What I'm most intrigued by is the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. This is an intermittent award,
... given to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.Jerry Lewis was honoured in this way last night.
I couldn't help wondering whether this begins to overstep the limits of industry self-congratulation, not as it's not a deserved award or cause but because it begins to inflate the Oscar (sorry, OSCAR®) remit. Where is Angelina Jolie's award for her work with UNHCR? Or, still with UNHCR, Ben Affleck's award for his short concerning the chaos and misery in Sudan? The answer - none is sought and none should be given. To capitalise on the dreamflated value of international celebrity to raise awareness is a noble, admirable thing. To mix awards in with this is tending toward the opposite.
In his acceptance speech for Best Actor last night, Sean Penn made an oblique reference to this point when he said that
... I want it to be very clear, that I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me often.This struck me as an elegant acknowledgement that the co-existence of socio-political activism with a (high-profile) entertainment industry career is entirely legitimate as long as the two can be kept distinct.
Having read the estimable contribution to Muscular Dystrophy made by Jerry Lewis over half a century I applaud his contribution. However I have precisely the same reaction to Jerry Lewis' work as I had when I learnt about the work of Dame Cicely Saunders with the St Christopher's Hospice upon her death three years ago. One can see that her work was acknowledged by virtue of her title but no industry tried an opportunistic alliance during her lifetime.
In mitigation, I believe that in the US there is a significant cultural difference whereby business has a much more significant social role in the absence of an 'establishment', such as we have in this country.