Numerous things bothered me about this year's Academy Awards. For starters, moving the honorary Oscar ceremony to a different day, thereby refusing Lauren Bacall and Roger Corman the honor of accepting their awards on Oscar night, was an affront to their talent, their legacy and their dignity. Having them stand up for an awkward applause, in which most members of the audience looked uneasy about whether or not to turn the clapping into a standing ovation, was embarrassing to say the least.
What made Oscar night even worse was the glaring omission of some big names from the annual Oscar memorial tribute, mainly Farrah Fawcett, Gene Barry and Bea Arthur. While I don't exactly have a checklist of people who passed away in 2009 to make sure that the Academy included everyone, it is perfectly clear to anyone who watches TCM that the memorial montage on our favorite classic film network included significantly more people than the Academy did. Each and every person in TCM's tribute played a part in film history, and they should have been included in the Oscar tribute as well. Whether it was a small part or a large part; whether they were a big name star or an anonymous technician; they deserved that two or three second tribute in front of the people who are keeping the film tradition alive.
The Academy has been apologizing for leaving people out of this tribute for years -- one of their most painful omissions was Dorothy McGuire. To explain her absence from the memorial, the Academy adopted their age-old excuse of "time limits." Time limit shm-ime limit. They could have easily trimmed the length of one of their dance-numbers-that-belonged-at-the-Tony's-not-the-Oscars or thrown out some of the extra bad jokes. I bring this up, though, because this time around they didn't blame the three big omissions on time limits. They began by trying to say that Fawcett, Arthur and Barry were merely television stars who would be honored by their peers at the Emmys, not the Oscars. But then somebody brought up Michael Jackson, who, despite his appearance on film is definitely considered a music star, not a movie star. And THAT, my friends, is where all heck broke loose. Consider this quote from an article from the AP regarding this topic:
"When asked why Michael Jackson was included when actors were left out, Davis explained that Jackson had appeared in a popular theatrical film recently."Popular theatrical film recently.
This opens a whole new can of worms. Since when does the date of your most recent film affect your worthiness to be included in a memorial tribute to filmmakers? Sure, Farrah Fawcett didn't make a movie in 2009 or 2008 but maybe she might have if she hadn't been spending all of her time battling cancer, for crying out loud!
And popular? POPULAR? Now, forget for a minute how this statement relates to the Farrah vs. Michael debacle-- how will this new standard affect future tributes? What of the stars who retired from acting in the 40's and 50's? Will they be shunned from memorial tributes because they haven't been on screen RECENTLY? Or in the latest POPULAR blockbuster? Another excerpt from the article I read:
"In every category, you're going to miss some wonderful people," said Davis, who has helped assemble Oscar's In Memoriam montage since it began in 1993.
Here's my solution: just include everyone who has been instrumental in making a movie. Whether they made 1 movie or 100, whether their last film was released last summer or 60 years ago. Just include them. It makes their fans and their family happy, and it gives them the credit that they deserve. End of story.
And for heaven's sake, either ask the audience to remain quiet or to maintain a steady stream of clapping. The parade of passing is no time for a popularity contest.