Rather like Meryl Streep, who has been racking up career honors of late, it's all but impossible to argue with any kind of lifetime achievement award for Martin Scorsese: in addition to his own deathless body of work, his efforts in the fields of film preservation and documentation make him one of the medium's greatest servants. So the news that he is to receive BAFTA's highest honor, the Fellowship, at the British Academy's awards ceremony next month is neither unexpected nor unwelcome.

I can't help wondering, however, why they've chosen to honor him in this way in a year when he will most likely be in the regular BAFTA race for "Hugo." On the one hand, BAFTA voters may feel that the Fellowship is a sufficient reward for one year, and feel disinclined to vote for him in competitive categories. If they don't, and Scorsese were to win Best Director and/or Best Film into the bargain, it could come across as overkill -- particularly given that the Fellowship is traditionally the last presentation of the BAFTA ceremony. Why not wait, and spread the love by picking a worthy luminary who isn't already getting honored in other departments this year? Just my take.

Anyway, if the timing strikes me as questionable, the gesture certainly doesn't. Scorsese will join such filmmakers as Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Federico Fellini, Woody Allen, Billy Wilder and Stanley Kubrick on the list of BAFTA Fellows; he's well due to join their ranks. This will be his fourth BAFTA overall, having won the trifecta of Best Film, Director and Adapted Screenplay for "GoodFellas" in 1990. ("Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and "The Aviator" also won Best Film in their respective years, though Scorsese himself missed out.)

The BAFTA ceremony will take place on February 12. Press release as follows: 

On Sunday 12 February, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts will present Martin Scorsese with the Academy Fellowship at the Orange British Academy Film Awards ceremony, at London’s Royal Opera House. Awarded annually by BAFTA, the Fellowship is the highest accolade bestowed upon an individual in recognition of an outstanding and exceptional contribution to film.

Previously honoured Fellows include Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Sean Connery, Elizabeth Taylor, Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier, Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave. Christopher Lee received the Fellowship at the Film Awards last February.

Tim Corrie, Chairman of BAFTA, said: “Martin Scorsese is a legend in his lifetime; a true inspiration to all young directors the world over. We are delighted to honour his contribution to cinema history and look forward to paying tribute to him in London on 12 February.”

Martin Scorsese added: “It is a great honour to be recognized by the British Academy and to join the ranks of such an esteemed group of industry colleagues and friends.”

With a celebrated career now spanning six decades, Martin Scorsese is one of the most influential filmmakers in cinema history. The acclaimed director, producer and screenwriter has been nominated by BAFTA no fewer than nine times, garnering three wins in 1991 for Goodfellas. A cinematic master, his works also include Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Casino, Gangs of New York, The Aviator and The Departed.

He has continued to delight critics and audiences alike with his most recent work, Hugo, a film that not only marks the director’s first foray into 3D but is also his first adventure film for all the family. Scorsese has also made a number of ground-breaking documentaries including celebrated music films No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, Shine a Light and George Harrison: Living in the Material World.

Demonstrating his passion for film preservation, Scorsese is the founder and chair of two non-profit organizations dedicated to the preservation and protection of motion picture history: The Film Foundation and the World Cinema Foundation.

In December 2010, Scorsese was the subject of a ‘BAFTA A Life in Pictures’ event, where he shared personal insights into his career and his craft and gave invaluable advice to newcomers to the industry. These videos are now available to view on www.bafta.org/guru.