Although they stopped televising them in 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governor Awards remain one of the most gratifying portions of the awards season. Free from the politics that constantly swirl around the main race and the various vicious campaigns within it, the honorary Oscars are just about honoring people who deserve a salute for their contributions to the film industry. And in many cases, it means actors, writers, directors, and producers who normally wouldn’t have a shot in a traditional ceremony getting their chance to claim a little golden man of their own.
This year’s four winners are about as eclectic as you can get: film editor Anne Coates, casting director Lynn Stalmaster, documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, and martial artist and actor Jackie Chan. Yes, the Jackie Chan. They’re giving Jackie Chan an Academy Award.
While Jackie Chan being given an honorary Oscar feels genuinely surprising, no one can say it’s unearned. With 131 credits to his name, Chan is one of the most recognizable and beloved actors in the world and he’s had few imitators. After all, few other actors, martial artists and stunt people can do exactly what he does. His brand of action, which involves blending genuinely dangerous, death-defying stunts with cheeky comedy, is one of a kind. Chan has more in common with silent comedians like Buster Keaton than he does with most modern action heroes. To see the Academy give an honor to a performer like this, a man who has built his entire career on breaking every bone in his body in the name of fun, is genuinely thrilling.