Sunday, November 14, 2010

2nd annual Governors Awards honour Coppola, Godard, Wallach, Brownlow

On Saturday, November 13, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences (AMPAS) held its second annual Governors Awards at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center. Honorary Oscars were presented to Jean-Luc Godard, Eli Wallach, and Kevin Brownlow. Francis Ford Coppola was presented with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. Last year, the decision was made to have a separate ceremony from the main Academy Awards ceremony, so that they could honour several people for career achievement and more properly take time to celebrate them without worrying about time constraints. Last year's Governor's Award recipients were Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman and Gordon Willis, with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award going to John Calley.

Jean-Luc Godard's award was considered controversial selection by some who believe him to be anti-Hollywood and/or possibly anti-Semitic. He did not attend the ceremony and will personally be presented with his award at his home in Switzerland by Academy president Tom Sherak. Six different governors gave tributes to him. Phil Alden Robinson addressed him humourously in absentia, saying “Mr. Godard, in your long career as a filmmaker and provocateur, let’s be honest – you have said things that undoubtedly have upset everyone in this room, at least once. You have also had unkind things to say about Hollywood and the Oscar – but then again, so has everyone in this room, at least once. None of that has deterred this board of governors from bestowing upon you the highest honor we can for artistic achievement. Let’s be clear - this ain’t the Hersholt Humitarian Award.” Robinson's speech was received with great laughter.

Next, Eli Wallach was given heartfelt tributes by his Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps co-star Josh Brolin, his wife Anne Jackson, and Night and the City and Mistress co-star Robert De Niro. He was also serenaded with some songs by his friend Tony Bennett before his The Good, the Bad and the Ugly co-star Clint Eastwood presented him with the award. In his acceptance speech, he joked that "I’ve played more bandits, killers, thieves, molesters and mafiosos than you can shake a stick at." He ended with a naughty joke about a hooker offering a man his age “super sex” to which he responds "I'll take the soup."

After a break for dessert, the third Honourary Oscar was given to British silent film preservationist Kevin Brownlow, the first time an Oscar has been given to a historian. Actor James Karen and producer Lindsay Doran paid tribute to Brownlow before actor Kevin Spacey spoke and presented Brownlow with the award. Brownlow's acceptance speech warned of the difficulties in his work and how many classic films are being lost.

The final award of the evening was the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for "creative producers, whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production." It was given to Francis Ford Coppola, who had already won five Academy Awards and is one of only six people to win Oscars for Best Picture, Directing and Screenplay on the same night (the others are Billy Wilder, James L. Brooks, Peter Jackson, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen) for The Godfather: Part II. Recent Best Picture and Best Director winner Kathryn Bigelow introduced a highlight film, before comedian Don Novello spoke as his Saturday Night Live character Father Guido Sarducci. The Godfather: Part II star Robert De Niro returned and joked about their shared passion for winemaking, and finally George Lucas came on to present the award itself to Coppola. Joining him for the occasion were old friends and his family such as his daughter director Sofia Coppola, who toasted her father. View Coppola's acceptance speech here.

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