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Academy Governors Meet to Pick Oscar Show Producers and Governors Awards Winners

Academy Governors Meet to Pick Oscar Show Producers and Governors Awards Winners

Now that musical producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have signed off running the Oscar telecast after a three-year stint that peaked with selfie-taking Ellen DeGeneres in 2014 and descended from there, Hollywood is waiting to find out who their replacements will be for the Oscar show on February 28, 2016. The vote takes place at the August 24 meeting of the Academy Board of Governors, where the likes of Tom Hanks, Annette Bening, John Lasseter, Amy Pascal, Kathleen Kennedy, Alex Gibney and Mark Johnson will vote for the next Oscar producers. 

With that choice comes a possible change in direction: the Academy is under some pressure from ABC to improve their declining ratings. (The 2015 show hosted by Neil Patrick Harris was down from 2014’s 43 million by almost 15 percent, or 36.6 million viewers.) Some ludicrous proposals have been made over the years to turn the Oscars into something more resembling the Grammies, MTV Movie Awards or the admittedly entertaining Golden Globes. The Governors should just say no and steer the course, which involves trumpeting the year’s accomplishments while having fun and staying classy. Thumbs down on James Franco and Anne Hathaway and bad boy Seth Macfarlane; thumbs up on veteran insiders Ellen Degeneres, Billy Crystal and Steve Martin, the recipient of this year’s AFI Life Achievement Award (which probably puts him out of the running for wanting to host an awards show). 

But good producers are hard to find, because they are usually in demand. Veteran producer Michael Shamberg (“Freeheld”) has been floated, along with Playtone partners Gary Goetzman and Tom Hanks, and Academy president Cheryl Boone-Isaacs’s choice, producer Reginald Hudlin (“Django Unchained”), who did a fine job of wrangling the last Governors’ awards. The best producers in recent memory (aside from the late great Laura Ziskin), Bill Condon and Laurence Mark, aren’t available until 2017. 
Truth is that picking youth-demo-friendly hosts with comedy chops makes little difference outside the room–audiences tune in to see hit movies like “American Sniper,” period. So the Academy should be hoping that commercial-looking studio festival entries like Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies,” starring Tom Hanks, Ridley Scott’s “The Martian,” starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, Bob Zemeckis’s “The Walk” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Gordon Green’s “This Brand is Crisis,” starring Sandra Bullock, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s “Steve Jobs,” starring Michael Fassbender, and Baltasar Kormakur’s “Everest” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jason Clarke, turn out to be robust Oscar contenders. Otherwise ABC will be left with the little indies that could. 

The Governors will also vote on the next (un-televised) Governors Awards, honorary Oscars (often including the coveted Thalberg and the Hersholt humanitarian award) which will be given out on November 14 at Hollywood and Highland. Every year industry folks lobby the Academy governors with their candidates, and sometimes they get their way. Over the years Mike Kaplan, a publicists branch Academy member, has successfully lobbied for Lillian Gish, Robert Altman and John Ford’s favorite actress Maureen O’Hara, who collected her gold man last year.

READ MORE: Maureen O’Hara and the Road to the Academy Governors Awards

You know exactly what they’re looking for: someone who is still respected, if not revered. Francis Ford Coppola, John Calley and Dino DeLaurentiis have collected the Thalberg in recent years; Harry Belafonte, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Angelina Jolie have accepted the Hersholt. Last year Japanese animation giant Hayao Miyazaki and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere joined O’Hara on the Governors Awards podium. 

I once wrote in on behalf of visionary VFX master Dennis Muren, who has been delivering wondrous works at ILM since “Star Wars,” and I still hope they come through. His problem is that he’s won so many Oscars (six) that the Governors can be forgiven for wanting to award someone who has been undeservedly overlooked. Maybe it’s time to give one to cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has been nominated 12 times and never won, or composer Thomas Newman, who is also 0 for 12, but both are still at the height of their powers and could still eventually earn a gold statuette on their own. 

Stars of a certain age –like 2008 recipient Lauren Bacall–who have never won acting Oscars include French stars Catherine Deneuve (one nomination) and never-nominated Jeanne Moreau, Gena Rowlands (two), Annette Bening (four), Harrison Ford (one), Glenn Close (six), Albert Finney (five), and Bette Midler (two). A Thalberg candidate whose name keeps popping up is producer Alan Ladd, Jr.

Among the deserving directors who could be on the list this year are Ridley Scott (three), never-nominated Michael Apted, recent doc branch member Agnes Varda and Richard Lester, Phil Kaufman (one), Tim Burton (two animated feature noms), and Peter Weir (four directing noms, one screenwriting and one best picture nom). 

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