The Dead Pool

memoriamSomewhere near the middle of the Academy Awards ceremony the organizers air a segment called “In Memoriam” in which a few dozen select members who have died in the previous 12 months are featured in a montage of film clips and other footage. It’s usually the highlight of the evening for me – a fascinating few minutes to recollect a broad swath of film history.

For this year’s segment, the Academy will have more than 100 deceased members to choose from, and therein lies opportunity for speculation and controversy. Some august body of Academy grey-beards must winnow down a huge list of worthy people to a subset consisting of what movie fans would consider the most influential in the business, trying to balance between famous actors and behind-the-scenes editors, hairdressers and choreographers. Still, some recognizable actors fail to make the short list, causing outcries of “snub,” implying the Academy purposefully chose to insult someone rather than striving to stay within a 3 minute envelope of air-time. This happened in 2010 when Farrah Fawcett was omitted. The reason given: she was more of a TV actress and should be honored during the Emmy’s instead (the Academy subsequently apologized to Fawcett’s family.) And last year, Andy Griffith and Larry Hagman were the chosen snubs. I suppose some would write off Griffith as primarily a TV personality like Farrah, suggesting they never saw his triumphant performance in 1957’s A Face in the Crowd.

It seems that calling out the “In Memoriam” snubs is the newest Academy Awards sport, joining snarky takes on the gowns worn by the women in attendance. I recall listening to a rant on the radio last Fall by Adam Klugman decrying the omission of his father Jack Klugman from an In Memoriam segment during the Emmys. “I think it’s criminal,” said Adam Klugman in an interview with The Associated Press. “My dad was at the inception of television and helped build it in the early days.” It further pissed off son of Klugman that dead “Glee” star Cory Montieth was included. “It’s an insult and it really seems typical of this youth-centric culture that has an extremely short attention span and panders to only a very narrow demographic,” the boy exclaimed.

Who knows what will happen at this year’s award show, but I’m willing to stake bus fare that these people will make the montage:

Shirley Temple
Peter O’Toole
Jim Gandolfini
Annette Funicello
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Jonathan Winters
Esther Williams
Dennis Farina
Eileen Brennan
Elmore Leonard
Bryan Forbes
Ray Harryhausen
Jean Stapleton
Maximillian Schell
Fay Kanin
Milo O’Shea
Ray Dolby
Roger Ebert (Not an Academy member, yet I believe an exception would be made given the complaints of “snub” after Gene Siskel was left out.)

The Academy saves the best for last. Jimmy Stewart, Paul Newman, George C. Scott, Billy Wilder and Liz Taylor wrapped up the montage in years past. My money is on Peter O’Toole this year for the closing honor.

Next Week: Oscar Predictions

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