I went to the Cerrito Oscar party. Last year was my first time attending. Once I saw the Oscars on the big screen, I couldn’t go back. I love the audience interaction with the telecast. Shushers are not welcome because they’d only interrupt the communal experience. Old time audiences were not silent. They vocally shared their reactions, and the Cerrito audience didn’t disappoint.
I was disappointed with this year’s In Memoriam. That clip reel is my favorite part of the broadcast. I eagerly await the tribute, and I wish the Oscars producers would lengthen it. They could find the time if they cut a song and dance routine or dropped a bad skit.
This year Queen Latifah introduced the montage and sang over at least half the footage. Her voice overpowered the clips. She was too much at the forefront, overshadowing the departed. Worse the live music meant the editor couldn’t feature much dialogue. Film may be a visual medium, but dialogue punctuates the experience.
I plan to ask a friend who attended in person how she experienced the visuals. Even blown up on a theatre screen, the use of multiple monitors to display the deceased and their work diminished them and their moment. I was confused where to look, and the images flew by too quickly. I imagine the impact was worse for those watching on televisions at home.
One YouTube poster tried to solve this problem by editing together his or her own version of the montage:
I like to see cinema’s history honored and its participants remembered. I listen for the Academy audience’s reaction to certain individuals. Obviously there are gaps in their knowledge. A Van Johnson doesn’t get as much applause as a Paul Newman because the latter worked more recently, but the former was no less important in his day. He kept his studio afloat with big box office results.
Perhaps some actors are chilled by the fear of being forgotten. Not all want to pull a Deanna Durbin and retire when big and wealthy. Many aim for screen mortality, and a forgotten big deal hints that they too may be forgotten one day.
Worse is the exclusion of people who really contributed to film. Last year Yvonne De Carlo earned no mention, but she was a box office babe during Hollywood’s golden era. The latter part of her career as a television star (and as Lily Munster) seemed to eclipse her Hollywood contributions. The industry’s memory can be fickle, and its history constantly rewritten.
Sometimes social politics come into play. Brad Renfro wasn’t included in this or last year’s clips. He died before Heath Ledger. Both men reportedly had trouble with substance abuse; one died of illegal drugs, and one died from perscription drugs. Renfro contributed to the industry since his childhood, but he died during a career downturn. Since Ledger went out on a career high, he was the one showcased last year, while the Academy chose not to mark Renfro’s passing due to “time constraints”.
The 2009 Screen Actors Guild Awards featured a more extended reel:
Yet there are notables missing like Ann Savage. Her overall filmography may not have earned her an award or an extended career, but her work in the film noir cult favorite “Detour” immortalizes her. She will inspire others to act and to make film, and she was rediscovered in time to die a working actress, so she must have been a SAG member. I haven’t seen her last screen appearance in Guy Maddin‘s “My Winnipeg” yet, but I will.
At least Savage knew she was appreciated before she died. I found a clip of her last day on Maddin’s set where those around her devolve into fangirls and boys:
Savage is lucky another way. The Film Noir Foundation is rectifying her slight. The final day of Noir City in Los Angeles pays tribute to Savage with guest speakers, film clips, rarities, and her last film.
Someone needs to champion those behind the scenes like Irving Brecher. Despite penning many notable scripts like “Meet Me in St. Louis” and the Marx Brothers‘ “At the Circus” , he warranted no mention, and he leaves a widow who may have felt the snub.
Tributes like the Oscars’ are enjoyed by the living, so maybe the Academy should make sure to honor Hollywood’s old timers before their actual passing, so they know they are remembered and not discarded like yesterday’s memorabilia. Maybe Hollywood would make better product if more of its denizens learned its real/reel history and extended their collective memories past less than twelve years ago.