Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And The Honorees Should Be: Part 1. Kennedy Center Honors Suggestions




There are at least three people for whom I would recommend a Kennedy Center Honor: film actress Sophia Loren, television actress Betty White, and composer Phillip Glass. Each has contributed to American arts, and therefore, I respectfully submit their names for consideration to receive Kennedy Center Honors.

Every year, a group of artists in the fields of film, television, music, theater and dance are trotted out and given a big "Thank You" from the United States, a nation not known for great culture. Some of their choices have been right on the money (Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Bob Dylan) and some a bit, well, curious (Steve Martin, Roger Daltrey & Pete Townshend). Here, I present a list of artists, in alphabetical order, who have not been so honored. They may have been approached and declined (Doris Day and pianist Vladimir Horowitz come to mind), but if not, they should be there, at least in my view.

Born 1936

A.) Albert Finney. He had wide acclaim for his performance in Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, but burst onto the world (and almost out of the screen) with his star-making turn as the rakish Tom Jones. Since then, think of his films: Under the Volcano, The Dresser, Murder on the Orient Express, The Browning Version, A Man of No Importance, Miller's Crossing, The Gathering Storm, Erin Brockovich, The Bourne Ultimatum, and even Annie. Four Oscar nominations, a continuing career on the stage, a true actor.

Born 1937

B.) Phillip Glass. Few American composers have earned the respect that Glass has. His music is minimalist (though Glass himself rejects the term), but has also been highly influential in modern classic music. His scores for such films as Kundun, The Hours, and Dracula have exposed him to a wider audience. Finally, his work for the cause of the Tibetan nation should be applauded.

Born 1934

C.) Sophia Loren. It's a rarity to have a great beauty who is also a great actress. Sophia Loren is both. It is her Neapolitan features that lure us in, but her performance in Two Women focuses on the suffering of ordinary people in war, stripping away any loveliness of her face or body. Some of her best work IS in Italian (Two Women, A Special Day, and Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow) but she has had great success in English-language films such as El Cid, The Pride & The Passion, and even Grumpier Old Men. Loren is not just gorgeous (even today, she still is a marvel of beauty), but has graduated to true actress.

Born 1939

D.) Bob Newhart. The original "buttoned-up" comic, his deadpan humor has been his hallmark, one that has gotten him not one but TWO successful television series. The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart have been placed as some of the best (and funniest) series. There is no argument I know that disputes the ending of Newhart being among the greatest of all time.

Born 1922

E.) Betty White. She is one of the last pioneers of television still working. It should be remembered she made her television debut in 1949! She was one of the first females to have control of her first series (Life With Elizabeth)--Lucille Ball being a noticeable other. White has become iconic due to two wildly different characters: the man-hungry "Happy Homemaker" Sue Anne Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the perpetually naïve Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls. She is still going, and is instantly recognizable. Who else her age can claim hit films as diverse as Lake Placid and The Proposal? Finally, her work for animals has been at the forefront of humane treatment for God's other creatures.

Of course, these are all suggestions, and there will be more coming. These performers are legends because of their hard work. I therefore submit their names for consideration.



*Update: As of 2016, none of the people listed above have received a Kennedy Center Honor. Tom Hanks however, who at 60 is at least twenty years younger than just about everyone on this list, has.

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