The honorary Oscars: “A dying ritual”

Posted by · 11:43 am · November 6th, 2009

Lauren BacallAs I’ve said before, I’m dismayed by the Academy’s decision to relegate the honorary Oscar winners to a separate, untelevised ceremony, which will take place next Saturday. Even more than the inflation of the Best Picture nominees, it’s a move that betrays desperate self-doubt and compromise on the Academy’s part.

Meanwhile, they only rubbed salt in the wounds by making such roundly well-received choices for this year’s honorees: few would disagree that the likes of Lauren Bacall and Gordon Willis are  well due for Oscar recognition, so it truly insults the recipients (not to mention film fans in general) to deny them a public moment in the spotlight.

Also still seething over the change is veteran film writer David Thomson, who has written an impassioned and spot-on piece that pays tribute to this year’s four Governors Award winners — Bacall, Willis, Roger Corman and John Calley — while railing against the Academy’s sidelining of its own history:

If the night of the Oscars still means anything in these barren days, it should have Bacall striding up to the centre-stage spot to a standing and building ovation and then killing the crowd with some drawling wisecrack. The glamour of the American movie depends upon it. And she will be on 14 November.

I don’t doubt that the 14 November awards will be filmed. And I’m sure some of that film will be shown on the big night. But not live, not for real. I don’t think there’s going to be time for the proper appreciation of Hollywood beauty and style.

In conclusion, he suggests that the change diminishes the very purpose of the Oscars themselves:

Do you care? Because if you don’t, the Academy might as well roll up the carpet and face the fact that the Oscars are a dying ritual.

I couldn’t really have said it better myself. (I have a similar reaction to those who suggest that technical awards should be omitted from the Oscarcast too.) If the Academy starts caving to the demands of audiences who don’t care about such matters, then they lose sight of what they’re really celebrating: cinema first, celebrity second.

Read the rest of Thomson’s piece here.

→ 9 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

9 responses so far

  • 1 11-06-2009 at 12:09 pm

    Cameron said...

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Guy. One of my personal highlights of watching the Oscars was seeing unrewarded legends like Morricone (who should have a whole set) and O’Toole get the Honorary Award. And now to regulate this award to an untelevised ceremony only solidifies the Academy’s increasing lack of unimportance in the world of cinema.
    I’ll wait and see how this 10 BP thing pans out, but I’m just waiting for the NYFCC and LAFCC awards and the like.

  • 2 11-06-2009 at 1:07 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    It kills me that we are losing the tug-of-war between those who actually want to celebrate cinematic achievements and those who just want to gawk at Angelina Jolie’s red carpet dress. The only consolation is the knowledge that the Oscars are indeed becoming more and more irrelevant.

  • 3 11-06-2009 at 1:11 pm

    John H. Foote said...

    That’s a great piece Guy and I so agree that the Honorary Oscar should be front and center as it always has — think of those up the road soon to be honored with such an award, the great directors of the seventies, Woody Allen, George Lucas, Coppola, Friedkin, Scoresese someday, as well as actors such as Robert Duvall, or Jessica Lange — I don’t care if they already have an Oscar, their contribution to cinema makes them deserving of such an honor — great cinemtatographers such as Willis deserve the attention, writers such as Robert Towne, producers such as Kathleen Kennedy, and my God the list could go on and on – think of any actor or actress, or director or film artist over seventy who is deserving of such attention for their accomplishments in cinema and contribution to the art?? I personally love that moment of seeing the clips of their work, their life before our eyes, and their body of work for all to see — it allows this generation to become better educated with the cinema of the past and perhaps to believe in that mantra, “any film you have seen is a new release.”

  • 4 11-06-2009 at 1:48 pm

    daveylow said...

    I agree. For the first time in a while, they are giving special Oscars to three people I want to see say something: Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, and Gordon Willis.
    Plus their clips will be interesting. What a shame.

  • 5 11-06-2009 at 1:56 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    Short Film Live Action – Short Film Animated – Documentary Short – Documentary Feature – Sound Mixing – Sound Editing

    They should cut them from the main ceremony.

  • 6 11-06-2009 at 2:07 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    /3rtfu11: In a word, no.

  • 7 11-06-2009 at 9:40 pm

    Colin said...

    /3rtfu11: NO. The only award that doesn’t deserve its limelight is “Best Original Song”. The last thing we need is to reduce the worth of short films, documentaries and classic films in today’s cinema.

  • 8 11-07-2009 at 2:34 am

    Glenn said...

    Well, tbh Animated Short, Doco Short and Live Action Short have always seemed like useless OSCAR categories (not to lessen the worth of short films, some of which can be great, but it seems a bit much to give them an Oscar for it) and wouldn’t care if they were cut from the ceremony. Doco, Song and the sound categories should be kept.

    I definitely agree that the career achievement stuff should remain. It’s so good seeing these people up on stage especially when it’s the likes of Lauren Bacall. Such a shame it’s been cut.

  • 9 11-08-2009 at 8:18 am

    Ben M. said...

    I have mixed feelings about this- the honorary oscar segments are often highlights, but they take up a lot of time so I can understand the move and this way the winners still will be acknowledged on the main show (from what I heard) and you get to have more honorary oscars than they usually give out so more deserving people can have oscars (for instance I could see someone like Kevin O’Connell having more trouble winning an honorary oscar in the old format because he works in sound).

    But I do wish the ceremony would be at least broadcast on cable or something- I would watch it.