Lalo Schifrin to receive an honorary Oscar

Cover to a 1960s Lalo Schifrin album

Composer Lalo Schifrin will receive an honorary Oscar later this year, the Academy of Motor Picture Arts and Scientists announced this week.

Schifrin, 86, first made his mark composing for scores for television, including the pilots for Mission: Impossible and Mannix. He moved into films, scoring, among others, The Cincinnati Kid, Bullitt, Dirty Harry and Enter the Dragon. Schifrin was nominated for six Oscars.

And since this blog concentrates on spy-related entertainment, we note he also scored Murderers’ Row, the second Matt Helm film, and The Venetian Affair. He also did the arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for that show’s second season (1965-66).

Honorary Oscars used to be given out during the Oscars telecast. But in recent years, they’re part of a separate event, which this year will be held Nov. 18.

The academy also said actress Cicely Tyson, 93, and publicist Marvin Levy will receive honorary Oscars.

Also, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will receive the Irving G. Thalberg Award, a career award given to producers. It’s the first Thalberg award given since 2010.

Here we go again: Academy tries to streamline the Oscars

Oscars logo

If at first you don’t succeed…

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is — again — trying to streamline its Oscar telecast and find a place for more popular movies.

The academy sent a written message to members (this Hollywood Reporter story has the full text). Among the changes: 1) Keeping the telecast to three hours (honest!). 2) Adding a category for “outstanding achievement in popular film.”

To stick to the new time limit, the TV broadcast will show some of the 24 Oscar winners on an edited, tape-delayed basis. Which ones are seen live by the TV audience and which get the edited treatment are to be determined.

Lots of luck, academy.

The Oscars have already stripped away honorary Oscar awards and the Thalberg career award for producers from the main broadcast.

Examples of honorary Oscar moments: The dying Gary Cooper receiving an honorary award, with James Stewart accepting it on his behalf; Charlie Chaplin receiving a standing ovation while receiving his honorary award; Barbara Stanwyck likewise getting big applause when she got her honorary award.

Albert R. Broccoli , Thalberg award winner (Illustration by Paul Baack)

As for the Thalberg award, 007 fans remember Roger Moore presenting the award to Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. Related to that award, that Oscars show included a big James Bond musical number.

Today, however, honorary Oscars and the Thalberg (when it’s given; the last time was 2010) are now part of a separate event. Taped highlights from that are briefly shown during the main Oscars telecast. That’s show biz.

Those moves were done in the name of making the Oscars telecast shorter. Well, the telecast still goes past midnight. Various skits and such take up the time that supposedly was freed up.

Meanwhile, the academy expanded the number of best picture nominees to as many as 10. The idea was to get more popular movies into the show. It hasn’t worked out that way.

So now, potential future Oscar winners are wondering if they’ll be on TV live or an afterthought on tape delay. Will a winning cinematographer be live or taped delay? Composer? Best original screenplay? Best adapted screenplay? No way to know right now.

As for the new popular film category (or whatever it’s eventually called), it’s being criticized.

For example, here’s the take from Todd VanDerWerff of Vox: The new category “feels like a panicked move by an Academy that’s worried Black Panther won’t be nominated for Best Picture, an echo of when they expanded the Best Picture category to 10 nominees in 2009 in response to The Dark Knight and Wall-E being snubbed in that category.”

Should Marvel’s Feige get a Thalberg award?

Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios

The Playlist website had a story where the writers of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War make the case for Marvel Studios getting at least some awards love.

““When is someone going to get [Kevin] Feige the [Irving G.] Thalberg award,” scribe Stephen McFeely was quoted as saying. “All he’s doing is remaking Hollywood. Please!”

The Thalberg award is an honorary award given out by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the same organization that gives out the Oscars. The award is given to “creative producers whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production,” according to the Oscars website.

The Thalberg award isn’t given out every year. In fact, it hasn’t been given out since 2010 when Francis Ford Coppola, also a noted writer and director, received it.

The thing is, comic book movies generally don’t get a lot of Oscars love. Heath Ledger won a Best Supporting Actor award for The Dark Knight (2008). Suicide Squad (2016) won an Oscar for makeup and hairstyling.

More broadly, escapist movies generally don’t appear to get the same consideration as more serious fare. James Bond films won five Oscars from 1965 to 2016, including two Best Song awards, but none for acting, writing or directing.

The biggest Oscar love was when Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon Productions, received a Thalberg award in 1982, presented to him by Roger Moore, his 007 actor at the time.

Still, the Playlist story may have a point.

Under Feige, 44, Marvel has produced its own movies, rather than licensing rights to other studios, starting with 2008’s Iron Man. In that decade, Marvel established the idea of inter-connected movies all within the same fictional universe.

The success of that universe spurred Walt Disney Co. to buy Marvel, which has mostly let Feige run his own show.

So far, that has resulted in 18 movies, running through last month’s Black Panther. Two more Marvel Studios films are coming out this year, including next month’s Avengers: Infinity War.

Remember, Broccoli won the Thalberg when he was in his early 70s for his Bond output. That was 12 films at the time he received the award (Dr. No through For Your Eyes Only) with the 13th (Octopussy) in preparation. He would eventually be involved with the first 17 007 films before he died in 1996.

Now there are big differences between Marvel and Bond. As the blog has written before, Marvel is a prime example of the corporate model while Eon is the embodiment of the family model.

Still, Feige has had a major impact. Warner Bros., over the decades, came out with Superman and Batman movies that weren’t part of a single universe. Marvel spurred Warner Bros. to follow suit. Other studios have tried to replicate what Marvel did but came up short.

It remains to be seen whether the academy will consider Feige for the Thalberg, considered one of its major awards. But Feige, over the past decade, has had a major impact on the movie business.