Every year, there's something just as exciting as the Oscar season itself: the Honorary Oscar winners. While held separately from the actual ceremony, the choice to highlight artists who have made cinema a far more interesting place is itself an event worth checking out. For the Class of 2016, the line-up definitely reflects President Cheryl Boone Isaacs' desire to branch out to have a more diverse representation both in terms of female and nonwhite members. In what is probably the most shocking and exciting name on the list is actor, singer, and stunt performer Jackie Chan - whose impressive career continues to serve as the inspiration for actors who want to make action movies while doing their own stunts. The other names are just as exciting, but Chan's placement on the list definitely reflects a positive change.
While Oscars So White beat the drum for black nominees to get recognition, there seems to be a lack of representation for other races, specifically from Asia. While Ang Lee has won two Best Director statues in the past 10 years (Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi), the general consensus otherwise has been empty. By nominating Chan, it feels like a chance for The Academy to not only address their lack of diversity, but specifically the lack of Asian appeal on almost an annual basis. To me, Chan's Honorary Oscar feels like a positive step forward, and hopefully one that will convince others to follow suit. If nothing else, it proves that adding a more diverse membership has already begun to lead to interesting results.
Who else made the cut? Among the other names is Anne V. Coates, who has had a lengthy career as an editor. She has worked on such films as The Elephant Man, and won a Best Editing Oscar for Best Picture winner Lawrence of Arabia. With another four nominations, her place in classic film history is more than warranted. Considering that she continues to work (including last year's 50 Shades of Grey), there's still room for her impressive career to grow. If nothing else, it also is evidence - much like the Asian representation - that women are more than capable of making captivating and iconic cinema that defies gender barriers.
Frederick Wiseman is a director of such documentaries as Titicut Follies, which looked into the activity at a mental hospital. Having worked since 1967, his lengthy career has produced a lot of captivating documentaries that focus on social issues. Despite having an enviable-sized output, he has never been nominated for an Oscar.
Lynn Stalmaster is probably a name that doesn't strike many as familiar. However, his work as a casting director should. Along with working on Best Picture winner In the Heat of the Night, she has helped to assemble the casts for various iconic films including Deliverance, Superman, and The Graduate. He has also worked on TV, specifically on Gunsmoke. Much like the other recipients (besides Coates), he has not received any prior Oscar nomination over his career.
What do you think of this year's line-up? Is it a strong bunch that reflect the diversity of what cinema has to offer? I personally think that more than anything, it's a perfectly diverse group that reflects Isaacs' desire to represent people in other fields. While it would've been nice to see Chan, Wiseman, or Stalmaster nominated somewhere before, it at least feels warranted that they noticed them eventually. While I wrote earlier this year about how Bruce Lee deserved some type of recognition (read it here), I definitely think that this could lead to positive change - and may even lead to the much needed Best Stunt Performer category. Will it happen? Who knows.
Stay tuned for further coverage regarding the Honorary Oscars ceremony, as well as additional videos and recaps of the ceremony.