The Academy’s fifth annual Governors Awards on Nov. 16 were two events in one: A schmooze-fest with a guest list representing decades of film history (Roger Corman and Warren Beatty through Lupita Nyong’o) as well as an emotional tribute to four eminently deserving people. The evening succeeded on both fronts.
The event, held at Hollywood & Highland, had many touching moments but the emotional highlight came with the first presentation. After showing a reel of Angelina Jolie’s global philanthropy, the actress took to the stage to thank her presenters (Bosnian and Serbian actors from her “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” Gena Rowlands and George Lucas), and her family. And she paid special tribute to her mother, who told her she must live “a life of use to others.” Jolie reminded the audience that she is lucky to have basics such as food, shelter and love, as well as a way to use her talents, while many equally talented people are refugees or oppressed people with none of those things.
“We are all, every one of us in this room, so fortunate,” she said. It was a remarkable moment, underlining her great work for the UN and multiple causes (ranging from refugees to gay rights to children’s and women’s health issues) and putting all of our daily tsouris into proper perspective.
Runner-up on the emotional meter was the final award of the evening, to Angela Lansbury, who’s been working since she made her film debut at age 17 in the 1944. Lansbury, looking bouncy and classy, seemed genuinely thrilled at the Oscar, after three nominations and a career that was often frustrating, though present Geoffrey Rush correctly said, after clips of her work “Are you the living definition of ‘range’? When they talk about the golden age of Hollywood, are they really talking about you?” (Emma Thompson also spoke and the award was presented by Robert Osborne.)
The actress thanked some of the greats she’d worked with in her career, which was a jaw-dropping list including Ingrid Bergman, Katharine Hepburn, Orson Welles, Paul Newman, Frank Sinatra, James Earl Jones, George Cukor and John Frankenheimer.
Claudia Cardinale accepted the award for Piero Tosi, costume designer extraordinaire who was not able to attend the ceremony. But a reel including moments from films for which he earned five Oscar nominations (including “The Leopard” and “Death in Venice”) brought a few gasps for their beauty while fellow designers, including Milena Canonero, Jeffrey Kurland and Ann Roth, saluted him as the greatest of the great.
Steve Martin was feted by his high school pal Bill Taylor, Martin Short and Tom Hanks, with a reel showing his work as a standup, actor, writer and musician among other talents. Short deadpanned that the performer was well deserving “of the highest honor an actor can receive in mid-November.” Martin was funny in his speech, but, like the two actresses, he choked up for a moment.
The guest list included Oscarcast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, AMPAS prexy Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson, other Academy honchos, a slew of branch governors and producer of the evening, Paula Wagner. Also there were top studio execs like Jim Gianopulos and Leslie Moonves, as well as actors, directors and writers from virtually every film in this year’s Oscar race.