Huge Turnout of 2012 Oscar Hopefuls Shows Governors Awards Isn't Just for Old-Timers (Analysis)
Oscars: Who Deserves The Academy's Governors Awards (Analysis)
When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in 2009 that it was removing the presentation of honorary Oscars from the Oscars telecast and creating a separate, un-televised night for them that would take place months earlier, many lovers of film history, including me, were outraged. It appeared that the organization, which was founded in large part to preserve and protect film history, was selling its soul to ABC, the network that airs the Oscars, which has constantly pressured them to produce a shorter show and one that attracts higher ratings, particularly among young people. "Throw out the dance numbers, the song performances, the shorts categories, the "in memoriam" montage, or virtually anything else," I felt, "but please don't throw out the one segment of the show that celebrates the greats of the past just because their names are not already familiar to most people in the 18-to-35 demographic."
Four years later, I remain saddened that more members of the general public -- especially young people -- are not more exposed to film history through the Oscars telecast. But I must also acknowledge that the Academy's idea of scheduling a separate evening specifically for the presentation of honorary Oscars has turned out to be another wonderful -- albeit much more insular -- way of celebrating film history. The Governors Awards ceremony enables the Academy to honor more worthy people each year than they ever could have when the honorary Oscars were presented as part of the telecast. And, because it is not telecast anywhere, it allows each of those people to be feted by family, friends, and colleagues and accept their honor in a way that is often frank, funny, and leisurely -- sometimes too leisurely, in fact. (17 rambling minutes later we still love you, D.A. Pennebaker!)
Interestingly to me, it has also exposed more of the industry's top current talent to more of the greats who paved the way for them. Why? Because, unlike when the honorary Oscars were presented as part of the main telecast and many of today's actors and directors treated them as a good time to trade seats with a seat-filler and head to the lobby bar or bathroom, the Governors Awards are an event that today's hottest young talent clamor to attend. Why? Because the Academy, either inadvertently or ingeniously, has put them on the calendar each year in November or December, just as Academy members are getting ready to start filling out their nomination ballots, and, as you might imagine, you can't turn around at the Governors Awards without bumping into a half-dozen Academy members.
Now, virtually every studio and distributor pays big bucks to the Academy to buy a table or tables at the Governors Awards, which they can then fill with Oscar hopefuls from their films, along with publicists (to make sure that they are introduced to voters during the cocktail hour that precedes the show and periodic lulls in the action during the show) and sometimes, in full disclosure, lucky journalists (thank you for my seat this year, DreamWorks Animation).
In other words, it's not a coincidence that a ton of people vying for Oscar nominations this awards season showed up at this year's Governors Awards -- certainly more than ever before. (Well, it is something of a coincidence in a few cases, such as Kathryn Bigelow and Tom Hanks, who probably would have been there anyway since they serve on the Academy's Board of Governors, and Steven Spielberg, who was asked to sit at the table of honoree Jeffrey Katzenberg.) As you can see from a list that I put together of the folks that I spotted during the ceremony, virtually every major Oscar contender was represented.