Living Legends Angela Bassett And Mel Brooks Will Receive Honorary Oscars


Awards season may be in hibernation for the next few months, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences traditionally kicks things off with the annual Governors Awards in the fall, celebrating awards conferred by the Academy's Board of Governors — the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, and the Honorary Award. According to the Academy, the Honorary Award was created "to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or outstanding service to the Academy." Recipients are announced in the summer and honored at an extravagant gala in November and according to Variety, this year's honorees are Angela Bassett, Mel Brooks, editor Carol Littleton, and the Sundance Institute's Michelle Satter.

"The Academy's Board of Governors is thrilled to honor four trailblazers who have transformed the film industry and inspired generations of filmmakers and movie fans," said Academy President Janet Yang. She continued by identifying the legacies of all four, saying:

The contributions of all four honorees are undeniable, and in the case of Bassett and Littleton, the Oscars feel long overdue (Mel Brooks is an EGOT-winner, for the record). But considering the timing of Bassett's award, it's hard not to view this as anything other than a consolation prize.

Bassett should have won an Oscar in 1994

First of all, no shade to the Best Actress Oscar winner in 1994, Holly Hunter in "The Piano," but Angela Bassett's snub for her portrayal of Tina Turner in "What's Love Got to Do with It" is one of the most egregious mistakes in the history of the ceremony. Bassett delivered not just the best performance of the year, but the definitive biopic performance in cinema history. However, the timing feels particularly suspect following the controversy around last year's Best Supporting Actress category. The stacked category saw a face-off between Stephanie Hsu in "Everything Everywhere All At Once," Kerry Condon in "The Banshees of Inisherin," Hong Chau in "The Whale," Bassett in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," and eventual winner, Jamie Lee Curtis for "Everything Everywhere All At Once."

Again, this is not to disparage the winner (as I am a well-documented stan of JLC), but it felt like Bassett's statue to lose. She had already nabbed the Golden Globe, Critic's Choice Award, and Hollywood Critics Association Award in the same category, but given the Academy Awards' horrific track record with race, those favoring Bassett to win weren't holding their breath. While it is undoubtedly an exciting moment to see the Academy rightfully honor Bassett's body of work in this way, it really feels like a glorified apology gift. This was a similar sentiment shared when Samuel L. Jackson received the Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement in 2022. What does it say about the industry when two of the most prominent, iconic, remarkable Black actors in cinema history can barely nab an Oscar nomination, let alone a win without it being "honorary?"

The Governors Awards will take place on Saturday, November 18, 2023, and I cannot wait to hear what Bassett has to say in her acceptance speech.