chance to have their biggest fan on their arm; someone who knew them from their humble beginnings, and helped them to achieve stardom.

For parents watching at home, it's inspiring to think that one day, our kids could win Oscars, and actually give us credit for somehow helping them.

Like many Oscar fans, whenever I watch the awards, I wonder whom I might thank in my acceptance speech, if I should ever write a screenplay, direct a film or produce an animated short that's worthy of the awards. (I realize it's a long-shot!)

I'm holding off on buying my Oscar dress, but I did love Lupita Nyong'o's custom-made Prada gown. She, too, brought her mother along for the night.

Just in case my own Oscar dreams don't come true, I will look to my kids. I should start dropping hints now that if they are ever nominated for an Academy Award, they must bring me as their date.

Of course, they'll mention me prominently in their speech, preferably after thanking me for driving them places, as Jolie did in her heartrending tribute to her mom (someone had to drive her to those auditions, and wait in the car until her daughter was done).

And if my own Oscar ever comes, I will be sure to say, "This one's for you, Mom." Get the tissues ready.

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