Oprah Winfrey and James Earl Jones to Receive Oscars

Oprah Winfrey and James Earl Jones

It has been announced that Chat Show queen Oprah Winfrey and actor James Earl Jones are to receive honorary Oscars.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted Tuesday night(Aug 2) to present Winfrey with an Oscar statuette at the annual Governors Awards in November. James Earl Jones and makeup artist Dick Smith will also receive honorary Oscars at the private ceremony. The prizes will be handed out the Governors Awards in November.

Winfrey, who was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar in 1985 for The Colour Purple, will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her philanthropic work. Although best known for her long-running chat show, Winfrey has also lent her voice to several films in recent years including The Princess and the Frog, Bee Movie and Charlotte’s Web. Her philanthropic efforts include the Oprah Winfrey Foundation and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, which opened in South Africa in 2007.

Blogs have been abuzz with criticism over the selection of Winfrey for the award since the announcement was made late Tuesday. In an article published Wednesday, Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein calls the academy decision “a boneheaded move.”

“Winfrey has done good work in the world, but that’s not enough to merit an Oscar,” he writes, and plenty of anonymous Internet posters on Wednesday agree.

Film academy president Tom Sherak is coming to Oprah Winfrey’s defense. Sherak says the Hersholt Award recognizes an individual who “exemplifies giving back to the community, the world, society in an extraordinary way.”

“Oprah has given and given and given,” he said, adding that she has contributed more than $500 million of her own money to charitable causes. “She’s a member of the academy, she was nominated for an Academy Award and she has produced movies. This is not about personality. This is about a person who has come from the depths, risen to the heights and given back. That’s a perfect example of why this award was created.”

While Jones, along with makeup artist Dick Smith, will receive awards for their outstanding careers. Jones, who is best known as the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars film, has appeared in more than 50 films during his career and was Oscar nominated in 1971 for The Great White Hope. His other credits include Field of Dreams, Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October. Known in the industry as “the godfather of makeup”, Smith won an Oscar in 1984 for his work on Amadeus.

He also worked on The Exorcist, Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said the honorary awards are given to individuals for “extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy”.

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