Oscarcast nixes honorary awards

Posted by · 9:40 am · June 27th, 2009

Jerry Lewis accepting the Jean Hersholt Award at the 81st Annual Academy AwardsAnyone know the reason why the Academy is so restlessly change-happy this week? Not content with doubling the Best Picture field and potentially eliminating the Best Original Song category, they’ve also decided go ahead and cut all honorary awards from the March telecast.

Instead, the hitherto irregularly awarded Honorary (AKA lifetime achievement), Irving G. Thalberg Memorial and Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Awards will be announced in September and handed out at a private dinner in November. AMPAS  president Sid Ganis explains in the press release:

“For some years now, the Board has struggled to balance the desire to truly honor worthy individuals with the time limitations that the Oscar® telecast imposes on these honors … By creating a separate event for recognizing these outstanding people in the movie industry, we’re insuring that each honoree will be given his or her full due, without compromise.”

He tactfully fails to add that this “uncompromised” approach means the awards won’t be seen (or very likely, heard about) by the general public. If that’s not a compromise, I don’t know what is. I have no idea what kind of message the Academy is sending here. That the awards simply make for bad television? That your average movie-lover has no interest in seeing film legends acknowledged? That this year’s telecast — despite widely enthusiastic reviews and increased ratings — still didn’t make the grade?

I’m not denying that the honorary awards can be dull on occasion — it all depends on the recipient, after all — but they can also be decidedly moving. Recent years have served up such televisual gems as Peter O’Toole’s eloquently ironic “tottering into antiquity” speech, the surreal  sight of Clint Eastwood translating for Ennio Morricone, or the fascinatingly polarized audience reception for Elia Kazan.

My all-time favorite lifetime achievement presentation remains that of Michelangelo Antonioni, who in 1995 accepted his Honorary Award with a simple, graceful “Grazie.” (Thereby proving that such awards needn’t always slow down the telecast.)

The Oscarcast — and Oscar history itself — would be poorer for the loss of moments like these. Aren’t there a million other areas (read: montages) where the telecast can be shaved before resorting to such measures? What really concerns me is that this seems but one short step from eliminating the technical awards from the telecast too. The People’s Choice makeover of the Academy Awards continues apace.

→ 15 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

15 responses so far

  • 1 6-27-2009 at 11:28 am

    Jesse said...

    Terrible. I think a majority of Oscar viewers deeply enjoy the legends they have watched for so many years receive proper recognition. If time cuts are needed, alright, lose the songs. Already they are performed in abridged versions. But to cut out the honorary awards is ridiculous.

  • 2 6-27-2009 at 11:35 am

    Vito said...

    I don’t like this move. The honorary Oscar has always been a great part of the show. What a shame.

  • 3 6-27-2009 at 11:48 am

    mikey67 said...

    This is just rude. They should announce the 3 shorts awards in a pre-ceremony and just show quick video of them introduced by a starlet like they do the science awards. Done right, the honorary awards are lovely. Much as I enjoy watching the shorts every year, they are not a critical part of the ceremony.

  • 4 6-27-2009 at 11:58 am

    Davidraider88 said...

    whats next, eliminating the tribute to all those that have died as well? geesh

  • 5 6-27-2009 at 12:45 pm

    Lance said...

    I don’t mind this change – give these legends a whole night where they can be honored in the manner they deserve. I also agree with Mikey about the three shorts being awarded prior to the show.

  • 6 6-27-2009 at 12:51 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Davidraider: Don’t give them ideas!

    Lance: I’m not convinced that “the manner they deserve” means “where no one will see them.” I don’t see how this isn’t a case of sidelining.

  • 7 6-27-2009 at 1:01 pm

    red_wine said...

    It was really great to see Fellini and Chaplin win honorary Oscars(on youtube of course). They should cut out those ridiculous montages, ‘romance’ montage, ‘action’ montage & ‘montage’ montage. Also they can cut the 5 past nominee thing(though I liked it) as it took nearly 5-6 mins to get to the opening of the envelope.

    And like the Baftas, they always have the option of editing certain portions(shorts perhaps) so the broadcast is shorter(the Baftas axed Editing from their broadcast I think!).

  • 8 6-27-2009 at 3:07 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Well this sure is an ambiguis change. If the person awarded the honor is someone people might actually know (Ennio, oh how brilliant that was) instead of some production designer or benefactor that really only means something to those in the Kodak theatre, then it is a shame. Tricky.

  • 9 6-27-2009 at 3:08 pm

    Lance said...

    I think your average Oscar watcher fast forwards through this part, flips to another station or does something else. For those of us who care, we’ll get a really great tribute show with clips and interesting anecdotes – and I think they’ll show it on TNT, Bravo or one of the thousands of stations I have on cable. Selfishly, I’d prefer the longer tribute.

    I know some of the future recipients, of this award, will be upset that they don’t get to be on the regular show, but they’ll get a longer tribute surrounded by a theatre filled with family, friends and people they’ve worked with. Some may prefer this sort of tribute.

  • 10 6-27-2009 at 3:52 pm

    alynch said...

    The thing I wonder is whether or not the TV audience really matters that greatly to the recipients. I imagine most of them probably care more about being honored by their peers than they do the couchdwellers at home. While I do enjoy watching them, it’s the honorees who matter more at the end of the day.

    Besides, I bet they’ll put the ceremony on some cable channel or PBS, like the AFI ceremony or Kennedy Center honors.

  • 11 6-27-2009 at 8:35 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Big mistake

  • 12 6-28-2009 at 1:43 am

    Nudgoo said...

    Why do I get the feeling that there’s going to be one more announcement which will make the others pale in comparison?

  • 13 6-28-2009 at 8:06 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    They’ll add an Hottest Actress award just to have Brangelina there by default.

  • 14 6-28-2009 at 5:28 pm

    John H. Foote said...

    One of the dumbest movies since, oh, adding five more best picture nominees?? This award, the Honorary has always been a chance for the viewing audience to learn about the history of the cinema, or celebrate with former heroes of the past and allow the current stars and directors pay tribute to the greats that came before them — watching Peter O’Toole win his was deeply moving, and seeing Chaplin welcomed back in 72 possibly the most moving Oscar moment ever, with fine moments from Lumet and Poitier and so many others — even those that do not quite work, the Kazan tribute is worth seeing because then that becomes another part of his legacy and history — these people have contributed to this art form in huge ways, giving their lives to the art and deserve to be part of the telecast — it is shameful that the Board of Governors, those that vote for this award should make such a terrible decision — at some point Woody Allen is going to win this award and I want to see that, at some point Francis Ford Coppola will win this award and I want to see that, or Nicholson, or Streep, or Jane Fonda or Scorsese…I want to see that — they are the connection to the past and that, always should be celebrated — My God, the Globes have the class to show their Ceceil B. Demille Award winner, did they just become more sensible than the Oscars?????

  • 15 6-28-2009 at 6:47 pm

    marco70go said...

    I really liked Sid Ganis as President of the Academy… this was, until a week ago. What’s with this decision of ending his mandate “with a bang”? Ten BP nominees? Honorary awards handed out separately? What’s next? Best Cinematography split in two categories “over 50” and “younger than 50”?