Oprah Oscar? Film Academy's Lousy Choice

Suffice it to say that of all the lousy decisions made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and its Board of Governors, choosing Oprah Winfrey to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award has to rank among the worst. This Oscar statuette is supposed to be given “to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry”. Winfrey’s career and contributions to the movie business are at best spotty and superficial, especially considering that 99% of her career has been in television. Is the movie academy telling Hollywood that no one among the philanthropic film bigwigs deserved this award more than her this year? Or is this merely a matter of another of the rich and powerful just throwing their weight around and buying the Governors Award honor for ego feed?

And while we’re on the subject, tonight’s AMPAS announcement specifically points to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls which opened in South Africa in 2007. Who has forgotten the sexual abuse scandal that rocked that school set up for disadvantaged girls by the syndicated talk show queen? 

As news reports chronicled, dormitory matron Tiny Virginia Makopo, 27, was charged with 13 separate counts of abuse, including indecent assault and criminal injury committed against at least six students aged 13 to 15 and a 23-year-old at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls whose 152 students were handpicked by Winfrey. All the dorm matrons were dismissed. Oprah  blamed the high incidence of sexual abuse in South Africa as a whole (a woman is raped every 40 seconds in this country of 44 million — a total of 55,000 rapes a year) for the problem. But Winfrey admitted in a news conference that the school’s measures to keep abusers out proved insufficient. Though she said she was not responsible for hiring at the school, Winfrey said “the buck always stops with me.”

Makopo was found not guilty on all the sexual assault charges, and Winfrey said she was “profoundly disappointed” by the trial’s outcome. but The head mistress of the program, Nomvuyo Mzamane, was fired and sued Winfrey and Winfrey’s affiliated companies in November 2008 for defamation claiming that Winfrey tarnished her character because of Winfrey’s rush-to-judgment statements made when the school abuse scandal broke.


    1. I will agree with you about the lousy decisions they are making namely trying to move the oscars earlier and not giving an official top 10 best picture nods, but Oprah was an academy award nominee and her humanitarian efforts are enormous. It’s not completely out of left field, but maybe not the obvious choice.


        NOT TV NOT TV NOT TV NOT TV. She produced 2 movies. Acted in 2 movies. And did 3 cartoon voices. THIS DOES NOT MAKE FOR A CAREER IN FILM!!!! Let the TV Academy give her an award, jerkweed. YEAH, THAT’S TV – NOT FILM.

        1. You’re complaint is an old saw….TV vs Movies. It’s all entertainment (or not), but in this digital age it’s splitting hairs. Film?

          1. one in the same? name the last tv star who got an OSCAR for a tv role? Oh yeah never….those are the EMMY”S

        2. Early contender for the nastiest comment award!
          The competition is stiff here at Deadline, so keep up the good bad work.

      2. Motion picture award to Ophry Winfrey is like giving Nobel prize to liemobama or ‘Sick Wille’.

    2. WE are a sick country, and , “The Academy”, is the sickest of them all. “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” was only the beginning.

      Harpo does nothing except live large— and gives a pittance of her gross income to charity. FACT! Look it up.

      1. Completely agree. I remember years ago Rosie O’Donnell said the people who wind up on the “Forbes” type lists is because they aren’t giving enough away.

    3. Sure, it’s Oprah’s fault that those girls were raped in Africa…

      Your spin is getting dicier and dicier here. I’d stick to the real stories.

    4. FIRST, The Nobel Committee gives Barry the Nobel Peace Prize after 9 weeks on the job. (MORE deaths in Iraq and Afganistan in Obama’s first two years than in all of Bush’s eight!)

      NOW, Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Harpo— in reward for her 3 day 50th Birthday Orgy— complete with her own “paparazzi”!.

      Numbskulls rule the planet— so duck!!!!!!!!!!!

  1. Tiny Virginia Makopo was acquitted of all charges. But conferring the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on Oprah is most definitely a crime.

    1. This is a bunch of nothing and sour grapes by Nikki….Oprah has “produced” movies, or have you forgotten that? She’s produced TV movies and full screen movies….and she deserves it as much as anyone, certainly Sean Penn, who I admire, but who just found his religion since Katrina.

      1. I agree, Sally in Chicago, Oprah has “produced” (to use your quotation marks) movies, but there is producing and producing but I happen to think, my previous hyperbole to one side, she is still a poor choice by the Academy. And please don’t get me started on Sean Penn…

        1. Yeah, please lets don’t get started with Sean. Say what you will about Sean Penn’s political views or violent hatred of the paparazzi, at least he is compassionate and forgiving man. Just a matter of days before his appearance on Real Time, Mr. Penn extended this special wish for his critics.

          You know, do I hope that those people die screaming of rectal cancer? Yeah, you know, but I’m not going to spend a lot of energy on it.

  2. I agree with the principle of this post, but a little harsh with the sexual abuse thing Nikki. Oprah does donate an INCREDIBLE amount to charity. I don’t think this was a place to attack Oprah…just the Academy wanting more press.

      Charitable contributions are public record—- show something or zip it, Gayle!


      How about a “contribution” to her own half sister?

  3. Oh, please – obvious they are looking for ratings and it’s embarrassing for all AMPAS members. I think the membership should vote for these awards as well – the Governors can nominate them if they want but the entire club should vote.

    1. Sorry, but what has James Earl Jones done? I don’t recall any publicized charity of his.

      1. James Earl Jones was honored for Lifetime Achievement, not for any humanitarian efforts. Perhaps you need to take a look at what these people are actually receiving their awards for before showing any outrage. Sorry, but pay attention. And he’s not even mentioned in this piece so IDK why you’re bashing him.

        What has James Earl Jones done? He was a pioneering actor in the African-American community and the short list of his work in over 100 films goes Dr. Strangelove, The Great White Hope, Field of Dreams and he is maybe the greatest voice actor of our time. Who’s perhaps the greatest movie villain of all time and who provided that voice?

        What has Oprah done? A TV-talk show. One movie (albeit a great performance), building a school in her own name in Africa that is shrouded in controversy… She should receive a lifetime achievement award for self-promotion. Sorry Opraheads.

      2. James Earl Jones is receiving a career achievement Oscar, not the Hersholt.

        And even if he was, would he not deserve it simply because his charitable efforts aren’t highly publicized?

        And all this Oprah hate is both unnecessary and uncalled for.

  4. Well, I’m happy that they finally honored a woman, but Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Oprah over Mia Farrow? Really?

    1. LAURA ZISKIN or MIA FARROW deserve this. Is the Academy not read the paper? Or just not do their homework?

      What about DORIS DAY changing animal rights laws worldwide?

      1. Day is white and elderly and passe. Welcome to Obamaland— why the nation and The Academy are circling the drain.

        Quality and achievement are trumped by political correctness.

        IMAGINE, the buzz if Doris Day were to show—- how much overexposure with Harpo, whose “network” is tanking is enough???

        Does Gayle give the award??? Make it a perfect cluster Fuck, Bring back Franco!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        1. Let me guess, you’re a card carrying member of the GOP/Confederacy?

          All Obama’s presidency has really done is allow casual racists and racist thought to have greater impunity…

          1. ALL Obama’s presidency has done is run the country into the ground in two short years— greatest debt than every president from Washington thru Clinton combined; stand mute as Iran builds nuclear weapons, etc.— as life in a diminished America drags all of us to the abyss.
            Typical response from an Obamabot for whom the truth is all about race.

            SMILE when you call me a casual racist, pal.

          2. actually it has made EVERYONE into supposed racists. the least bit of criticism and his blind supporters start screaming racism.

            if we are unable to criticize a president who is of any part of a minority, we will have to go back to only electing white men. Straight white men, of course.

    2. Very good point. At least Mia Farrow has worked in film predominantly. How many kids did she adopt? Doesn’t she have more kids than Angelina and Brad?

    1. Like who? Name someone.

      She’s a great friend of Hollywood and in Hollywood…she deserves it.

  5. What a joke! One time Oscar loser now getting rewarded years later with a Jean Hersholt. Anjelica Huston who deservedly beat her that year should present it. True Hollywood royalty trumps every time.

  6. Great call Nikki. I thought you were taking the week off to work on something else but how could you resist this lame attempt by the academy.

  7. Huh?!?

    Oprah over Sean Penn, who has put his career on hold for the sake of the earthquake victims in Haiti?, just to name one of many who are more deserving.

    Maybe this will get 10 more people to watch OWN.

    1. I don’t agree, Pam – people deemed worthy of such a high honor need to be held to a higher standard than Jame or John Doe.

  8. OMG – I thought I was the ONLY person who felt this way when I first heard about it. What did Oprah do to deserve this? Nothing. I do think she has made contributions to film. She’s just not a film person. She’s a TV person who can sometimes act and does give money to directors so they can make their movies.

  9. I can only begin to imagine the nauseating segment that will proceed the standing ovation as Oprah graces the Oscar stage. Thank you for your take on this, Nikki. You nailed it!

  10. Is AMPAS aware that Bill Gates has made a few YouTube videos? That, coupled with the fact that he gives billions more than Oprah, should put him in the running next year.

  11. I don’t get it either. What’s Oprah’s contribution to the film industry? It’s like giving the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama. Oh wait…

    1. There’s one crucial difference: The Nobel Peace Prize is NOT a lifetime or career achievement award. Part of the Nobel Prize’s charter is to encourage the people who hold power to move the world towards peaceful resolution of problems and conflicts. Although I agree it seemed a little premature to give the prize to Barack Obama so early in his first term, one could at least understand the Norwegian committee’s logic under its rules.

      Ms. Winfrey, whatever one thinks of her humanitarian efforts, may well deserve whatever humanitarian recognition ATAS and other television-oriented bodies give, but this? Unlike the Obama case, this decision defies all reasonable logic.

  12. This makes absolutely no sense. Oprah’s movie career, as noted, has been spotty at best. If someone wants to honor her philanthropy, do it at the Emmys, not the Oscars.

    This is an obvious ploy by the Academy to somehow gloam onto Oprah’s career closer when she ended her talker in 2011. It is also a ratings ploy.

    This diminshes the award to those in the Academy that truly give of their time and talents. While he may never be honored in this way, it would be nice to acknowledge Sean Penn’s work in New Orleans and Haiti. At least he IS in the movies! (And it would really piss off the conservatives.)

  13. Funny, the academy overlooked Farrah Fawcett’s death and then coldly said she was only a tv star. Obviously untrue and given today’s announcement such total hypocrisy.

  14. Hi Nikki,

    Your insight on this topic is right on point and you have no idea how thoroughly I enjoyed reading it. I’m not a fan of the Oprah Tries to Buy the World club and to me, this is just another self-servicing award she’s purchased for her ego. If people would stop thinking she walks on water, they might open their eyes to her deceitfulness. A true philanthropist doesn’t need to shout it from the mountains. Maybe Oprah could just quietly go away, like most when they “retire”.

    Thanks again! You made my day.



  15. All of you are overreacting. Frankly, Nikki doesn’t strike me as one who likes Oprah (or AMPAS, for that matter). In five minutes, this will not be an item worth discussing. Like most of these stories.

    1. So what are you saying? Movies and entertainment are so insignificant they shouldn’t be written about?

    2. Exactly, Stan- Nikki has some weird axe to grind with AMPAS so she makes the world’s biggest deal about every little decision that gets made there. I love entertainment/industry news as much as the next person, but really, this isn’t news, it’s a diatribe.

  16. I couldn’t agree more with this post, Nikki. Oprah is simply not a name in the world of motion pictures and the awarding to her of the Jean Hersholt is a travesty of the first order.

    To me, it’s no small coincidence that the Oscars is on ABC, Oprah’s show was, until its demise, largely carried by ABC stations and it was ABC’s local news that was hit hardest by the loss of Oprah’s show.

    This whole thing stinks to high heaven and you’re right to call the AMPAS on it.

  17. Oh good, I’m not alone! Ditto on the thank you, Nikki. This is beyond pathetic. What-the-hell?

    First Jennifer Aniston gets lauded on The Actor’s Studio and now Oprah by AMPAS. Clearly it’s not just Washington that’s it’s mind and soul. Barf.

    And most excellent point, Will. This ought to have been all Mia’s. So digustingly this bias. But Oprah will still be there with bells on, won’t she?

  18. Right on, Nikki. This is a joke. Thank God for Tivo so that I can fast forward through another one of her sanctimonious speeches.

  19. The AMPAS won’t have a category for stuntmen, people who risk their lives on film sets everyday, but they choose to give an honorary statuette to THE WORLD’S BIGGEST EGO? This woman has enough of a god complex as it is.

    Thanks Academy for yet again making your institution look like a joke. The MTV movie awards have more prestige that you guys do.

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