President Obama Joins Up with Glamorous Michelle at Kennedy Center Honors …

7 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A Galaxy Far, Far Away Comes to D.C. as Kennedy Center Honors George Lucas for Star Wars Legacy.

was recognized for his contribution to American culture through the arts on Sunday night at the Kennedy Center Honors celebration – but with a bit of a Star Wars twist. The careers of director George Lucas, actors Cecily Tyson and Rita Moreno, conductor Seiji Ozawa and singer/songwriter Carole King were feted in a tight and fluid ceremony, which is slated to air Dec. 29 on CBS.

But in true Star Wars fashion, instead of Fisher, one of Lucas’ most beloved creations, R2-D2, took the stage to project her image. “I wanted to be there to help celebrate your Kennedy Center honor in person, but hey, since you invented video voicemail, I don’t have to be,” Fisher joked. The first honors program under new the Kennedy Center’s new president Deborah Rutter coincided with a new production team, Tony Awards veterans Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment. Instead, one of Lucas’s beloved creations, the feisty droid R2-D2, rolled onstage and projected her image, recreating the famous scene from A New Hope. Fellow filmmaker and movie pioneer Steven Spielberg paid tribute to Lucas for the technological impact he’s had on film, and his dedication to profound storytelling.

The duo was tapped last May under a one-year tryout deal to succeed George Stevens Jr., who conceived the Honors program and co-produced from its inception through last year. Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, fellow directors who along with Lucas brought new energy to American cinema in the 1970s, offered more conventional tributes to the Star Wars creator, hailing him for his technological wizardry and his commitment to storytelling. The gala celebration, as usual, drew a top shelf turnout of showbiz and D.C. glitterati, including President Obama, who arrived at intermission after delivering his primetime address to the nation from the Oval Office on terrorism. Lucas also created the Indiana Jones franchise, directed by Spielberg, and his special-effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, had a part in seven of the top 10 grossing movies of all time. “He’s a pathfinder and a pioneer like Edison and Bell and Tesla and Jobs,” Spielberg said. “George Lucas’s Star Wars absolutely changed films forever.” The Force Awakens, the seventh movie in the franchise and the first made without Lucas’s involvement as director, producer or writer, opens later this month and is expected to be one of the highest-grossing films in history. It’s very low-key, it’s not getting a lot of promotion,” Obama joked. “But it’s also pretty remarkable that nearly 40 years after the first Star Destroyer crawled across the screen, we are still obsessed with George’s vision of a galaxy far, far away.

As the crowd of Washington power brokers and Hollywood celebrities stood and applauded, Lucas waved from a balcony, wearing the event’s signature rainbow-coloured garland. Each honoree got their time to shine, starting with Moreno, whose TV granddaughter, Jane the Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez, got emotional as she recalled idolizing the actress as a young child and what it meant for her to see a fellow Latina on screen. “You gave me hope, a reason to fight and speak up,” said Rodriguez of Moreno, who was the first Latin woman to win an Academy Award. “When you followed your dreams, you gave me the allowance to follow mine.” Rosie Perez sang Fever while Animal of The Muppets manned the drums, — a performance for which Moreno, who turns 84 on Friday, won an Emmy. “Te amo mucho,” said Perez, expressing her love in Spanish. “Because without you, there would be no me.” Ozawa, who led the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 29 years, was feted by violinist Itzhak Perlman, soprano Renee Fleming and previous Kennedy Center Honoree Yo-Yo Ma.

Earlier on the red carpet, Ozawa, 80, said that he felt as if he were “receiving this (the honor) with my colleagues in the orchestra.” Stephen Colbert returned to host for his second year in a row. “It’s a little embarrassing…they all showed up tonight wearing the same necklace,” he joked of the honoree’s rainbow medallions, which were bestowed upon them during a State Department dinner Saturday night. But the team sprinkled new video segments throughout the show to supplement biographical films of each honoree, changed the look of sets and clearly aimed for a breezier flow of proceedings.

Moreno said she planned on putting them “in a very prominent place” next to her grandson’s plastic soccer trophy, which she proudly displays alongside her Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony statuettes. Emceed for the second year by Stephen Colbert, the show began with a toast to Moreno that included a lively perf of “America” from “West Side Story” and ended with Aretha Franklin delivering a rousing rendition of King’s “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.” The King tribute was hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, a long-time friend and neighbor of the artist. It wove in scenes and songs from the King bio tuner “Beautiful” performed by Jessie Mueller, supplemented by James Taylor (“Up on the Roof”), Sara Bareilles (“You’ve Got a Friend”) and Franklin. Carole King was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame nearly 30 years ago for her broad influence on pop music, which helped shape the sounds of the 1960s and 70s.

Star Wars is “not a movie about spaceships…but about family,” she said, recalling how his long gaps between movies were because he wanted to spend time raising his children. Cicely Tyson, a longtime star of stage and screen, has said the honor validated her decision to turn down many roles as she tried to find meaningful work as a black woman. The Eagles, who were due to receive an Honor this year but opted to postpone until next year because of a band member’s health problems, were not forgotten: Miranda Lambert performed Desperado in their honor. James Earl Jones narrated the biographical film for Lucas as well as a shorter video clip that highlighted Lucas’ many technological achievements in film. Tyson’s celebration included spoken tributes by Tyler Perry, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington. “She chose to empower us when we didn’t even know it was possible to be empowered,” said Perry. “Cicely refused to take a role that would not better humanity.” Davis, called the 90-year-old actress “my friend, my inspiration, my TV mother.” She “motivates others to follow her lead and her dreams.” “Cicely Tyson does not merely act,” said Washington. “She soars.

Aretha Franklin, clad in a floor-length fur coat, capped off the night with a booming performance of Natural Woman that had everyone — including all Honorees and the Obamas — on their feet. Honorees were presented with their rainbow ribbons, surrounded by invited members of the artists committee and some past honorees, Kennedy Center board members, a smattering of D.C. politicos and media celebs. Kerry, taking a quick break from Paris global warming talks, said he welcomed the reception and dinner as “Washington’s true politics-free zone.” But he set a serious tone by decrying the brutal war being waged by ISIS terrorists against culture, art and world peace. Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock emceed the post-dinner festivities which featured tributes to each honoree by a special friend. “Scandal” star Washington saluted Tyson, followed by the toast to Lucas by Usher. You already had your turn, Steven: Director Steven Spielberg (right) says a friendly hello to fellow legendary director Martin Scorsese and his daughter, Francesca.

King’s tribute was delivered by longtime colleague Taylor, who said that when he first released King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” he never dreamed the tune would be “my first and last number one single, and a song I would sing every night for the rest of my entire life.”

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