On Saturday evening, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will bestow three Honorary Oscars, and one Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The reception will be held at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland. In just a few years, the ceremony has transformed from an interesting experiment to one of the highlights of awards season.
The four recipients also represent the Academy’s push to better represent global filmmaking: Of the four, only Harry Belafonte was born in the U.S.
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award recipient Harry Belafonte has been an activist for his six-decade career, working with Martin Luther King Jr., advocating Ethiopian famine relief, fighting South Africa apartheid and recently speaking out on behalf of Trayvon Martin and demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo. He’s faced heavy blowback for a number of his positions, yet Belafonte says the costs of speaking out were far less onerous than the costs of staying silent.
“I can hardly say that my life has been punished because of the stands that I’ve taken,” he says. “I’ve often sat down with young black artists who are quite successful, who in their praise of the positions I’ve taken talk with some sense of regret that I should have paid such a price for them. And I hasten to console them, ‘Hold your pity. You wake up every morning and talk to your agent to see how your box office is doing. In my day I woke up every day and talked to Nelson Mandela. Tell me who had the better deal?’ ”
— Andrew Barker
Prolific and perverse: Those words sum up the career of French novelist, screenwriter and actor Jean-Claude Carriere, best known for his nearly two-decade collaboration with Luis Bunuel.
He wrote “Diary of a Chambermaid” and “Belle de jour” for the surrealist director, paving the way for scripts most would have thought unfilmable: “Max mon amour,” in which Charlotte Rampling falls for a chimpanzee; “Liza,” about a man who orders Catherine Deneuve to replace his dog; and “Birth,” wherein Nicole Kidman believes her dead husband is reincarnated as a 10-year-old-boy.
Carriere got his start writing the novelizations for Jacques Tati films, earned his lone Oscar for the short “Heureux anniversaire,” and adapted such tricky novels as “The Tin Drum” and “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” for the screen. The rabble-rouser’s career is amazing, yet he’s not a household name — a situation the Academy will help correct.
— Peter Debruge
When “My Neighbor Totoro” was released in the States, it was distributed by none other than Troma Films, the exploitation shingle responsible for “The Toxic Avenger.”
Times have changed. Anime has found a worldwide audience and Hayao Miyazaki is recognized as the master of the form. Like so many Miyazaki characters, Totoro brings a dash of magic to an environmentally conscious message, evident in such toons as “Princess Mononoke,” “Spirited Away” and “Ponyo.”
A new documentary, “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness,” depicts Miyazaki at work on his final film, “The Wind Rises.” Whereas many of his peers have turned to computer animation, Miyazaki still draws every scene by hand, but has decided to retire from feature filmmaking, leaving the fate of Studio Ghibli in question. “I still plan on doing small projects with paper and pencils, but no more feature films,” he tells Variety.
— Peter Debruge
Maureen O’Hara has been living quietly in Boise, Idaho, with her grandson and his children. Asked how she spends her day, the star of such classics as “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Parent Trap” and “How Green Was My Valley,” says she could answer rudely but won’t.
O’Hara, who made an appearance at the TCM fest in Los Angeles last year, says she likes meeting with her fans. “I’m thrilled when they do, when they talk of ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ I’m unhappy that they don’t remember every tiny detail but I’m delighted when they come up and talk.”
Her fave among her films is “ ‘The Quiet Man,’ of course,” but she can’t say that of all her films. “Making a movie is wonderful and exciting,” she says. “In Hollywood sometimes you worked on stinkers, but you had to because it was your job.”
As for fans’ contention that the Honorary Oscar being bestowed by the Academy is past due, she says simply: “I agree.”
— Shalini Dore