Presenting honorary Oscars at a separate event, held in November, has proven to be a win-win for the Academy and the worthy recipients. It also gathers a formidable array of Hollywood A-listers in one room. Everywhere you turn you see a famous face; Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Kirk Douglas, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty just for starters. Wanting to soak it all in, I didn’t shoot as many photos as I should have, I suppose, but I did capture a few special moments—as when Quentin Tarantino bantered with Sidney Poitier after the official ceremony wrapped up. Quentin joked about casting him in a film, which would make a lot of people happy, I’m sure.
Tarantino presented this year’s award to stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham, and did so with his trademark enthusiasm, referring to Smokey and the Bandit as one of the most entertaining features ever made by a debuting director.
In a similar vein, Oscar’s bad boy Michael Moore, now a driving force on the Academy’s documentary committee, gave a heartfelt introduction to D.A. Pennebaker, emphasizing the fact that we were in the presence of a true pioneer—the man who took the camera off its tripod in the groundbreaking documentaries he made with such colleagues as Robert Drew, Richard Leacock, and his wife Chris Hegedus on such films as Monterey Pop, the classic Bob Dylan profile Don’t Look Back, and Startup.com.
Pennebaker gave a long and winding acceptance speech, but unlike the Oscar telecast, no orchestra played him off the stage. Anyone who didn’t have the patience to listen to this still-vital filmmaker talk about his experiences didn’t belong in that room.
George Stevens Jr. gave a warm, personal talk about his family’s show-business heritage—including grandmother Alice Howell, who costarred in some of Charlie Chaplin’s first films for Mack Sennett in 1914. He also recalled the first time he attended the Academy Awards, while his father was overseas during World War II. Stevens has saluted so many people through the AFI Life Achievement Award and the Kennedy Center Honors that it was nice to see his work recognized this way.
Will Smith was very funny describing how Jeffrey Katzenberg sneaks up on him—and many others in Hollywood—when he wants a contribution for a worthy cause. Although his job at DreamWorks Animation keeps him busy, he is a tireless fundraiser for the Motion Picture and Television Fund and other organizations. Clearly, he is the kind of guy you want batting for your team.
In addition to friends and family of the four Oscar winners last Saturday night, a good many of this year’s potential nominees were on hand, and since there is no tension in the room everyone is happy to chat. That makes it a pretty heady experience for my wife and me.
I’ve always enjoyed talking to the prodigiously talented composer Alexandre Desplat, whose work I admire so much. This year alone he provided music for Moonrise Kingdom, Rust and Bone, Argo, Rise of the Guardians, and Zero Dark Thirty. I told him I had a strange experience last week—seeing a new movie he didn’t score! When, later on, I saw him chatting animatedly with Quincy Jones, I pulled out my camera and took a couple of candid shots; then these two musical giants posed for me. The resulting photo makes me smile, and I hope you like it, too.
To see the Academy’s own coverage of this year’s Governors Awards, with photos and streaming video, click HERE.