The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) officially kicked off 2010 Oscar season last night with the announcement of this year’s Honorary Oscar recipients. The Governors voted to bestow the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for Production Excellence to Fancis Ford Coppola, and the Honorary Oscar to French director Jean-Luc Godard, to veteran character actor Eli Wallach and to British film historian Kevin Brownlow.
Although nobody can deny Coppola’s contribution to film directing and production (the Thalberg Award is bestowed to producers), I think it’s superfluous to present an Award to a five-time Oscar winner. I can understand that the Academy still feels guilty for giving the Best Picture trophy to Kramer vs. Kramer over Apocalypse Now back in 1979, but an Honorary Oscar is hardly the best way to make up for that mistake 30 years later.
I can find no fault, however, in the Academy’s decision to acknowledge Jean-Luc Godard’s work. None of his films, including the legendary À Bout de Souffle (Breathless), has ever been nominated to an Oscar, so this is a deserved recognition to a filmmaker who changed the way to make and understand cinema.
I only know Brownlow’s book The Search for Charlie Chaplin (I’ve read that there’s a TV series and a film on the subject) and I think it is a masterpiece in its genre, so I’m very happy for this most surprising Oscar.
As for good old Eli Wallach, I believe he is a terrific character actor and I’ve always loved to spot him in his lately small appearances in films like Mystic River or, more recently, in a short but key scene in one of my favourite films of this year, The Ghost Writer (I have to check whether it was an unbilled cameo). He always delivered perfectly fine supporting performances, most notably in Baby Doll (his film debut), The Godfather, Part III, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and The Magnificent Seven or the less known The Lineup (in my opinion, his best), but I’m afraid none of them is that memorable. It is commendable for the AMPAS to recognise Wallach’s professional longevity, but the truth is that he never was nominated for a competitive Oscar, while other unrecognised performers (many of them, women) are still waiting an official token of acknowledgment.
I think it would have been nice to have at least a woman among the recipients, and if that was the case, my personal hero Angela Lansbury would be my first choice (I wouldn’t mind to see Liv Ullman or Gena Rowlands get an Oscar, either). I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but I think Lansbury’s turn in The Manchurian Candidate alone will be remembered more than Eli Wallach’s whole career. I really hoped Lansbury to be recognised this year, specially after her loss at the Tonys (see my blog entry: https://imitationlife.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/angela-lansburys-tony-quest/), so I’ll have to wait another year to see my dream come true.
Anyhow, since I don’t agree with this year’s all-male selection, here’s my ALTERNATIVE ALL-FEMALE CHOICE, very much in parallel with the official one in terms of origin, category and achievement.
AMPAS, take note for next year.
Irving G. Thalberg Award for Production Excellence:
KATHLEEN KENNEDY (six-time nominee producer of films like ET, The Color Purple, Munich or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
AGNÈS VARDA (directing)
ANGELA LANSBURY (acting)
ANN KAPLAN (Professor and author of film books from the perspective of feminism and postmodernism).
Back to reality, though, here’s two clips: one of my favourite Wallach film, Don Siegel’s The Lineup and other of Godard’s À Bout de Souffle trailer.