Few aspects of the Oscars ceremony every year are so attentively watched as the “In Memoriam” segment, which pays a stripped-down tribute to the notable entertainment figures who passed away. It’s an extensive list — filled with well-known losses along with the more underplayed names — but as it turns out, a placement on that list involves as much background campaigning as any of the ten Best Picture nominees.
The mid-show segment has been in place since 1994’s ceremony, and this year’s nearly three-minute montage will honor such names as Ernest Borgnine, Charles Durning, Nora Ephron, Tony Scott, Richard Zanuck and Marvin Hamlisch. However, the other 30-something spots left are at the center of fierce debate, all contained within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. A committee of members, whose names are kept under wraps for the process, are tasked with weighing the cultural significance, career achievement, and other aspects of the less-publicized deaths. Most importantly, those include the outside appeals by friends, colleagues, and families of loved ones hoping to get them into the line-up.
Publicist Sheldon Roskin is one such proponent, and as such he’s recently run into a wall with the Academy trying to put forth his public relations colleague Tommy Culla. “Unfortunately, my calls to the Academy were not returned,” he said.
Though the committee is supposed to run free of peripheral influence, the Academy’s chief operating officer Ric Robertson has said, “there’s no shortage of input from out there in the community.” There’s also the political sway from within, as screenwriter and past Academy president Frank Pierson (who died in July) seems a locked candidate for entry into this year’s list.
The Academy hope to temper outrage by posting a full list of names on the Oscars.com website, but let’s face it, a tucked-away web page is hardly a parallel honor to the awards. A number of other curious snubs (No Eartha Kitt in 2009?) are detailed in the full NY Times article, but you can try and spot the newest ones when the Oscars air Feb. 24th.