Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

An Oscar for Oprah? Pardon?

In recent years, the Oscar mob have done a decent job when it came to handing out honorary gongs. Two years ago, Lauren Bacall, Gordon Willis and Roger Corman were the lucky recipients. Now that’s some line-up. This year’s announcement …

Thu, Aug 4, 2011, 21:22

   

In recent years, the Oscar mob have done a decent job when it came to handing out honorary gongs. Two years ago, Lauren Bacall, Gordon Willis and Roger Corman were the lucky recipients. Now that’s some line-up. This year’s announcement has, however, stirred up some controversy. James Earl Jones? No problem. The great man has been lending his honeyed voice to films for half a century. Dick Smith? His name is not exactly a household one, but his skills in the make-up department have enhanced such films as The Godfather, The Exorcist and Taxi Driver. The only objection one might have to Dick’s award is that he won a real one for Amadeus in 1984.

No. The furore has been stirred by the awarding of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Ms Oprah Winfrey. However much one might abhor all that blubbing and confronting ones inner this-or-that on her show, it is worth thinking twice before criticising Oprah Winfrey. If you had an upbringing anywhere near as appalling as hers then you were a very, very unlucky person. And she has certainly raised significant amounts for charity. That’s not the issue. The Oscar is awarded to film professional. Ms Winfrey did, of course, appear in The Color Purple (indeed, that performance won her an Oscar nomination). And she has produced the odd picture. But she is clearly a telly professional. Let the Emmy committee deal with Mr Winfrey.

Despite Winfrey’s terrifying power, more than a few commentators have stepped forward to question the decision. John Anderson, chair of the New York Film Critics Circle, was particularly vociferous. “It seems like a shameless bid for a ratings boost,” he said “Although once they start showing clips from Beloved and The Color Purple the numbers will plummet.”

Even Armond White, the Afrocentric contrarian critic for the New York Press, spoke up. He said: “Does this newly announced Academy prize prove that Oprah means the same thing to Hollywood as past Jean Hersholt Award winners Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Lew Wasserman, Charlton Heston? Is this just another way for the academy to continue to grovel for TV ratings?”

Armond’s question is rhetorical.

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