Hollywood’s awards season can start to feel a little gratuitously self-congratulatory, but Tuesday night some of the biggest movie stars in the industry are gathering to celebrate someone other than themselves. Mel Brooks, Angela Bassett and film editor Carol Littleton will collect honorary Oscar statuettes at a private, untelevised dinner Tuesday night in Los Angeles that has often been even starrier than the Oscars themselves.
Michelle Satter, a founder and director of the Sundance Institute’s artist programs, will also receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The annual event is put on by the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize contributions to the industry and a life’s achievement. It used to be part of the Oscars telecast but shifted to a separate occasion in 2009, with heartfelt tributes from some of the honorees’ dearest collaborators and no time constraints on the speeches.
Most recipients of the academy’s honorary awards have not won competitive Oscars, but Brooks is an exception. He won an original screenplay Oscar for “The Producers.” At the ceremony, in 1969, he said he wanted to “thank the academy of arts sciences and money for this wonderful award.”
The 97-year-old, who began his career writing for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” and over the next 70 years would write, direct, act, produce for film, television and Broadway and write books, including a recent memoir, is among the rare breed of EGOT-winners. (Those are entertainers who have won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards.) He also received two other Oscar nominations, for writing the lyrics to John Morris’ “Blazing Saddles” song and another screenwriting nod for “Young Frankenstein,” which he shared with Gene Wilder.
Bassett, 65, whose credits include “Boyz N the Hood,” “Malcolm X,” “Waiting to Exhale” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” received her first Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and her second last year for playing the grieving queen in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
Littleton worked frequently with both Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Demme, editing films like “Body Heat,” “The Big Chill,” “Swimming to Cambodia” and “The Manchurian Candidate.” She received her first and only Oscar nomination for “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” the only film she’s edited for Steven Spielberg. She was also married to cinematographer and former Academy president John Bailey, who died in November at age 81.
Satter, meanwhile, has led the Sundance Institute’s artist programs for more than 40 years, helping filmmakers at the earliest stages of their careers, from Paul Thomas Anderson to Ryan Coogler. She also suffered a tragic death in the family recently: Her son, Michael Latt, was killed in December in Los Angeles. Latt, 33, was making a name for himself in the industry on projects with filmmakers including Coogler and Ava DuVernay.
The event, which was delayed from its original November date because of the actors strike, is also a de facto campaign stop for the current season’s awards hopefuls. Voting for the 96th Oscars begins on Thursday and nominations will be announced on Jan. 23 for the March 10 ceremony. There will undoubtedly be strong attendance from the filmmakers and casts of “Oppenheimer,” “Barbie,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Poor Things,” “Maestro” and other top contenders.
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