The former West Wing star, 62, has been handed $300,000 (£188,000) for "opening eyes, ears and minds" with her theatre projects about Rodney King, the face of the Los Angeles Riots, and healthcare.
Smith says, "I am deeply honoured. I can't imagine a greater honour than having my name linked with the incomparable Dorothy and Lillian Gish."
The annual cash prize is given to a person who has made "an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind's enjoyment and understanding of life".
Previous recipients have included Bob Dylan and Robert Redford.
Smith played Dr. Nancy McNally in The West Wing; she has also appeared in TV show Nurse Jackie, and her film credits include RENT, Philadelphia and The American President.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
The British actress was mauled after making her stage debut in The Misanthrope in 2009, but she refused to let the bad reviews stop her from signing up for a stint in Lillian Hellman's 1934 play.
And when the curtain went up on Wednesday (09Feb11), the Pirates of the Caribbean star managed to impress the audience and draw praise for her role as a headmistress accused of having a lesbian affair with her colleague.
Charles Spencer of Britain's Daily Telegraph wrote that Knightley "displays confidence throughout before rising in the final act to dramatic heights that are shattering in their intensity."
The Guardian's theatre critic Michael Billington said Knightley and her co-star Elisabeth Moss "prove as potent a combination on stage as at the box office", adding: "(The) atmospheric, slow-burning and ultimately enthralling production proves far more compelling than I expected."
Meanwhile, filmmaker Gurinder Chadha, who made Knightley a film star after casting her in Bend It Like Beckham, was blown away by the actress' performance.
She tells the Press Association, "I thought it was very powerful, I'm a bit overcome. I'm so proud of Keira."
The Moliere classic, about a runaway student at an all-girls boarding school, is heading to the stage at The Comedy Theatre in January (11) and the 77 year old has signed on to portray the grandmother of one of the girls.
Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss and actress Carole Kane have also been added to the cast in the Lillian Hellman production.
The Children's Hour was previously turned into a 1961 movie of the same name starring Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine.
The Pirates of the Caribbean star took to the stage last December (09) in an adaptation of the Moliere classic opposite Damian Lewis and Tara Fitzgerald.
Knightley's performance was mauled by critics who branded her inexperienced and inadequate, with one harsh reviewer notably accusing the actress of having the "charisma of a serviceable goldfish".
But the actress looks set to return to the same venue, The Comedy Theatre, next year (11) for a production of Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour opposite Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss.
Knightley has reportedly told British newspaper the Daily Mail she is looking forward to making her stage comeback, branding the project "very exciting".
The Children's Hour is set in an all-girls boarding school and tells the story of an angry student who runs away and avoids being sent back by telling her family the two headmistresses are having a lesbian affair.
The story was made into a 1961 movie of the same name starring Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine.