Walter Mencken 9:21 p.m., Oct. 20
Oprah Winfrey to Receive Oscar's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
Oscar periodically bestows the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award upon individuals "in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry." Furthermore, honorary statuettes are awarded for "extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy."
Excuse me, but how does talk show queen Oprah Winfrey fit into this picture? No one on earth is more charitable, especially when the cameras are rolling, nor has anyone displayed extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement more than the Big 'O.' But what does that have to do with movies?
What has she contributed as far as the art of cinema is concerned? Winfrey deserved the Oscar nomination for her screen debut in Spielberg's otherwise painful The Color Purple. She was also damn impressive in Jonathan Demme's sorely underrated Beloved. What else? The Women of Brewster Place? The Princess and the Frog? The string of Golden Books she took producer's credit on? Larry King Live?
Surely there must be another charitable soul that's closer to cinema than Winfrey. George Clooney, Johnny Depp, and Brangelina are probably considered far too young and cutting edge (read: dangerous) to win such a staid award.
I'm not much of a Richard Gere fan, but after all he's done to advocate human rights, he seems the likelier candidate for an award. Abel Ferrera's Dangerous Game notwithstanding, Madonna's career as an actress never really flourished. But she's done a tremendous amount for AIDS research and is more a movie star than Ope. The same goes for Richard Dreyfuss whose Dreyfuss Initiative seeks to bring back the teaching of civics to the American classroom.
Oprah Winfrey needs another award like she needs a head in her hole. The Academy should stop playing PC suck-up and give the golden doorstop to someone in the movie industry who's more deserving.
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