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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Are honorary Oscars bullshit?

Recently the recipients of this year’s honorary Oscars were announced: actor Eli Wallach, film historian and preservationist Kevin Brownlow, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, and director Jean-Luc Godard. It seems, however, that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been unable to get in touch with Godard to let him know about his win.

Matt Zoller Seitz at Salon calls Godard’s thumbing his nose at Hollywood “delightful”:

I love this. Normally the academy says, “Jump,” and almost any director alive says, “How high?” Godard can’t be bothered. In fact he can’t be found. Whatever one thinks of his output — and I’ve found something to like or dislike in every phase of his long career — there’s something heartening, perhaps inspirational, in his blasé refusal to do things according to the memo. He’s too old for that — too Godard for that.

Landon Palmer at Film School Rejects is more blunt:

But like a university that seeks the acquisition of a bigger endowment by giving an honorary doctorate to a wealthy celebrity, an Honorary Oscar for Godard benefits the Academy more than Godard himself. An Honorary Oscar for Godard functions as a form of cultural capital for the Academy: a quick and insincere acquisition of false credibility by pretending to honor a convention-bending foreign filmmaker.

Besides this award being part of the “Holy shit, he’s still alive?!” variety, the Honorary Oscar for Godard displays the acts of contempt (pun intended) inherent in the Academy’s means of bestowing lifetime achievement awards and in recognizing important foreign cinema. As the Honorary Oscar acts as a way for the Academy to recognize important work that they previously ignored, it also continues to prove how inaccurate the organization is and how little the ceremony matters in being able to identify which films or filmic artists are artistically, historically, and culturally important in-the-moment, as the significance of many movies become apparent well after the fact, independently of whether or not they were recognized by the Academy.

Palmer’s headline, perhaps, says it all: “Honorary Oscars are Bullsh*t and Godard Knows It.”

What do you think? Are honorary Oscars bullshit?

One telling hint: Honorary Oscars used to be given out during the televised broadcast, when all the world — or at least all the movie was — was watching. This year, these four awards will be bestowed during a nontelevised dinner months before the regular Oscar show.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • Martin

    Of course. Because if someone deserves it, they should’ve won one fair and square.

    But I think that Landon summed it up perfectly, it’s proof that the Academy Awards don’t work like they should.

  • Hank Graham

    Yes, they are bullshit. But so are the Oscars. So what?

  • RogerBW

    Yup, Palmer has it: not only are they bullshit, the fact that they’re necessary is proof that the main system doesn’t do what it claims to do.

    Time to abolish the things before the Academy becomes even more of a laughing stock than it already is.

  • Chris

    The Oscars are a joke in general. But even if they weren’t, Godard doesn’t need them to induct him into their club to validate the worth of his work, and he knows it. Accolades are nice, but he has every reason to ignore the Academy. And considering it’s well known that Godard has always despised Hollywood, I’m not sure why they’re bothering.

  • Yes the honorary Oscar is bull (just look at the travesty of Edward G Robinson’s career: total awesomeness but not even a NOMINATION for an acting trophy). But still and all if I had my druthers Christopher Lee would be getting a Lifetime Achievement…

  • Shadowen

    As Hank Graham said, so are the regular Oscars. The honorary Oscar is nothing more than a way of saying to legends of the business, “Sorry that our internal politics fucked you. Here’s a shiny gold statue that you didn’t have to compete for.”

    It’s like those “Participant” ribbons or trophies you get in elementary school.

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