Thursday, August 28, 2014

Miyazaki, O'Hara and Others to Receive Honorary Oscars

While Oscar season doesn't officially start until next week, the Academy has already announced the recipients of the annual Governor's Awards. The four that were selected reflect a wide array of talent within the world of cinema and have contributed to its overall growth. But who are these individuals that have won? What do we remember them from? Here is a quick rundown of their Oscar history and why they are deserving of this year's awards. 

(All biographies are credited to the Oscars Press Release)

Jean-Claude Carriere 

Oscar Wins: 1
- Best Live Action Short (Happy Anniversary)

Carrière, who began his career as a novelist, was introduced to screenwriting by French comedian and filmmaker Pierre Étaix, with whom he shared an Oscar for the live action short subject Heureux Anniversaire (Happy Anniversary) in 1962.  He received two more nominations during his nearly two-decade collaboration with director Luis Buñuel, for the screenplays for The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and That Obscure Object of Desire.  Carrière also has collaborated notably with such directors as Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum), Jean-Luc Godard (Every Man for Himself) and Andrzej Wajda (Danton).  He earned a fourth Oscar nomination for The Unbearable Lightness of Being with director Philip Kaufman.

Hayao Miyazaki

Oscar Wins: 1
- Best Animated Film (Spirited Away)

Miyazaki is an artist, writer, director, producer and three-time Oscar nominee in the Animated Feature Film category, winning in 2002 for Spirited Away.  His other nominations were for Howl's Moving Castle in 2005 and The Wind Rises last year. Miyazaki gained an enormous following in his native Japan for such features as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service before breaking out internationally in the late 1990s with Princess Mononoke.  He is the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, a renowned animation studio based in Tokyo.

Author's Note: I am rather excited about this one. While he has won an Oscar before, I feel like his recognition to the animated medium has been greatly unrecognized thanks in large part to the Best Animated Film category not existing for a large fraction of his career. Even then, he continued to churn out high caliber films well to the end. The Wind Rises remains an overlooked gem of animation and put most of the other nominees that year to shame. I am glad to see him getting recognition for such an impressive career that not only is a touchstone in world cinema, it is likely the gateway for audiences outside of American studio films.

Maureen O'Hara

Oscar Wins: 0

O'Hara, a native of Dublin, Ireland, came to Hollywood in 1939 to star opposite Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  She went on to appear in a wide range of feature films, including the swashbucklers The Black Swan and Sinbad the Sailor, the dramas This Land Is Mine and A Woman's Secret, the family classics Miracle on 34th Street and The Parent Trap, the spy comedy Our Man in Havana and numerous Westerns.  She was a favorite of director John Ford, who cast her in five of his films, including How Green Was My Valley, Rio Grande and The Quiet Man.

Author's Note: While she was never even nominated, this is a particularly interesting selection. I am not entirely familiar with O'Hara, but she has been a lot of interesting films, including a bunch by Oscar-winning director John Ford. I am curious to see how she will be handled, considering that she has appeared in Best Picture winner How Green Was My Valley.

Harry Belafonte

Oscar Wins: 0

An actor, producer, singer and lifelong activist, Belafonte began performing in theaters and nightclubs in and around Harlem, where he was born.  From the beginning of his film career, he chose projects that shed needed light on racism and inequality, including Carmen JonesOdds against Tomorrow and The World, the Flesh and the Devil.  He was an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, marching and organizing alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and often funding initiatives with his entertainment income.  Belafonte was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1987 and currently serves on the boards of the Advancement Project and the Institute for Policy Studies.  His work on behalf of children, education, famine relief, AIDS awareness and civil rights has taken him all over the world.

The ceremony will be held on November 8

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