Saturday, March 10, 2018

til death do us part...

America's lynch-mob mentality annually reaches insane heights during the post-Oscar weeks when internet nobodies, self-described as "film experts" and multiplying like crazy, indict the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with hysterical conspiracy theories about all of its alleged snubs.

I mean, the fans of "Lady Bird" seem more upset about its imagined slight than Greta Gerwig herself. Really? Wow. Inarguably, the worst of these movie malcontents - and the least informed - are those who make claims against the Academy's In Memoriam segment on behalf of the dead.

Case in poin: Something called Film - Blogging the Reel World chided the Academy for omitting "notable, deserving people" from this year's segment - such as Bill Paxton. True, Bill Paxton was missing from this year's tribute. But that's because the actor was honored last year, in 2017.

And most memorably at that.

Jennifer Aniston, seen in the above photo introducing the segment in 2017, singled out Paxton, who died the day before the broadcast. Her tribute to those who passed ended tenderly: "As was Bill Paxton, our beloved friend who left us yesterday, all were loved and all will be missed."

I found this fact - on the internet, of course - in less than five minutes. There's no excuse for people who work - and all but live - on the internet to routinely pass on misinformation. But they do and with much authority.

And, if you think about it, given that Paxton died in 2017, should he really have been honored on an Oscarcast devoted to the 2016 movie year?

But more about that later.

First, I feel compelled to defend the Academy (did I actually just say that?) and explain how it acknowledges movie-related deaths every year, given that its public-relations arm has been shamefully remiss in this area.

Aside from Paxton, other deceased film personalities who have supposedly been snubbed this year include John Gavin, Anne Jeffreys, Bradford Dillman, Miquel Ferrer, Powers Boothe, Dina Merrill, Tobe Hooper, Elsa Martinelli, Don Gordon, Anthony Harvey, Christine Kauffmann, Clifton James, Chuck Berry, Adam West and Jean Rochefort. But they weren't.

You see, every movie year, the Academy compiles two memoriam lists. One is a complete list that is posted on its site as a gallery of photographs, covering those who died the year before (as well as during the first couple months of the current year). Case in point: This year, there were 213 people listed. But for this year's broadcast, the number was whittled down to 51 names (including 19 actors and eight directors). The broadcast list is reduced every year due only to time constraints. The Academy's site for The 2017 Oscarcast listed 185 names; less than half made the broadcast.

While it would have been impractical for the Academy to flash 213 photos during the broadcast this year, it could have included more than 51 by eliminating the gratuitous "visit" that host Jimmy Kimmel and other celebs paid to average moviegoers at a screening in an adjoining theater. Filler.

That way, it could have included the wonderful Dorothy Malone, who was absent from the broadcast list even though she was an actual recipient of an Oscar (for 1956's "Written on the Wind"). But then should Malone have really been included this year, given that she died (at age 93) on January 19th of this year.

Which brings me to a point that the film experts overlook. The 90th Annual Oscars - aired this year, in 2018 - paid tribute strictly to films made in 2017. It did not include any titles released in January or February of 2018.

That wouldn't make any sense, right?

Again, strictly 2017 movies. So why isn't this standard applied to movie deaths? The fact is, Bradford Dillman, John Gavin and Malone did not die in 2017. They all passed during the first months of 2018 and, according to any reasonable logic, these actors would be honored next year during 2019's show. And Bill Paxton, who as noted died the day before 2017's broadcast, would have been acknowledged this year. In 2018.

The problem is, the Academy caves to its viewers' inability to appreciate that a year spans from January to December. When someone dies a month before the show, the public, ill-advised by the aforementioned film experts, wants to know exactly why that person was ... snubbed.

The Academy could avert this annual "controversy" if, during this year's broadcast (as an example), it had made it clear that its In Memoriam segment was being devoted to those film personalities who died only during 2017. Specifically. Again, from January to December.

It it would also help if it advised its viewers that, due to time contraints, the list being aired is only partial and if it also used a scroll to direct them to the complete list on the Academy's site. A PR problem would be solved.

Note in Passing: And it's my opinion that actors from TV with limited film credits should not be among the honored at all. This year, that would include West, Rose Marie, Jim Nabors, Della Reese and David Ogden Stiers (even though the latter did a lot of off-screen voiceover work).
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(from top)

~Jennifer Aniston introducing the In Memoriam Segment during the 2017 Oscarcast, giving a shout out to Bill Paxton
 ~photography: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 2017©

~Dorothy Malone with her Oscar for "Written on the Wind"
~photography: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 1956©


Glenn Erickson said...

I would say that for that segment, the Acad should honor obits between show telecasts, in a 'since the last time we gathered' sense. And I would drop all the agents, publicity people, etc. from the roles and concentrate on stars old and new, and noted artisans who worked in film.

I usually hate the Oscars. This show was very pleasant, and not just because my favorites mostly won.

Mike Schlesinger said...

What makes the omission of Malone, Gavin, Dillman, et al even more galling is the inclusion of people who should not have been in their places, including an executive producer with only eight pictures to her credit (mostly teen comedies) and an actress who starred in exactly one film, plus a few bits. It's clear the reel is slanted toward current people, no doubt a result of the involvement of the current Academy CEO, whose dislike of "old movies" is well known.

BTW, I might have included Rose Marie because of her starring in a number of Vitaphone shorts in the late 20s and early 30s. She was practically the last survivor of that important era.

joe baltake said...

Glenn- I agree with you that people on the periphery of the movies should not be included (Robert Osborne!). And I believe that your suggestion of including the words, "Since the last time we gathered...," solves the strict January-to-December inclusion, which only confuses everyone. Yes, it was a good show this year, that silly screening visit withstanding. I thought Kimmel was perfect.

Mike: Yeah, this year's inclusions were indeed - what's the word? - curious. I think it may also have to do with the Academy trying to be diverse. Who knows? But you are right about Rose Marie and her early Vitaphone days. Unfortunately, in terms of movies, she is mostly known by buffs for "Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title."


Alex said...

Yes, that ridiculous trip to surprise people in a movie theater was unnecessary filler, but I think the blame could be placed on the network, ABC, not the Academy. It a pathetic way to pander to the American public. I'm not surprised. ABC now bills itself as "America's Network." Uh-oh. You know what that means.

joe baltake said...

Alex- Yes, And "Wheel of Fortune" is "America's Game Show." When I see monikers like that I think it is code for "conservative." As for ABC, I find it as right-leaning as Fox but at least Fox is transparent.

Terren said...

Forget about the dead people. What about those who are still alive? It was so wonderful to see Eva Marie Saint, still amazingly glamorous at her age -- same for Rita Moreno.

Charlotte said...

Like you, I admired the late Robert Osborne but I agree: Why was he singled out during the Oscars' In Memoriam, while Dorothy Malone and John Gavin were omitted? Odd.

Beef said...

With all the current turmoil in the world, I probably shouldn't get all riled up about the annual Oscar "In Memoriam" screw-up, but I can't help myself. Whoever the Academy has "tasked" with compiling the list of those honored during the show is clearly not up to the job. I agree that those known primarily for their TV and music credits probably don't belong in the on-air montage--so why were Chuck Berry, Don Rickles, Osborne, and Ron Howard's dad included this year? It's so arbitrary! And typically, the segment has included those who've passed away "since the last time we gathered"--but as I recall, Lizabeth Scott was omitted the year she should have been included--there was a bit of an uproar, and she was in the next year's "In Memoriam" segment. The problem is that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shouldn't have to be TOLD that "so-and-so" is an important figure in film history. C’mon--it’s Dorothy Malone, for cryin’ out loud!!! (Ditto: Gavin, Hooper, etc.)

Kevin Deany said...

Here's what irritated me about the Dorothy Malone omission (and I hope they make up for it with next year's In Memoriam segement). In 2003, at the 75th Oscars, they had something called the Oscar Family Album where they invited all past living Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress winners for an onstage reunion. Yep, Dorothy Malone was still living at the time and never got asked. She was watching the ceremony at home and was hurt they didn’t even extend the invitation to her. Their later explanation was they thought she was dead. And then they forgot her all over again at this year's ceremony.

joe baltake said...

Kevin- No one ever accused Hollywood movie people of having "class." -J

Marvin said...

Joe, I think it is ANNE JEFFREYS and POWERS BOOTHE. I believe you have a couple of misspellings. To me, misspellings are far more annoying than being "excluded" from the In Memoriam segment. (Just kidding). Marvin

joe baltake said...

Yikes! Corrected. Thanks, Marvin!

Joyce said...

Great column; What I particularly like is the graph about the self-proclaimed internet "experts" who complain about the Academy and who was left off a memorial list. The Hollywood greats who populated the films that I loved will never make a memorial service because no one in the audience will even know them. They weren’t Marvel heroes or X-Men. They were performers who could play everyday men and women. That’s been out of style for a long time.

And what about Brad Gorski (sp?) who was briefly Rachel Zoe's assistant? When I saw him giving commentary on the awards, I almost vomited. It was like a new version of “All About Eve.” He was an untalented assistant who butt-kissed his way into the hearts of Hollywood phonies and robbed Zoe of her clients. Now he’s an “expert.”