Shortly after he was elected as the new President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences this summer I asked Hawk Koch what he thought of the three-year-old Governors Awards – specifically, if the Academy should make it a TV event. He immediately responded that he liked it the way it was. He said that, without the pressure of having to do a “TV show” they could honor the people “we want to honor”. Tonight’s Honorary Oscars certainly fit that definition. They are industry insiders who have been in the business a very long time and obviously distinguished themselves in their fields.
But for those who hoped against hope that this might be the year for one of the egregiously overlooked veteran stars like Gena Rowlands, Doris Day, James Garner, Angela Lansbury, Debbie Reynolds, Max Von Sydow and other deserving Oscar-less giants to finally get their due, think again. Each year letters are written and subtle lobbying takes place but to no avail: they were passed over again for the pat on the back from their peers, just like the late greats Tony Curtis, Glenn Ford, and Richard Widmark. For the first time since the Governors Awards were specifically spun off as their own event, no actor made the cut. (Lauren Bacall, Eli Wallach and James Earl Jones were honored for their acting careers in the three previous years). That seems a shame, not just because thesps are long overdue and it would throw Oscar fans a bone. No, the Academy went its own way with a list of very different but also very deserving winners.
The documentary branch came up with a real winner in D.A. Pennebaker, a legendary documentarian whose versatile work included groundbreaking classics in cinema verite, music docs, and notably in politics. How appropriate that, on a night where former President Bill Clinton spoke at the Democratic National Convention, the filmmaker responsible for one of the most penetrating political docs ever, The War Room (which took an inside look at the 1992 Clinton campaign) should be recognized by the Academy. That film represents Pennebaker’s only Academy Award nomination – and he should have won. So this is sweet. (more…)