honorary oscars

With seven Academy Award nominations between them but no wins, directors David Lynch and Lina Wertmüller and actor Wes Studi are going to take home Oscars of their own after all. The Academy has announced that its Board of Governors has voted to present Lynch, Wertmüller, and Studi with Honorary Oscars, which are given “to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”

Meanwhile, actress Geena Davis is being awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Read more about all four of the new award-winners below.

Geena Davis

Geena Davis (The Fly, A League of Their Own, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Thelma and Louise) has already won an Oscar for her work in the 1988 movie The Accidental Tourist, but the Humanitarian Award is given “to an individual in the motion picture arts and sciences whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”

For Davis, those efforts include founding the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media back in 2004, one of the leading research institutes devoted to eliminating gender bias in media. Its official website describes it as “the first and only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence content creators, marketers and audiences about the importance of eliminating unconscious bias, highlighting gender balance, challenging stereotypes, creating role models and scripting a wide variety of strong female characters in entertainment and media that targets and influences children ages 11 and under.” Davis is also the founder of the Bentonville Film Festival, which was launched in 2015 with the express purpose of supporting women and spotlighting diversity in the entertainment industry.

Lina Wertmuller 2

Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmüller is the first woman to ever receive an Oscar nomination for directing. She earned that nomination for her film Seven Beauties, and he was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay for that movie. That was in the mid-1970s, and there have only been four other women nominated for Best Director since then, so Wertmüller sadly finds herself a founding member of an exceptionally small club. It’s nice to see the Academy recognize her status as a trailblazer; perhaps it’s a subtle message from the Board of Governors to its members that this is the type of person the Academy hopes to see nominated in the future.

Wes Studi

Wes Studi is a Cherokee-American actor with more than 30 film credits to his name, including Avatar, Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, Hostiles, and Dances With Wolves. I didn’t know anything about his life off-screen, but The Academy’s website says Studi “became deeply involved with Native American politics and activism after a tour of military service in Vietnam.” This honorary Oscar makes Studi only the second indigenous person to ever win an Academy Award; the other is Buffy Sainte-Marie, who won the Best Original Song Oscar for “Up Where We Belong” in 1982, and she shared that award with two other people.

David Lynch, probably the most recognizable name of these recipients after Davis, has directed films like Mulholland Dr., The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and Lost Highway. The phrase “Lynchian” has made it into the cultural lexicon and there’s no other filmmaker like him. As a voting body, the Oscars have let us down countless times, but seeing the Board of Governors acknowledge Lynch’s unique brand of cinematic mastery is immensely satisfying.

All four of these awards will be handed out at the 11th Annual Governors Awards on Sunday, October 27, 2019 in Los Angeles.

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