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Governors Awards Recognize Career-Long Achievements


The nominees for the Academy Awards won't be announced until next year, which means there's plenty of time to see some of the movies getting Oscar buzz, like "The Martian," "Room" and "Bridge Of Spies." Still, fancy Hollywood types got all dressed up last night for the Oscars - or just the first part. NPR's Andrew Limbong has more on the beginning of awards season.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Nobody got a best actress award or a statue for best screenplay last night. We're not even close to that yet. The televised 88th Academy Awards will be in February. Instead, last night was something called the Governors Awards, a night to honor career-long achievements, humanitarian accomplishments, or just being great at making good stuff that you might not think about when you think about moviemaking.

CHERYL BOONE ISAACS: It's a way of recognizing much of the talent that is not publicly known, let's say.

LIMBONG: This is Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the people that hand out the awards.

ISAACS: Whether they are costume designers or stunt performers, writers or makeup.

LIMBONG: She says the Oscars proper, that's just for movies released that year. The Governors Awards let them zoom out a bit. Scott Feinberg, awards columnist for The Hollywood Reporter, says it also allows them to give Oscars to people who haven't gotten one but probably should.

SCOTT FEINBERG: Often, it is a makeup award, a makeup honor. However, perhaps to throw us off that scent, they will occasionally give this - one of these honors to somebody who's already won a competitive Oscar.

LIMBONG: Take this year. Three people were honored, including director Spike Lee, who is nominated for best screenplay for "Do The Right Thing."


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Mookie - Mookie, do you want to get your friend out of here?

SPIKE LEE: (As Mookie) What, you're going to kick me out now? You're going to kick me out, huh?

LIMBONG: Actress Gena Rowlands, who is nominated for "Gloria" and "A Woman Under The Influence."


GENA ROWLANDS: (As Mabel Longhetti) Oh, I hope you kids never grow up - never.

LIMBONG: And the humanitarian award went to Debbie Reynolds from "Singin' In The Rain" for her charity work in mental health. Past honorees include Harry Belafonte, Oprah Winfrey, Lauren Bacall. Hollywood heavy-hitters speak at these events, but presenting these awards hasn't been a part of the main televised Oscars since 2008. Why? Well, you've probably sat through at least one of these famous-people marathons, right? They're long enough as it is.

ISAACS: When anything is televised, you tend to be a little bit tighter. This way we have a little bit of wiggle room.

LIMBONG: It's not all nice tuxes and glasses of champagne. Here's Scott Feinberg again.

FEINBERG: Originally, when the Governors Awards were created, there was some fear that this would be shunting off these older honorees to a night that nobody cared about and was sort of forgotten. However, the fact that it was moved up a few months ahead of the Oscars itself has made it into a very opportune time for the current crop of Oscar contenders to rub shoulders with the many other Academy member voters who are in the room.

LIMBONG: Hopefully the rubbing will pay off once it comes time to vote for awards. Oh, and there's one more bonus to the Governors Awards not being televised. I assume nobody gets played off.

ISAACS: (Laughter) Nobody gets played off, no.

LIMBONG: Andrew Limbong, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.