Honorary Oscars for Coppola, Godard, Wallach and Brownlow

Posted by · 9:41 am · August 25th, 2010

So, you’d think that five competitive Oscars — three for writing, one apiece for producing and directing — would count as an elegant sufficiency of awardage for even the most revered talent in the industry.

Not so, apparently, in the case of a certain Francis Ford Coppola. In their wisdom, AMPAS brass have decided that Coppola needs a sixth statuette, this time the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for production excellence. I can only speculate that they still feel really bad about “Kramer vs. Kramer” beating “Apocalypse Now” in 1979. As well they should.

Of course, this news comes minutes after I opined in our speculation thread that honorary awards for previous Oscar champs tend to feel a little superfluous. Goes to show why I’m not an Academy member. Still, from that point of view, I must applaud the most outrĂ© of this year’s choices: Jean-Luc Godard.

Just as they did with Roger Corman last year, Academy Governors have sensibly used the honorary Oscar as a way of awarding a vital filmmaker whose work the general votership nonetheless wouldn’t touch with a bargepole; as unbelievable as it may seem to casual awards-watchers, no Godard film has ever been graced with an Oscar nod, even in the foreign-language category. It’s commendable of AMPAS to embrace a filmmaker who couldn’t be more hostilely opposed to everything they stand for; whether Godard turns up to accept the honor is another question.

Meanwhile, you’d have to be pretty churlish to take issue with the selection of veteran character actor Eli Wallach, never previously nominated despite years of vivid contributions to the likes of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “Baby Doll” and “The Magnificent Seven.” (Meanwhile, it’s a rather sweet coincidence that he should be honored alongside his “Godfather Part III” director.)

Finally, the least well-known name here is perhaps the most laudable of all the Academy’s picks this year. British film historian and documentarian Kevin Brownlow has been an invaluable figure in the preservation and promotion of silent cinema, responsible for a number of essential texts and documentaries on the subject, as well as masterminding the 1981 restoration of Abel Gance’s “Napoleon.”

Good on Oscar for recognizing Brownlow’s career, as well as those of the other three honorees. My only regret is that the general public will remain completely blind to their achievements as the honorary Oscars are once more sidelined to a separate, untelevised, ceremony on November 13. On the one hand, I suppose it’s nice for the individuals being honored to have a whole evening devoted to their achievements; on the other, here’s hoping the Oscarcast directors find a less clumsily dismissive way of acknowledging them than they did with Lauren Bacall and company earlier this year.

[Photo: TomDiCillo.com]

→ 37 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

37 responses so far

  • 1 8-25-2010 at 9:47 am

    Estefan said...

    Surprised at the Godard choice. Never would I expect the Academy to give an honorary award to a man who gives Hollywood a big middle-finger every chance he gets.

    The others are worthy choices, though.

  • 2 8-25-2010 at 9:50 am

    Benito Delicias said...

    nobody with 5 Oscars deserves an Honorary one…sorry. Specially when so many others (directors and writers like him) are Oscarless.

  • 3 8-25-2010 at 9:59 am

    geha714 said...

    The Godard ceremony will be fun to watch…

    Why Coppola again?

    Very happy for Eli Wallach .

  • 4 8-25-2010 at 10:01 am

    Michael said...

    Don’t like the Francis Ford Coppolla nod – it seems unnecessary expecially when he hasn’t done anything good in a few decades. The rest I am totally cool with but wish that they had found a way to recognize a woman as well, such as Angela Lansbury or Catherine Deneuve or Liv Ullman. Oh well, maybe next year they will finally get the gold they deserve…

  • 5 8-25-2010 at 10:01 am

    Ibad said...

    I love that Brownlow’s being recognized, he’s probably the most important film historian working today. I love his 5.5 hour restoration of Abel Gance’s NapolĂ©on, even though he was blocked from releasing it in the US because of, funnily enough, Francis Ford Coppola who owns the rights to Carmine Coppola’s musical accompaniment.

  • 6 8-25-2010 at 10:02 am

    James D. said...

    I will accept the Coppola award as an apology for not properly recognizing Tetro.

  • 7 8-25-2010 at 10:05 am

    Zack said...

    Coppola and Wallach? Does this mean some lucky host will get to make “Godfather 3 sucks” jokes all over again?

  • 8 8-25-2010 at 10:10 am

    James D. said...

    Zack: I hope so.

  • 9 8-25-2010 at 10:15 am

    Andrew M said...

    Very happy about Godard. I got a brain wave yesterday that Coppola would get it, and I guess I was right. I don’t understand why they would give an honorary Oscar to someone who has won so many, but I can deal.

  • 10 8-25-2010 at 10:18 am

    BurmaShave said...

    Put them on the show this time. No offense to Sound Editing, Mixing, Visual Effects, etc., but those can be handed out elsewhere.

  • 11 8-25-2010 at 10:23 am

    Derek 8-Track said...

    Didn’t Wallach already get his award? I think I remember Jack Black and Kate Winslet being there.

  • 12 8-25-2010 at 10:24 am

    SJG said...

    I’m also not feeling the Coppola love, but I was at least glad to see so many commenters at InContention loving Angela Lansbury yesterday, so that will suffice for me.

  • 13 8-25-2010 at 10:27 am

    MJS said...

    I’d be surprised if Godard’s acceptance speech (assuming he even shows up) amounts to anything more than “shove it up your ass.”

  • 14 8-25-2010 at 10:34 am

    Erik 815 said...

    @ Burmashave: I want to see the “smaller” categories as much as the big ones. All the artists involved in the process of filmmaking deserve their moment in the spotlight, even when their efforts are less showy.

    As for interludes with interprative dances of the films, or endless montages of nominated films… those I could live without.

  • 15 8-25-2010 at 10:59 am

    DarkLayers said...

    Erik 815, I agree with you on smaller categories. I would also note, the genre montages are not necessary, ESPECIALLY when AMPAS continues to fail to recognize some of them.

  • 16 8-25-2010 at 11:07 am

    Andrew F said...

    I worship at the altar of Godard. I’m okay with ANY award that is thrown at him.

    *dreamy sigh*

    Oh, Godard, my God in glasses. How I adore thee! May you pray for our cinematic sins, in the name of Griffith, Hitchcock and Welles. Amen.

  • 17 8-25-2010 at 11:25 am

    Pete said...

    I am stunned at the selection of Eli Wallach. With so many lead actors and actresses awaiting recognition by the Academy, it is odd that they instead chose a competent but hardly brilliant supporting actor. Does this mean he is terminal and the Academy is experiencing guilt pangs at never having nominated him?

    I have the same question regarding a sixth Oscar for Coppola. His place in cinema history is well established and richly rewarded. Wouldn’t it have been more satisfying to see another producer acknowledged with this award?

    Brownlow is an inspired choice, and Godard, a perversely interesting one (but fully deserved).
    Can we look forward to seeing Alain Resnais on the Awards dinner dais next year?

  • 18 8-25-2010 at 11:33 am

    aspect ratio said...

    I’m kind of flabbergasted by the negative comments aimed at Coppola. Yes, he’s got more Oscars than he knows what to do with, but remember that he’s being given the Irving G. Thalberg award, not an the regular Honorary Oscar (which is the one we normally associate with people who never won). The Thalberg award isn’t even an Oscar statuette so what’s with the griping?

    Anyway, pretty thrilled with this selection. Can’t say I’ve even heard of Brownlow, and I would’ve liked to have seen a woman or two get in there too, but it’s hard to argue with names like Coppola, Godard (!) and Wallach (who we got to see just this year in The Ghost Writer! Amazing).

  • 19 8-25-2010 at 12:15 pm

    hopeless pedant said...

    I have no problem with the Thalberg award going to Coppola. It is not an Oscar; it’s a different award and statuette.

    (George Lucas on the otherhand has never won an Oscar, like Alfred Hitchcock, though both won Thalbergs.)

    Not a chance Godard shows up. He might not even acknowledge the award. He rejected (with a funny letter) a NYFC’s award some years ago, didn’t to Cannes this year, and is not expected in Toronto or New York for Film socialisme.

    Love the Wallach and Brownlow awards – Wallach was a prediction of mine, but Brownlow is a surprise.

  • 20 8-25-2010 at 1:05 pm

    Gustavo said...

    pedant, it’s an honrary award by the Academy. It’s the same shit.

    I guess Lynch and De Palma will have to wait ten or more years to get their due.

  • 21 8-25-2010 at 1:29 pm

    hopeless pedant said...

    Lynch maybe someday, no way for me De Palma remotely deserves it.

    This is not remotely the same old shit. These are all extremely deserving choices.

  • 22 8-25-2010 at 1:35 pm

    Jake said...

    Woah De Palma does not remotely deserve it? De Palma is one of the most iconic directors of the new hollywood era. He is easily one of the main five of Coppola, De Palma, Lucas, & Spielberg.

  • 23 8-25-2010 at 1:36 pm

    Jake said...

    Er… Coppola, Scorsese, De Palma, Lucas, Spielberg.

  • 24 8-25-2010 at 1:45 pm

    Pete said...

    The Thalberg recognizes distinction in producing. Have Lynch or DePalma produced any films, other than possibly their own? The Weinsteins have production credits a mile long and an Oscar nomination list almost as long. It will probably be a cold day in Hell, however, before the Academy singles them out for special recognition.

  • 25 8-25-2010 at 2:12 pm

    Patryk said...

    Oh well, I guess Liv Ullman will have to wait…and wait…and wait…

  • 26 8-25-2010 at 2:51 pm

    Patryk said...

    Sorry…Liv Ullmann

  • 27 8-25-2010 at 3:07 pm

    Joseph said...

    Yay for Wallach!

  • 28 8-25-2010 at 3:15 pm

    Jacob S. said...

    Can someone explain to me what these awards are and the criteria for getting them?

  • 29 8-25-2010 at 4:12 pm

    Chris said...

    I feel so cool right now for rightly predicting Godard yesterday.

  • 30 8-25-2010 at 4:59 pm

    Jake said...

    #24…..well how does that explain Jean-Luc Godard getting the award? He only produces his own films.

  • 31 8-25-2010 at 5:08 pm

    Andrew M said...

    #30- Coppola is getting the Thalberg award, the other awards are honorary Academy Awards.

  • 32 8-25-2010 at 7:31 pm

    Pete said...

    The Thalberg award is for distinction in producing, and as Andrew M points out the other three are being recognized for their special contributions to film.

  • 33 8-25-2010 at 10:27 pm

    Jacob S. said...

    So can awards go to the deceased?

  • 34 8-26-2010 at 1:59 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Jacob: To the best of my knowledge, Academy rules forbid posthumous honorary Oscars — unless, of course, the recipient passes away after the decision to award them has been made (as was the case with Audrey Hepburn in 1993).

  • 35 8-26-2010 at 8:32 am

    Jacob S. said...

    Thanks for answering. Does the Academy award *any* exclusively posthumous awards?

  • 36 8-26-2010 at 8:45 am

    Guy Lodge said...


  • 37 8-26-2010 at 9:52 am

    Alberto said...

    Oscar to Coppola is superfluous, to Godard justified but he won’t show up (to that stupid sidelined ceremony).
    I was always happy to see Wallach in small roles as of late (most recently in The Ghost Writer), but there are many actors who deserve it more. I really hoped ANGELA LANSBURY would finally be recognised. Maybe next year. Here’s my tribute to Lansbury from my blog Imitation of Life: