There’s more than meets the eye to those emails inviting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to a “soirée” at the Terrasse UniFrance in Cannes on the evening of May 17. As it turns out, the event is something of a warm-up for an event two days later, at which Academy president John Bailey will be made an officer of France’s Ordre des Artes and Lettres.
While we don’t know much about French distinctions—except that Harvey Weinstein was once named a Knight of the Legion d’Honneur only to have the honor withdrawn when he fell into disgrace—Bailey’s new award sounds considerable. It comes with an insignia to be bestowed by Frédérique Bredin, president of the Centre National du Cinéma et de l’image Animée of the government’s ministry of culture. That happens at 2:45 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, in the Agora of Canne’s Palais des Festivals.
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Bailey, a noted cinematographer whose credits include As Good As It Gets and Groundhog Day, is a foreign-language film enthusiast who has been pushing the Academy deeper into international waters. So the award, of which he was notified weeks ago, according to a person briefed on the matter, is hardly a surprise.
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Still, insiders say the Academy has been scrambling in recent days to stake out a proper presence in Cannes. It will send Bailey, chief executive Dawn Hudson, and a handful of staff members to the festival. But officials are hoping that member emails sent today and last Friday will find some stars and filmmakers who are already on hand (minus, of course, Weinstein and Roman Polanski, erstwhile Cannes fixtures who have been expelled from the Academy for behavior issues).
Nothing in Cannes comes cheap, especially at festival time. But the Academy raised member dues about 29 percent last October, to $450 from $350 annually, in part to finance “member events, screenings and branch gatherings in the Bay Area, New York and Europe.” So presumably this bit of festival fun and flattery won’t break the bank.
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