Well, this week Michael Douglas was honored by the American Film Institute, who threw a gala black-tie shindig at Sony Pictures Studio and handed him their 37th AFI Life Achievement Award. Bob Dylan sang a song, and Douglas' wife Catherine Zeta-Jones performed an adorable little tap dance number, and Jack Nicholson was Jack Nicholson, and a stuntman fell through the ceiling in an homage to the ending of The Game. All in all, a nice evening of entertainment that'll be televised next month. But ... Michael Douglas?
The AFI award started out as a true Lifetime Achievement trophy -- the first went to John Ford in 1973. Over the next two decades, the awards went to actors and directors with long, impressive bodies of work, like Orson Welles, William Wyler, Bette Davis, Gene Kelly, John Huston, David Lean, and Sidney Poitier. It was actually a rather distinguished honor.
AFI later decided to relax the standards, however, so that they could give awards to people who'd be more appealing to an increasingly younger-skewed market. The awards have always been televised, and it's a condition of the award that the honoree actually shows up, so box-office popularity became a priority in choosing who would get one. Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, George Lucas and Al Pacino have been honored, as have Harrison Ford and Meryl Streep.
Seriously, though. Michael Douglas? Yes, the man has won Academy Awards (Best Actor for Wall Street, and one for producing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), and yes, he's considered a "mover and shaker" in the biz. Plus, he admittedly does a kick-ass imitation of producer Robert Evans as the smarmy ghost-uncle in the otherwise unremarkable Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.
But is he really in the same category as Martin Scorsese and Billy Wilder, lifetime achievement-wise? The AFI award ostensibly honors one "whose talent has in a fundamental way advanced the film art." Okay. Sure, I liked Romancing the Stone and The American President as much as the next guy, but I can think of six or eight people off the top of my head whose lifetime body of work is more worthy. Like, say, Robert Duvall, or Sally Field, or Anthony Hopkins, or Francis Ford Coppola, or Jodie Foster.
But the entertainment industry is, first and foremost, a business. You'll recall that AFI also produces those TV-friendly "100 Years of ..." specials that everyone watches and then gets angry about (There's Somethin About Mary ranks higher than The Thin Man and Sullivan's Travels?! WTF?) Maybe all the really worthy talent was deemed too old, not old enough, or just too boring to get TV ratings -- and AFI's struck a four-year deal with the cable network TV Land, so the ceremony will air as "TV Land PRIME Presents The AFI Life Achievement Award honoring Michael Douglas" on July 19th.
So, Cinematical readers ... who do you think's worthy of a Lifetime Achievement Award, anyway??