By Tim Gray, Variety
Creativity and longevity were the key words Saturday night at the eighth annual Governors Awards, as Oscars were handed to four individuals who collectively represented about 225 years of film experience.
Honorees were Jackie Chan, editor Anne V. Coates, casting director Lynn Stalmaster and documentarian Frederick Wiseman at Hollywood & Highland.
At the cocktail reception and the pre-dinner schmoozing, the conversation was dominated by the Nov. 8 election of Donald Trump, as well as handicapping the current awards season, with most of the films in contention being represented.
However, politics and the 2016 awards took a back seat once the 75-minute ceremony started, with knockout clip montages and verbal tributes to the four honorees.
Chan, looking about the same age as he did in the 1970s scenes of his work, climaxed the evening with the shortest and most exuberant speech, saying that years ago, he saw an Oscar at Sylvester Stallone’s house, and knew he wanted one of his own. Now, 50 years, 200 films and many broken bones later, he had one.
In introductory remarks, Tom Hanks compared him to John Wayne and Buster Keaton, and described him as “Chan-tastic.” Chan thanked the people of Hong Kong and said he was proud to be Chinese. He ended his brief remarks by thanking his fans.
The ceremony began with a trophy to Lynn Stalmaster, the first casting director to ever be given an Oscar. (The Academy added a casting director branch a few years ago, but so far, there is no category for an award.) Visibly moved, Stalmaster saluted the many directors he worked with, including Billy Wilder, Robert Wise, William Wyler, Mike Nichols, Norman Jewison, Sydney Pollack and Blake Edwards.
There were audible gasps at the spectacular footage from Lawrence of Arabia, part of the tribute to editor Anne Coates, who started out as an assistant on the classic The Red Shoes. Nicole Kidman said that the film industry often salutes directors, but editors are the “unsung heroes” of the industry.
In the Wiseman clips, a voice marveled that he has made 41 films, he’s in his 80s “and he still holds the boom!” Don Cheadle presented the award, praising Wiseman for his empathetic studies of various American institutions, adding, “In these times, there’s nothing more important than empathy.”
The event was produced by David Rubin. Repping the Academy were numerous governors, plus AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson.
The audience was jam-packed with Hollywood notables who represented a cross-section of Hollywood, from vets like Warren Beatty and Bruce Dern to 21st century game-changers including Ava DuVernay and Megan Ellison.
The roster included directors of current awards contenders, including Tom Ford, Pedro Almodovar, Juan Antonio Bayona, Warren Beatty, Damien Chazelle, Kief Davidson, Barry Jenkins, Garth Jennings, Travis Knight, Pablo Larrain, Kenneth Lonergan, David Mackenzie, Matt Ross and Morten Tyldum.
The impressive list of attendees also included Jeff Bridges, Viola Davis, Alexandre Desplat, Andrew Garfield, Hugh Grant, Rebecca Hall, Naomie Harris, Lucas Hedges, Traji P. Henson, Isabelle Huppert, Felicity Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Viggo Mortensen, Lupita Nyong’o, Dev Patel, Ryan Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Emma Stone, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Jennifer Todd, Vince Vaughn and Michelle Yeoh.
Executives included Michael Barker, Bob Berney, Howard Cohen, Megan Colligan, Jim Gianopulos, Steve Gilula, Josh Goldstine, Ted Hope, Jeremy Kleiner, Donna Langley, John Lasseter, Chris Meledandri, Ron Meyers, Terry Press, Jason Ropell, Jeff Shell, Stacey Snider and Nancy Utley.
The evening’s approach was in contrast to the past two years, when the appreciation and affection were mixed with electrifying speeches by Harry Belafonte and Spike Lee about the film industry’s lack of diversity/inclusion.
The closest thing to those comments were in the very subtle introductory remarks by Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. She drew applause with her comment that industry decision-makers need to “hire, recruit and mentor” a new generation who will represent the world population because “inclusion isn’t just a favor for anyone; it’s a strategic imperative.”
She also said the the great film work represented by the quartet “remind us how in uncertain times, movies connect us, change us, unify us.”
In 2009, the Academy broke out the Governors Awards into a separate, untelevised ceremony; the Oscarcast time constraints limited the number of honorees and the time devoted to each. So the separate ceremony was an experiment, but an immediate success.
Oscar strategists quickly learned that it was a key stop in the campaign, since there are hundreds of Academy voters in one room.