Before throwing its annual prize-giving event in February next year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave away its Governors Awards on Saturday night, December 1. The recipients of the honorary Oscar were documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, legendary stuntman Hal Needham, the American Film Institute founder George Stevens Jr., as well as DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Among the presenters of the prestigious event were Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Sidney Poitier and Steven Spielberg. Hanks and Smith presented Katzenberg with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award, which was given to philanthropist Oprah Winfrey in 2011.
During his speech, Hanks praised Katzenberg's effort in setting up the national telethon a few days after the 9/11 tragedy in 2001. "Jeffrey Katzenberg doesn't have to do any of these things. But Jeffrey Katzenberg cannot help but to do all of these things - it is in his DNA," said the "Cloud Atlas" actor.
"Jeffrey Katzenberg is a brilliant man, a hardworking man, a visionary and one of the most powerful men (in Hollywood)," he went on gushing, as quoted by USA Today. "But more than anything else, Jeffrey Katzenberg is a public servant."
Katzenberg himself credited veteran thesp Kirk Douglas upon receiving his Oscar. "It's Kirk who taught me you haven't learned to live until you've learned to give," the 61-year-old producer said. "It's a statement that echoes loudly."
Meanwhile, George Stevens Jr. got a standing ovation as he received his award from Poitier. "When you work with George Stevens, art and activism are never very far apart," Poitier said on his speech. "George is an extraordinary person. When he commits to something, he will get it done."
Needham, on the other hand, received his award from Tarantino, who praised the legendary stuntman's work in 310 films. "He is the man," the filmmaker of "Django Unchained" gushed, before adding, "Before he became a director, he pushed the boundaries of what could be done. I have ripped off many shots from you. Today, I say thank you very much."
The last honoree, Pennebaker, received his Oscar from documentarian Michael Moore. "He has remarkably never won an Oscar, but all of that is to change now," Moore praised Pennebaker on his speech. "You inspired me and countless others who followed in your very important footsteps."
The Honorary Award was given to those who have "extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy." Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, meanwhile, is presented to an individual whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the film industry.