New host, entertainment puts shine on Saturday ceremony

Much of the Academy’s Scientific & Technical Award fete Saturday night was de rigueur, with an annual gathering of Hollywood’s leading technologists, an elegant multi-course dinner and a live band. But Marisa Tomei added the cachet of a past Oscar winner as host.

Tomei acknowledged, as she took the stage, that she would be speaking “words I’ll never utter again in my lifetime” as she read the technical jargon describing the honorees’ accomplishments. But she sailed through it fluently and even bantered a bit with a boisterous table of staffers from visual effects house Rhythm & Hues.

The R&H group was there to cheer on the honorees for Queue, queue management software developed at the facility. Four queue management innovations received Academy certificates, representing work done at Digital Domain, Pixar and Industrial Light & Magic in addition to R&H.

Arnauld Lamorlette got probably the biggest laugh of the evening as he accepted for his work (with Eric Tabellion) on global illumination for visual effects and animation. After thanking the Acad for the award, he said he wanted to thank them for something else: “As you may know, an American medical journal wrote that Academy Award winners have a life expectancy 3.9 years greater than nonwinners. Combine that with the French medical system and a glass of red wine every day, and I’ll live to be 100.”

Effects vet John Frazier, accepting an Academy plaque for the NAC servo winch system, said, “I’ve had a few awards and nominations, but this makes the 47 years in this business worthwhile.”

An emotional moment came as the inventors of the Cablecam suspended camera system took to the stage to accept their Academy plaque, some six years after receiving a certificate for the same system. James Rodnunsky was helped to the stage, and his co-inventor Alex MacDonald explained Rodnunsky was fighting brain cancer. Rodnunsky thanked the Acad and said he hoped to be back again.

Denny Clairmont received the John Bonner Medal for service to the Academy. Clairmont, whose father was a d.p., appeared in 56 films as a child before becoming a camera technician, d.p. and topper of Clairmont Camera, where he has been a mainstay of camera innovation.

Acad prexy Tom Sherak also announced a new membership status, Academy Science Fellow, for tech stalwarts who have completed their terms on the Science & Technology Council but who wish to remain a resource for the Acad. No more than three Fellows will be named each year; the inaugural trio are Richard B. Glickman, Tak Miyagishima and Donald Rogers.

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