New York Times reporter Michael Cieply pulls the lid off the In Memoriam segment of the Academy Awards telecast in a new article ("On Oscar night everyone is dying -- sometimes literally -- to win something," reads the first sentence), which explains how awards-season campaigning even extends to remembering the deceased.
According to Cieply, a group of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science members get together to determine which stars make the cut on Oscar night. “Of all the committees, it’s the hardest one to do,” Tom Sherak, who was president of the AMPAS until last year, told the Times. As with everything else in the cloak-and-dagger world of Oscar voting, the group is never outed or discussed in public. “The committee’s names are never mentioned, ever,” said Sherak.
The In Memoriam segment, an obituary in montage form that honors members of the Hollywood filmmaking community lost over the last year, officially became a part of the broadcast in 1994. Since, many departed stars have been unceremoniously snubbed from the roll call -- from Farah Fawcett and Brad Renfro to Corey Haim and Harry Morgan. Those omissions are usually chalked up to time (the AMPAS said Renfro just didn't make the final cut) or big-screen influence (Fawcett and Morgan weren't necessarily best known for their film work). Per Ciepy, however, there could be another reason: a lack of champions on the In Memoriam committee.
“I cannot image why it left my dad out of its tribute segment,” Harry Morgan's son, Charley, told The Times. “It would never have occurred to me to check with or otherwise lobby the Academy to be sure that he was mentioned.”
Lobbying, of course, is a major part of awards season -- and not just the In Memoriam segment. Just this week, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) spoke out against "Lincoln," Steven Spielberg's Best Picture nominee, because of apparent inaccuracies in the film's storyline. ("Lincoln" shows two Connecticut representatives voting against the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery; in real life, the men were for the new law.) With Oscar voting open now, that's the type of charge that could make "Lincoln" seem less viable as a Best Picture choice. Not that Courtney probably minds. As Salon notes, "Argo" director Ben Affleck -- who has watched as his film has lept above "Lincoln" to gain status as the Best Picture frontrunner in the last month -- worked to get Courtney elected in 2006.
As always with the Academy Awards, follow the friendships and ulterior motives -- even when it comes to the deceased.
For more on the inner-workings of the In Memoriam, head over to The New York Times.