August 3, 2011

THE BIJOU: Honorary Oscars Announced

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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The Motion Picture Academy came up with 2 great choices and a puzzler in their selections for this year’s honorary Academy Awards.  (Remember–as of last year, the honorary Oscars are no longer part of the televised ceremony, but will be presented at a private banquet on November 12.)
The unoffcial lifetime achivement award goes to James Earl Jones, and it’s the standard bow to a great performer who’s now 80 years old and probably unlikely to win a “real” Oscar.  The great actor’s legacy, for most audiences, is probably headed by his vocal work (and deep breathing) as Darth Vader, and for intoning “This… is CNN.”  But aside from that sonorous voice (let’s not forget his Mufasa in The Lion King), Jones made his film debut in Kubrick’s masterpiece Dr. Strangelove, and he’s given decades worth of great performances in films like The Great White Hope, The Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars and Motor Kings, and Field of Dreams.  He’s the kind of actor who everyone assumes must have won an Oscar at some point in his celebrated career, and he richly deserves this honorary one.

Make-Up wizard Dick Smith has won an Oscar for Amadeus, but that’s hardly his most famous credit.  He’s the father of the modern art of cinema cosmetics, and his films include some of the classic make-up jobs in film history:  aging Dustin Hoffman and Marlon Brando in Little Big Man and The Godfather, turning Linda Blair into a demon (before the days of CG) in The Exorcist, and creating the carnage of Taxi Driver‘s finale.  Smith is a fabulous 89 years old, and modern movies wouldn’t be the same without his artistry.
The odd choice is the decision to give the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Oprah Winfrey.  Not that her charitable credentials are any less than impeccable, but while she’s a TV legend, her connection to the film business is rather tangential.  She’s only appeared in 2 major films in her career (The Color Purple and Beloved), plus a bit of vocal work in animation, and she’s dabbled in producing–her most recent credit, for Precious, was a marketing decision made after the film had already been finished.  Since the honorary Oscar event isn’t televised, she wasn’t chosen to increase ratings–were there no suitable humanitarians around who actually make their careers in the film industry?
In any case, congratulations to all for their lifetimes of excellent work.  

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."