If you’ve ever seen a David Lynch film, painting, or TV show, you know he does things differently. The visionary writer-director, who arrived on the scene with Eraserhead (1977), may be best-known for the Twin Peaks series that began on ABC in 1990 and returned on Showtime in 2017.
Yet his run of feature films in the ’80s (including The Elephant Man, Dune, and Blue Velvet) had already cemented Lynch’s reputation as a filmmaker. And by the time he made Mulholland Drive (2001), the Academy had recognized him with his fourth Oscar nomination (his third for directing).
But in a year that both Lynch and Robert Altman (another genuine maverick) were up for the Best Director Award, Ron Howard won for A Beautiful Mind. “That’s Hollywood” is about the only thing you can say about that.
As per usual, the Academy decided to recognize Lynch decades after his work shook the screen. That came October 27, with the presentation of an Honorary Award Oscar. And Lynch’s brief acceptance speech recalled one by a beloved actor.
Lynch delivered his whole speech in under 30 seconds
When Joe Pesci won the Best Supporting Actor award for 1990’s Goodfellas, his speech was famously short. After beating out fellow nominees Al Pacino and Andy Garcia, Pesci strolled to the podium and bowed his head for a moment.
Then he looked out at the crowd and spoke six words. “It was my privilege,” Pesci said. “Thank you.” When Lynch received his Honorary Award at the Governor’s Awards, he was only slightly more verbose than Pesci.
“Thank you very much,” Lynch said, as the crowd applauded. “To the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, thank you for this honor. And to all the people who helped me along the road.”
There wasn’t much more to Lynch’s speech, except for a few quick notes. “Congratulations to the other honorees tonight, and everyone have a great night,” he said. Then he addressed one final remark to the statue in his hand. “You have a very interesting face. Good night.”
Italian director Lina Wertmüller was among the other honorees
Lynch wasn’t the only one recognized by the Academy his past weekend. Geena Davis, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1989, received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Wes Studi, the Cherokee-American actor who appeared in Heat, received an Honorary Award.
Last but certainly not least, Italian director Lina Wertmüller received an Honorary Oscar as well. In 1976, Wertmüller became the first woman to be nominated for Best Director (for Pasqualino Settebelleze). She also received a nod for that picture’s screenplay.
If you’ve never seen the work of Wertmüller, The Criterion Channel is currently streaming Pasqualino Settebelleze, which is a masterpiece. If you go there and do yourself that favor, you might as well screen the Lynch films also currently in circulation while you’re at it.