I know I am a couple of days late on this (again, trying to catch up from a persistent work week), but a huge congratulations have to go out to Debbie Reynolds (who is getting the Jean Hersholt Award, a fact I missed on the first announcement), Gena Rowlands, and Spike Lee on their recent Academy Awards. I'm a little disappointed that we didn't get a Thalberg winner (seriously, when is Kathleen Kennedy getting her Thalberg?!?), and I'm always mad that they don't incorporate these winners into the primetime-televised ceremony, but I couldn't be happier that these three entertainers get to have the title of Academy Award-winner (and sorry, but I have to say that Honorary winners get that title too-I know some people get stingy about it, but they have the Oscar on their shelves and their names on it, so it counts). I figured in honor of them I would countdown my relationship with each entertainer:
Oscar History: 2 nominations (one for writing Do the Right Thing (1989) and one for the documentary 4 Little Girls (1997)
First Impression: I know this will shock you if you read this blog regularly, but growing up in a small town in rural Minnesota, Spike Lee movies were not frequently in my local theater. The iconic director from Brooklyn was probably known to be me roughly around the time that he won his second Oscar nomination, and I remember him kind of screwing up my Oscar predictions that year as I was still under the impression that the most famous documentary usually won (though oddly enough that's actually become true in the past few years). The first film I ever saw of his was Inside Man, a movie I was blown away by starring Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster (seriously-if you haven't seen this movie or haven't seen it in a while, you are doing yourself a great disservice by missing it as it is wildly thrilling and surprisingly still true to Lee's New York style).
Favorite Film: Certainly the absolute masterwork Do the Right Thing, which is just a stupendous movie that genuinely lives up to the hype.
Film I Should Finally See to Honor His Oscar: Malcolm X, one of the most critically-praised films on his resume that many have claimed should have been Denzel's second Oscar win.
Oscar History: 1 nomination (for Best Actress in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, for which she was beaten by Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins)
First Impression: I think the first of Reynolds' films that I ever saw was Bundle of Joy. My mom has always loved the films of the 1950's and 1960's and had a particular fondness for Bundle of Joy and My Six Loves, so I had seen both of them before I even knew anything about classic movies. Reynolds herself became more of an icon to me when she played Grace's mom on Will and Grace (always so bubbly), and eventually became part of my cinematic firmament (words chosen precisely) for...
Favorite Film: Singin' in the Rain. Seriously one of the finest films ever made, and one that I have seen countless times through the years, Reynolds' Kathy Selden is marvelously bubbly and delightful in the film-every frame of Reynolds is a joy, and sixty-some years later it still holds up.
Film I Should See to Honor Her Oscar: I have never caught her performance in Mother, a late-career comeback bid that resulted in a Globe nomination, but nothing from AMPAS. Reynolds' hilariously pointed this out when she presented in one of my favorite Oscar moments (watch it here).
Oscar History: 2 nomination (for Best Actress in 1974 in A Woman Under the Influence and again in Best Actress in 1980's Gloria, losing to Ellen Burstyn and Sissy Spacek, respectively)
First Impression: Almost certainly it would be as the mother in Hope Floats, where she wonderfully-played off of Sandra Bullock's complicated, defeated former prom queen. It's actually a film that I still hold dear in my heart, and remembered thinking that Rowlands was very gifted, but like many actresses of the 1970's who didn't quite seal the deal with Oscar, she got lost a bit in the shuffle for me in a sea of Fondas, Burstyns, and Dunaways.
Favorite Film: As a result of this, I don't feel like I can have a favorite film, though I do feel a bit ashamed of this fact as I've only seen a couple of Rowlands' movies and neither of her two Oscar-blessed performances.
Films I Should See to Honor Her Oscar: Since I am so lacking in this screen legend's filmography, I'm going to make a bit of a point to have a Rowlands film festival on the blog. Gloria isn't on Netflix (anyone know of another place I could find it?) and neither is Another Woman, but I certainly will include Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, and Opening Night. Any other suggestions for a Gena Rowlands film festival? We'll do it right before the Governors Awards this fall.
And also, what do you think of these winners? It's a pretty fine group in my opinion, and should make for some great YouTube clips even if we don't get to watch the thing proper at home. Share some favorite film memories of Spike, Debbie, and Gena in the comments below!