The Academy celebrates Smith, Jones and Winfrey at third annual Governors Awards

Posted by · 9:37 pm · November 12th, 2011

Thanks to the miracle of Twitter and about 10 minutes of down time on vacation in Miami, I can pretty much cyber-report on tonight’s Governors Awards ceremony. You ready? Alright, so…

As guests took their seats, John Williams’ “Star Wars” score struck on the sound system and the room was flooded with Storm Troopers. Darth Vader took to the stage. Obviously, it was a tip of the hat to one of this year’s Honorary Oscar recipients, James Earl Jones.

Anyway, Vader hit the podium, removed his masked to reveal — wait, it wasn’t David Prowse at all. It was Academy president Tom Sherak. “How was your week,” he quipped to the audience. Fair play, sir (even if he did recycle the joke from earlier in the week at a screening of “The Great White Hope” in honor of Jones). Casual. Light. Way to take it in stride after a five- or six-day spread few would want to endure. (And poor Dawn Hudson — apparently she had some sleepless nights over the whole Ratner/Murphy brouhaha.)

The first toast of the evening was marked for former Oscar producers Laura Ziskin and Gil Cates, each of whom passed away earlier this year. “To two incredible people,” Sherak said. “May your souls rest in peace.”

This year’s honorees at the satellite ceremony were the aforementioned Jones, makeup artist Dick Smith and Oprah Winfrey, who was tapped for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. And it seemed like Smith’s moment was the most touching, from what I gather.

Linda Blair and J.J. Abrams took the stage to salute the weathered vet, with longtime friend and fan Rick Baker given the honors of presenting the award. The Odds columnist Steve Pond called Smith’s tribute “funny and moving and informative…why they should give out Governors Awards on this show, not cram them onto Oscars.” He might have sold me on that, because I can’t imagine Smith being given his due in that manner on the annual Academy Awards telecast. “I have loved being a makeup artist so much,” Smith said, “but this puts a crown on all of that. I am so grateful.”

James Earl Jones accepted his award in London. Glenn Close spoke. So did Alec Baldwin. Ben Kingsley did the presenting. Wait, what? Jones couldn’t hand the stage production of “Driving Miss Daisy” off to the understudy for a few nights to travel out and accept this thing? How very Jean-Luc Godard of him. (Kidding.) “What the heck else would you call that but an actor’s wet dream,” Jones said of receiving the award from Kingsley.

Oh, and Mary J. Blige sang “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” Nice.

Finally, Oprah, whose honor was diminished by many who felt she was a TV personality more than a film figure, regardless of her humanitarian contributions. John Travolta spoke. Ayanna Hall, one of the 65,000 people she’s put through college with a scholarship, also toasted her, noting, “The words aren’t adequate, Ms. Winfrey. Thank you.”

And so went the third annual Governors Awards. Congrats to all involved. It sounds like it was a lovely evening. Sorry I couldn’t attend, but, alas, at least I have Ellen Barkin to put it all in perspective:

“@NicSperling just told me not to fuckin curse in my tweets at the muthafuckin Governors Awards. I say fuck her.”

Now it’s time to look ahead to next year. Who’s overdue for one of these puppies?

(Boy, that was easy. Didn’t even have to dust off my black tie. Thanks, Twitter!)

For year round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

Comments Off on The Academy celebrates Smith, Jones and Winfrey at third annual Governors Awards Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: HitFix · In Contention