Saturday, April 20, 2024

Senator Al Franken Surprise Presenter at Honorary Oscar Dinner


Senator Al Franken was the big surprise presenter last night at the Governor’s Ball for the honorary Oscars. Franken flew in from Washington to present famed documentary filmmaker DA Pennebaker with his lifetime achievement award. Pennebaker produced a film about Franken’s run for the US Senate, called “And God Spoke,” which was directed by Pennebaker’s filmmaker wife Chris Hegedus and Nick Doob.

Franken skipped the red carpet and did no press so that Pennebaker wouldn’t know he’d come in. He introduced a montage of clips from the 60 year Pennebaker career including The War Room, Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop, Kings of Pastry, Crisis, Primary, Town Hall, Only the Strong Survive, and Company.

It was Michael Moore who did the actual presenting to Pennebaker. Moore fought for Pennebaker for two years, I’m told, as a governor of the Academy. Moore and his wife Kathleen were prominent at the Pennebaker table, and Moore delivered a beautiful speech delineating how Pennebaker came to influence not just documentaries but all of film with his creation of cinema verite– along with pals Al Maysles, Richard Leacock, and Bob Drew.

Pennebaker, who’s 87 and very active still making movies with Hegedus, told a lot of great stories about Bob Dylan especially and how they invented what has now become the famous “throwing cards’ scene that accompanies “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in Don’t Look Back. He also explained one of his many inventions–the handheld camera that could be hoisted on a camera man’s shoulder so Pennebaker could be a fly on the wall in the Kennedy White House during the Cuban missile crisis.

Moore, by the way, has not stopped making films himself. But after an exhausting run with Bowling for Columbine, Farenheit 911, and Sicko, he’s taking a well deserved break. He will be back. And we need him more than ever!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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