And this year's recipient is none other than Robert De Niro.
It's maddening and depressing to imagine that an entire generation is growing up only knowing De Niro from the 'Meet the Parents' series and 'Analyze This.' Although the legendary actor gives one of his best performances in about a decade in the recently released 'Stone,' he's been laying low for awhile, taking paycheck gig after paycheck gig and doing little to actually challenge himself as an actor. But come on, let's face it: When you've played Jake LaMotta in 'Raging Bull,' Travis Bickle in 'Taxi Driver' and Vito Corleone in 'The Godfather Part II,' you've earned the right to be a little lazy in your twilight years.
If you take a quick glance at De Niro's filmography, it could easily be mistaken for a list of the greatest films ever made. In addition to 'Raging Bull,' 'Taxi Driver' and 'The Godfather Part II,' the two-time Oscar winner also appeared in 'The Deer Hunter,' 'The King of Comedy,' 'Midnight Run,' 'Once Upon a Time in America,' 'Brazil,' 'Angel Heart,' 'Casino,' 'Awakenings,' 'The Untouchables,' 'Goodfellas,' 'Cape Fear,' 'Heat' and 'Jackie Brown.' Beyond his celebrated work with director Martin Scorsese, he's worked with Michael Cimino, Sergio Leone, Terry Gilliam, Brian DePalma, Michael Mann, Quentin Tarantino, Kenneth Branagh, Robert Rodriguez, Penny Marshall and Ron Howard. He has played a terrifying vigilante, a traumatized Vietnam War veteran, a paroled stoner, a suave criminal mastermind (on several occasions), a hilariously antisocial wannabe comedian and just about every other imaginable role.
So yes, the Golden Globes may not matter in the grand scheme of things, and yeah, it's become trendy to rag on De Niro for being lazy in recent years, but this award will should remind us of what a treasure De Niro is, and what a gift he is to cinema. Only certain names and certain faces survive the wrath of time to live on in our consciousness; we remember Chaplin and Bogart and Monroe, but we forget thousands of other actors and actresses who surrounded them, who are hidden in their shadows. 50 years from now, audiences will still know who De Niro is. His films will always be watched and his performances will always be studied. He's done what all actors should aspire to do: he's made himself immortal.
Except for 'Meet the Fockers.' That movie cannot fall victim to the wrath of time soon enough.
The 68th annual Golden Globe Awards will be held on Jan. 16, 2011. The complete press release from the Hollywood Foreign Press can be read here.