Sunday, November 15, 2015

Check This Out: Watch Clips From This Year's Governors Awards Ceremony

Spike Lee
This past Saturday marked the 7th annual Governors Awards, which was created to highlight those receiving Honorary Oscars for their work in film and media. As with every year, the selections reflected a diverse yet creative mix of artists, including Gena Rowlands, Debbie Reynolds, and Spike Lee. Along with being a typical ceremony, each winner was presented with a tribute from his or her peers - all of whom provided lively and comical anecdotes about their friends. Thanks to the folks over at Oscars' YouTube page,  you can watch all of the videos from that event, including an introduction from President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. The following is a highlight of the evening, including the speeches in full.

The night began with the familiar introduction from Isaacs, who highlighted the significant of the ceremony. Among her many points was a momentary yet respectful mention of the Paris, France bombings that had happened the day prior. However, it's hard to ignore a point that she made towards the end of her speech regarding diversity. 

Earlier this year, The Academy came under fire for notoriously nominating only white people in the four acting categories. It spawned the Twitter tag "Oscars So White" and caused many to protest The Academy in general. During her speech, Isaacs mentioned this event by also introducing a new initiative called A2020: a plan to help make Hollywood more diverse, whether by gender or race. She hopes to unleash the plan over the next five years. Hopefully, it will show some results in the process.

Among those presented was Debbie Reynolds, most famously known for the musical Singin' in the Rain. Along with a tribute by Jane Fonda, the actress was also honored by Meryl Streep - who highlighted her influence in the community. 

Unlike the other performers, Reynolds was unable to attend the ceremony. This resulted in the award being accepted by her granddaughter Billie Lord. In a candid speech, Lord noted that Reynolds was the leader of her family and that her absence was a rare occurrence. She expressed gratitude and hoped to have the award displayed in a secret trophy room that she claimed that Reynolds had built for this occasion.

There was also Gena Rowlands, whose presentation was itself a family affair. Along with Laura Linney giving a story of her personal experiences with Rowlands, her son Nick Cassavettes (The Notebook) came up and became very candid about his mother. He told personal stories from his childhood, but focused specifically on when he filmed his mother in The Notebook. It was also the start of a very comical exchange, including Cassavettes making note that this was the first Oscar that the entire family had ever received.

It also set the mood nicely for Rowlands, who was just as spry as her son. During her speech, she made sure to acknowledge one incident where she was given criticism about her lips. She also poked jabs at her son at various points throughout her speech, and made note of her husband, the late director and actor John Cassavettes, of whom she gained her fame with a role in A Women Under the Influence. If there was one constant theme throughout this segment, it was that Rowlands was defiant and showed the cinema what a "modern woman" was. It ended with her blowing kisses to the crowd.

Probably the biggest highlight was that revolving around Spike Lee. The history between Lee and The Academy is pretty notorious. He was famously snubbed for various nominations for Do the Right Thing. In 2015, he even told Selma director Ava Duvernay to forget the Oscars when that film was notoriously snubbed as well. There was concern that he would be rude and political in an abrasive fashion. What he ended up producing was probably the best of the speeches. After a great and comical introduction by Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, and Wesley Snipes that featured the three constantly poking jabs while discussing their involvement with Lee, they invited him up. The playfulness kept coming.

Lee made it a point to note that Michael Jordan made a special pair of shoes for this occasion. From there, he occasionally was seen cracking jokes while shaking hands with his three presenters. Even if the general atmosphere was playful, Lee went on to discuss how Mean Streets made him want to be a filmmaker. He also discussed the tragic reality he learned as a C-student whose Student Oscar didn't get him into the big times. Overall, he spoke a message regarding the need to have a drive. He thanked his grandmother for the money to have this opportunity. More than anything, it was personal, honest, and reflected a passionate artist who wanted to send out advice to anyone listening.

Much like what Isaacs stated at the start, Lee also made a note about racial diversity in film. Lee is likely best known for giving several black actors a place to make film. He spoke passionately about the need to make a difference and do something that matters. Considering that he continues to make films that stick to this truth, he seemed like the right man to address the problem. The only hope is that between these two speeches, it becomes the start of something grander and more intriguing in Hollywood. While Lee's next film, Chi-Raq is premiering on Amazon Prime and not in theaters, there's hope that he will continue to bring this philosophy to the masses. As for Isaac, she is proud to say that she has made great strides towards change, though there's still need to do more.

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