Saturday, November 13, 2010

All you need to know: Governors Awards

Four will be honored tonight. Three will receive Oscar statuettes and the other, a memorial bust. This is the Academy Awards lite — the 2nd Annual Governors Awards, an untelevised, dinner event put on by the Academy to bestow its testimonial awards.

More intimate and slower-paced than the Brobdingnagian ceremony in February, the Governors Awards honors no more than four industry professionals and allows for lengthly video tributes, along with casual toasting and introductions by closely-connected friends and colleagues of honorees.

The Board of Governors of the Academy voted Aug. 24 to present the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to producer-director Francis Ford Coppola and Honorary Awards to historian and preservationist Kevin Brownlow, director Jean-Luc Godard and actor Eli Wallach.

The honorees
There are more than 500 invited guests to the black-tie dinner event at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center to celebrate the careers of Coppola, Brownlow, Godard and Wallach. The Grand Ballroom also hosts the Governors Ball immediately following the Academy Awards ceremony.

The following biographies were provided by the Academy:

Brownlow is widely regarded as the preeminent historian of the silent film era as well as a preservationist. Among his many silent film restoration projects are Abel Gance’s 1927 epic “Napoleon,” Rex Ingram’s “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (1921) and “The Thief of Bagdad” (1924), starring Douglas Fairbanks. Brownlow has authored, among others, The Parade’s Gone By; The War, the West, and the Wilderness; Hollywood: The Pioneers; Behind the Mask of Innocence; David Lean; and Mary Pickford Rediscovered.His documentaries include “Hollywood,” “Unknown Chaplin,” “Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow,” “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius” and “D.W. Griffith: Father of Film,” all with David Gill; Brownlow also directed “Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic” and “Garbo,” the latter with Christopher Bird.

Coppola began his film career in the early 1960s making low-budget films with 2009 Honorary Award recipient Roger Corman. By the end of the 1970s he had won five Oscars: Best Picture (“The Godfather Part II”); Directing (“The Godfather Part II”) and Writing (“Patton,” “The Godfather,” “The Godfather Part II”). Among his numerous producing credits are “American Graffiti, “Gardens of Stone,” “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” “Jack” and “Tetro.” In 1969 he established American Zoetrope, an independent film studio that helped launch the careers of George Lucas and Carroll Ballard, and has since produced more than 30 films, including “The Black Stallion,” “The Outsiders,” “Lost in Translation” and “The Good Shepherd.”

A key figure in the French New Wave movement, Godard started out writing about cinema before beginning to make his own short films. His influential first feature, “Breathless” (1960), impressed audiences and filmmakers alike with its jazzy take on the American crime film. For fifty years, Godard has continued to write and direct challenging, and sometimes controversial, films that have established his reputation as one of the seminal modernists in the history of cinema. His more than 70 features include “Contempt,” “Alphaville,” “Weekend” and “King Lear.” Godard is also credited with having influenced numerous contemporary directors, including Bernardo Bertolucci, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino.

Born in Brooklyn in 1915, Wallach made his debut film appearance in Elia Kazan’s 1956 feature “Baby Doll,” starring alongside Karl Malden and Carroll Baker. Since then he has starred in more than 50 features including “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Misfits,” “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “The Godfather, Part III” and “The Holiday.” Throughout his lengthy career, Wallach has worked with such directors and actors as Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood, John Ford, Clark Gable, John Huston, Sergio Leone, Marilyn Monroe, Al Pacino, Gregory Peck and Kate Winslet. Wallach will next be seen in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”

The Honorary Award, an Oscar statuette, is given to an individual for “extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”

The Thalberg Award, a bust of the motion picture executive, is given to “a creative producer whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production.”

The drama
After a two-month-long friendly exchange of correspondence with Academy president Tom Sherak, Jean-Luc Godard notified Sherak that he would not be able to attend the awards and receive his Honorary Award in person, the Academy announced Oct. 25.

“He reiterated his thanks for the award,” said Sherak in the press release, “and also sent his good wishes to the other individuals being honored the same night – Kevin Brownlow, Francis Ford Coppola and Eli Wallach – who he refers to as ‘the three other musketeers.’”

The ceremony will still pay tribute to Godard through film clips and commentary by his friends and colleagues. The Academy will accept the award on his behalf and will send his statuette to his home in Switzerland. Over the past decades, Godard has rarely accepted honors in person, according to The Wrap.

The producers
Sid Ganis, the Academy’s immediate past president, will produce tonight’s awards. Ganis represents the Public Relations Branch on the Board of Governors. He founded Out of the Blue...Entertainment in 1996, following a career as an executive at several major studios. His producer credits include “Akeelah and the Bee,” “Big Daddy” and “Mr. Deeds.”

Don Mischer will join Ganis in producing Governors Awards. Mischer is also on tap to executive produce and direct the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony. He was also executive producer for this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, his 10th turn as executive producer of the Emmys.

The inaugural year
Honorees at the inaugural Governors Awards, held Nov. 14, 2009, were producer-executive John Calley (Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award) actress Lauren Bacall (pictured), producer-director Roger Corman and cinematographer Gordon Willis. The latter three received Honorary Awards. The presentation was produced by Oscar-winning producer Bruce Cohen, who is one of the producers of next year’s Oscars ceremony.

Other previous recipients were Jerry Lewis (Hersholt Award) at the 81st Academy Awards in February 2009, Robert Boyle (Honorary Award) at the 80th Academy Awards in February 2008 and Dino De Laurentiis (Thalberg Award) at the 73rd Academy Awards in March 2001.

The Board of Governors of the Academy voted in June 2009 to establish the Governors Awards, an annual event dedicated to presenting its testimonial awards – the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the Honorary Award. Honorees are selected and announced in September and presented their awards in November. They are also acknowledged at the following Academy Awards ceremony.

The awards were created on the heels of increased pressure to fittingly honor the award winners and keep the Academy Awards ceremony, at which the testimonial awards were bestowed, to a manageable length.

“For some years now, the Board has struggled to balance the desire to truly honor worthy individuals with the time limitations that the Oscar telecast imposes on these honors,” then-Academy President Sid Ganis was quoted in the press release. “By creating a separate event for recognizing these outstanding people in the movie industry, we’re insuring that each honoree will be given his or her full due, without compromise.”

The presenters
The Academy is keeping mum as to the presenters at tonight’s ceremony. Oscar® winners Jonathan Demme, Anjelica Huston and Quentin Tarantino, along with past Honorary Award recipient Kirk Douglas, were a few of the presenters last year.

Live coverage of the ceremony tonight is available via the Academy’s twitter account. The Gold Knight will recap the night tomorrow.

More information about the Governors Awards can be found on the Academy website.

Photo credits
Brownlow: Todd Wawrychuk / © A.M.P.A.S.; Coppola: Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.; Godard: Courtesy of Getty Images Entertainment; Wallach: Courtesy of Margaret Herrick Library.
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