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The list of filmmakers who will be awarded honorary Oscars this year has been released, and it’s a good one. Francis Ford Coppola will receive the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, given to “a creative producer whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production.”

Jean-Luc Godard, Eli Wallach and film historian and preservationist Kevin Brownlow (track down his book The Parade’s Gone By if you have even a passing interest in silent film) will all receive honorary Oscar statues, given each year to individuals for their ““extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”

I don’t think I need to go into any detail on why Coppola is receiving the Thalberg award, and the reasons behind Godard’s honorary statue should be equally clear. While often feted at festival awards and occasionally at France’s César Awards, Godard has never even been nominated for an Oscar. (If Godard’s honor is somehow a mystery, please stop now and see every film he directed from  1960′s Breathless to Week End in 1967.)

Nor has Wallach, whose performance in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is enough to etch him in cinema history. (I love it for his ‘negotiation’ with a gun store owner, among other scenes.) That’s before you get to any of the rest of his work, which slips easily between roles on screen and television. But at 94, Wallach continues to work. This year he’s already been seen in Polanski’s The Ghost Writer, and appears in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, as well.

And I’m happy to see Brownlow awarded — Martin Scorsese often seems to be the only high-profile cinema preservationist out there, and so anything that brings more attention to the important work that others do to preserve essential cinema can only be a good thing.

The awards ceremony will be on November 13 at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.

[Anne Thompson]

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