There may not be a more deserving crop of honorary Oscar recipients than those slated to receive them this year. The Academy’s annual list of honorary award recipients was announced today and among them are two of the greatest film directors to ever step behind a camera.
The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award goes to a creative producer “whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production.” The award has only been given out three times since 2000 and the recipients have been John Calley, Dino De Laurentiis, and Warren Beatty. Past recipients have included Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Billy Wilder, Ingmar Bergman, George Lucas, and Alfred Hitchcock. The 2011 Thalberg Award will go to the great auteur Francis Ford Coppola who is most famous for directing The Godfather trilogy. Other well-known films of his include The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, and Dracula. Coppola has already won 5 Oscars – 3 for writing, 1 for directing, and 1 for producing and he has been nominated for another nine.
Honorary Oscar Awards are given out every year to actors, directors, producers, writers, and members of the design crew. Last year the awards went to actress Lauren Bacall, director/producer Roger Corman, and cinematographer Gordon Willis. The 2011 Honorary Oscars will go to legendary writer/director (and Film Misery favorite) Jean-Luc Godard, film actor Eli Wallach, and filmmaker/film historian Kevin Brownlow.
Jean-Luc Godard was a prominent member of the French New Wave movement of the 1960s. He has directed over 80 feature length films and continues to direct movies to this day, including his 2010 release Film Socialisme. Many famous directors have cited Godard as an influence with his innovative ways to present color and light and his original, non-linear storytelling. Some of Godard’s most famous films include Breathless, Vivre sa vie, Pierrot le fou, and Week-End. Despite his illustrious career Godard has never previously even been nominated for an Oscar and in a sense the Academy is righting a wrong by awarding him with an honorary Oscar.
Eli Wallach is a 94 year old actor who has appeared in over 100 films including The Magnificent Seven, The Misfits, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and The Godfather, Part III. Despite his age he still continues to appear in films rather frequently and has small roles in two 2010 films – Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer and Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. Wallach has never before received an Academy Award nomination, but he did receive a Golden Globe nomination for his supporting performance in 1957’s Baby Doll.
Kevin Brownlow is well known for his documentaries where he turns the lens on Hollywood and the individuals who made it great. Several of his documentaries include Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic, The Tramp and the Dictator, and D.W. Griffith: The Father of Film. He is also noted for his film restorations and he is partially responsible for the saving of many silent films. He briefly dabbled in narrative filmmaking with an alternative World War II film called It Happened Here wherein the Nazis conquer Britain, but he did not stick to it long enough to earn an Academy Award nomination.
There you have it – two directors, an actor, and a historian. Great legends of cinema finally getting some Oscar recognition.