×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sci-Tech Awards marked by remembrance

Academy's Saturday event honors Trumbull, Lowry, Noffke

Saturday night’s Academy Scientific and Technical Awards banquet was marked by emotional remembrances of departed friends, a passionate defense of the Academy’s mission to encourage excellence, and a call for the entire movie industry to rediscover the spectacle and showmanship that makes watching movies in theaters irresistible.

The evening included the presentation of Oscar statuettes to Douglas Trumbull, who received the Sawyer Award for a career that includes groundbreaking visual effects, directing, and pioneering technology; and to the team that built the ARRI laser scanner, which had received an Academy Plaque in 2001 but was “upgraded,” as the Acad sometimes does when an innovation stands the test of time.

Because honorees are announced in advance and their families are present, the Sci-Techs are always among the most intimate of kudofests. Saturday’s presentation was more emotional than most because two men were being honored posthumously: Dr. Jurgen Noffke, honored for the ARRI Zeiss Master Prime Lenses, died last year; and John Lowry, honored for the digital image restoration process that bears his name, died suddenly 21 days before the presentation. Noffke and Lowry were remembered at the podium by the teams that shared their awards. Lowry’s widow took to the stage with his fellow winners to collect his Plaque. Trumbull, in his remarks, spoke of his future plans and said sadly “I was counting on John. That’s a tough one.”

Trumbull’s plans include making a movie with his Showscan Digital process and combining high frame rates, laser projection, high-gain screens to upgrade the movie experience. “I am trying to find a way to make a movie you are in, rather than looking at,” he said.

He called on the industry to rethink its next steps so it makes and presents movies that demand to be seen on the bigscreen, not on mobile devices, laptops and tablets. “I think we can make movies … so people will (say) ‘I want to go out to the movies tonight, because it’s so big, it’s so grand, it’s so spectacular, and there’s so much showmanship that I want to go out to the movies.'”

Jonathan Erland, winner of the Bonner medal for service to the Academy, talked at length about the historical mission of the Academy to encourage excellence. He recalled the founders of the Academy itself, the previous winners of the Bonner medal and the tech pioneers he’d known and worked with, many now dead, including Doug Trumbull’s father, Don Trumbull

Erland called on the Acad to remember the how important its mission is amidst the rapid technological and business change swirling around the movie industry. “There’s an ancient Chinese curse: May you life in interesting times,” said Bonner. “We’re past interesting. We’re all the way to white-knuckle fascinating.”

He reminded the gathering the main Oscarcast is supposed to support the Academy’s mission and rejected the idea that entire org needs a new vision.

“If our Academy still stands for excellence in motion pictures, and it must,” he said, “then the real task before us is to manage the trends, such that motion pictures stay relevant to the Academy’s mission and the ideals we espouse, not the other way about. When all motion pictures are excellent, then we can talk about a new vision for this Academy.”

Erland noted that he and other founding members of the Acad’s revived Science and Technology Council are soon to term out. He said he and others are in the process of setting up an institute for motion picture studies that will cooperate with other orgs, including the Acad.

The Sci-Tech banquet was once notorious for its gleefully cheesy entertainment, but those days are gone. Saturday night Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performed three songs, including their Oscar-winning “Falling Slowly.” With the main Oscarcast now planning to eschew song performances, that made the Sci-Techs the only Academy Award presentation this season to feature a live performance of a Best Song winner. Onstage, Hansard dedicated part of a song to the late Whitney Houston, and also saluted the late Ronnie Chasen, whom he said “was also very very good to us.”

Milla Jovovich was the presenter and host for the evening. She struggled at times with the jargon on her teleprompter, as all Sci-Tech presenters do, but won over the attendees with her warmth and enthusiasm. With no TV clock demanding they hustle offstage, every winner got his moment at the microphone to hail their fellow “nerds,” and “geeks” and apologize to wives and children for the long hours they’d put in. More than one honoree said he hoped this would inspire his children. Andy Jantzen of Vision Research, collecting a Plaque for the Phantom high-speed camera, said to his children “The work your grandparents started in 1950 is not done. The work continues.”

Acad prexy Tom Sherak, at his final Sci-Tech banquet before his term ends, said he’d had time to ponder the oft-repeated idea that Academy President is the best unpaid job in the industry. He said that this Awards season, he realized why it was so: “I got to meet (Honorary Oscar winner) Richard Smith, and I got to meet Doug Trumbull.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • BETWEEN TWO FERNS, 2019, PH_0027.RAF

    Film Review: 'Between Two Ferns: The Movie'

    If you’re a fan of “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis,” the fake public-access talk show that Zach Galifianakis has been hosting online, for three to six minutes a pop, over the last 10 years, then you’ll probably like “Between Two Ferns: The Movie,” the snark-lite 82-minute road movie that Galifianakis and his director and [...]

  • The Irishman

    Martin Scorsese, Frances McDormand, Donald Sutherland Join Lineup of France's Lumiere Festival

    Martin Scorsese’s eagerly awaited Netflix movie “The Irishman” wasn’t completed on time to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival, but Thierry Fremaux, Cannes’s topper, managed to pin down the high-profile movie and Scorsese himself for the upcoming Lumiere festival in Lyon next month. Dedicated to heritage movies, the Lumiere festival was created 10 years [...]

  • 'Aladdin' Star Mena Massoud Calls for

    'Aladdin' Star Mena Massoud Calls for a Broader Diversity of Storytelling in Movies and TV

    The star of “Aladdin,” Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud, called for a greater diversity of storytelling in movies and television when he spoke at the glamorous opening ceremony Thursday of the 3rd edition of Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival. Massoud, whose credits include Amazon’s “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” and Hulu’s “Reprisal,” lauded “the power of art” [...]

  • 4127_D015_00199_RC(l-r) Laura Carmichael stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Beats 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo: Last Blood' on Thursday Night

    “Downton Abbey,” the movie continuation of the hit TV series centering on the Crawley family, has won Thursday previews with $2.1 million from 2,800 North American locations. Meanwhile, Brad Pitt’s space drama “Ad Astra” has launched with $1.5 million in previews, while Sylvester Stallone’s action-thriller “Rambo: Last Blood” scooped up $1.3 million at nearly 2,900 [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Benedict Andrews (L) and US actress

    Kristen Stewart on the 'Insane Gall' of Directors as 'Seberg' Arrives in San Sebastian

    SAN SEBASTIAN – On Friday, Kristen Stewart and Benedict Andrews’ political thriller “Seberg” plays at the 67th San Sebastian Film Festival, where it opens Perlak, a section dedicated to the Spanish premieres of major international films. The star and her director addressed the media prior to the screening in the festival’s first high-profile press conference, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content