All three recipients are incredibly deserving of the honor. Refreshingly, none of this year's recipients have won competitive Oscars in the past. Don't get me wrong; Rowlands and Reynolds certainly deserved to win for their indelible performances, and that Lee's Do the Right Thing was almost completely ignored by the Academy (two measly nominations) in 1989 ranks high among their greatest oversights. But, to me at least, honorary Oscars shouldn't be handed out to artists who've already collected trophies; let them be an opportunity to right historical wrongs and recognize terrific work that, for whatever reason, had previously been ignored.
Rowlands was undoubtedly one of the most impressive actresses of the 1970s and 1980s, delivering a number of terrific performances after getting her start in the 1950s and 1960s in television. Perhaps no one understood her raw talent better than John Cassavetes, her frequent collaborator and husband. Together, they combined for one classic film after another, from the intimate relationship dramas Faces (1968) and Minnie & Moskowitz (1971) to the bolder character studies A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Opening Night (1977). A Woman Under the Influence is, perhaps, her greatest performance: she plays Mabel Longhetti as a symbol of the modern woman, and imbues her with such rich life that the performance earned Rowlands the first of her two Oscar nominations for Best Actress. The second would come in 1980, for Gloria, also directed by Cassavetes. Unfortunately, Hollywood failed to take notice of her talents, and she instead retreated back to television, ultimately winning four Emmys and two Golden Globes. Her most notable recent role came in The Notebook (2004), directed by her son Nick Cassavetes, though she has worked fairly steadily over the past decade.
The Governors' Awards will be handed out November 14, which a taped broadcast set to air during the Academy Awards next year.