Hollywood turns out to Oscar campaign as Academy honors four legends

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The Oscars handed out four honorary Governor Awards to Maureen O’Hara, Jean-Claude Carrière, Hayao Miyazaki, and Harry Belafonte. Robert Downey Jr., Ethan Hawke, and Emily Blunt campaign for a statue of their own.

On Saturday, November 8, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sicnces presented honorary Governor Awards to actress Maureen O’Hara, filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière. Harry Belafonte won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for work in civil rights.

Glenn Whipp, from the Los Angeles Times, described the atmosphere of the event held at the Ray Dolby Ballrooom in Hollywood & Highland Center. Guests were networking, laughing while clinking glasses, and using the event to be seen as the award season kicks off into high-gear. It never hurts to gain favor. And since the event isn’t televised, guests are free to be a little less dignified as the awards are handed out.

Emily Blunt sang along with classic movie themes, but hushed when “Goldfinger” started. “I won’t do Shirley Bassey, though.” The Into the Woods star had very specific limits on her range. “No one can do her justice.” Other than Adele…maybe.

And Robert Downey Jr. showed up with Robert Duvall, his co-star in The Judge. Susan Downey, his usual date, just gave birth to their daughter Avri on Tuesday and justifiably bowed out of the ceremony. Of course, he joked that “I got a free pass.” But he happily described the many expletives Susan hurled at the actor while giving birth.

This is a party where actors of caliber mingle together. Michael Keaton and Edward Norton circled the room for Birdman appearance purposes, Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley promoted The Imitation Game, and Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones made sure The Theory of Everything was represented.

Entertainment Weekly reports actors in the middle of production still flew in to see and be seen.

Contender for Best Actor in Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, Timothy Spall, flew in from London promotional tours in order to join the group. Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Ellar Coltrane appeared to mingle and promote the indie hit Boyhood. Hawke flew in from Toronto where he’s filming jazz trumpeter Chet Baker’s biopic.

But guests primarily wanted to honor O’Hara, Miyazaki, Carrière, and Belafonte’s impact in the film industry. All four entertainers have a deep impact for the current generation of stars.

French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière delighted in winning the award since “very often the screenwriters are forgotten. They are like shadows.”

Previously, the 83-year-old won an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film for Heureux Anniversaire with Pierre Etaix in 1963. Working with cinematic surrealist Luis Bunuel on six movies—including 1967’s Belle de Jour—he also shaped filmmakers by working as president of La Fèmis, the French state film school.

In a recent Variety piece, he likened a screenwriter to a filmmaker. “You mustn’t approach the film itself as a playwright or a novelist, but as a filmmaker.” In other words, visually the work will be comprehensive through an understanding of both mediums.

And sometimes education comes from experience.

In a rare appearance, Hayao Miyazaki left Japan and showed up to the ceremony. Three of his films have been nominated by the academy but he hasn’t attended a ceremony yet—not even for 2003’s animated feature winner Spirited Away.

Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios’ chief creative officer John Lasseter had a few fannish moments while introducing Miyazaki. Calling the Japanese artist the “most original filmmaker to ever work in our medium,” the Finding Nemo director also shared a story about how The Castle of Cagliostro ended up being a wooing technique the day after Lassester met future-wife Nancy.

The 73-year-old filmmaker spoke to the audience through a translator and emphasized good fortune. And in a moment of East filmmaking meets West filmmaking, he said it was his “greatest luck was being able to meet Maureen O’Hara tonight.”

94-year-old Maureen O’Hara worked with director John Ford on numerous movies, including The Quiet Man and How Green Was My Valley. John Wayne co-starred with the actress in five movies, and she posthumously thanked each John for their contribution to her career. The Irish-born actress is known to most audiences for her performances in The Miracle on 34th Street and The Parent Trap.

After Liam Neeson and Clint Eastwood introduced O’Hara, she sang a few lines of “Danny Boy” before speaking. Later in the evening, Eastwood told the Times, “Evenings like this are powerful.”

Reminiscing on the past a bit, he said, “I came here tonight because I made a movie with Maureen O’Hara 60 years ago. I didn’t know I had been acting that long. You don’t think about those things.” Not many people do, Mr. Eastwood.

“You don’t want to think about those things. And then a night like this reminds you. It’s a powerful thing.”

Harry Belafonte reminded everyone in the audience that power was the one thing they all possessed, to change the future into a world of expression for all. Bringing legendary actor Sidney Poitier on stage, Belafonte called on filmmakers to “see a better side of what we are as a species”—to look at people beyond stereotypes for money-making purposes.

EW adds in his speech, there was more faith in the future.

Critical of such films as Birth of a Nation, Tarzan, and Song of the South, he also praised progressive, honest, stark portrayals such as Schindler’s List, Brokeback Mountain, and 12 Years a Slave. “I really wish I could be around for the rest of the century to see what Hollywood does. Maybe, just maybe, it could be civilization’s game-changer.”

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