Oprah Winfrey Wins Honorary Academy Award For Some Reason

Surprise! The television personality joins James Earl Jones and Dick Smith as a recipient of 2012's Honorary Oscars.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided upon the winners of next year's Honorary Oscars, which are intended to venerate individuals with a career in film who have, by and large, gone unrecognized by the yearly Academy Awards. Previous winners have included such filmmaking legends as Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Ennio Morricone and Roger Corman. This year the Academy is bestowing these honors upon acting legend James Earl Jones, makeup legend Dick Smith, and television legend Oprah Winfrey.

Which… is weird.

Winfrey, the acclaimed television host, entrepreneur and philanthropist, has indeed acted in feature films before, earning herself an Oscar nomination for her role in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple, but over the course of the last 26 years has appeared in a scant six films (not including TV movie work), and only half of those performances were even on-screen (she contributed her voice to Charlotte's Web, Bee Movie and The Princess and the Frog). Winfrey will not be honored for her actual film work… she's receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which rewards someone "whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry." 

Nobody is denying that Winfrey's humanitarian efforts have brought credit to an industry, but let's be honest here… that industry is television. What an odd choice. Is Martin Scorsese eligible for an Honorary Emmy because he directed an episode each of Amazing Stories and Boardwalk Empire? We suspect the Academy will catch some flack for this.

Despite a lifetime in motion pictures, James Earl Jones has only received one Oscar nomination to date, for his performance in Martin Ritt's 1970 adaptation of the Howard Sackler play The Great White Hope. (He lost to George C. Scott, who refused to even pick up his statuette for Patton.) His career has spanned more feature films than we are comfortable counting, including his screen debut in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove and memorable roles in Field of Dreams, Conan the Barbarian, Coming to America, The Lion King and, obviously, the Star Wars trilogy as the voice of Darth Vader.

Dick Smith, the least "household-friendly" name on the Academy's list of honorary Oscar recipients, is a makeup effects pioneer who worked on such influential films as The Godfather, The Godfather Part IIThe Exorcist, Taxi Driver, The Stepford Wives, Scanners and Amadeus (for which he won his only Academy Award). Smith popularized the use of foam latex prosthetics in small pieces (as opposed to large face masks), which has since become the industry standard. The makeup designer has had a profound impact on movie makeup, particularly old-age makeup and the combination of makeup and practical effects (as seen in The Exorcist), work that is now so ubiquitous that many people probably don't even realize that it had to be invented.

Thanks to Hollywood Reporter for the announcements. 

CRAVE Online will return with more Oscar news pretty soon, since it's almost that time of the year again…