The visual tribute to Hollywood’s fallen is one of a very few nonnegotiable Oscar rituals. We could have done without, say, a hymn to the horror genre. (Though I, for one, could not have done without its feed-in, a rollicking Baldwin–Martin spoof of the abysmal Paranormal Activity.) Indeed, we probably would have been better off spared the sight of Vera Farmiga, deserted by her signature sangfroid, going to pieces praising George Clooney. (Then again, in Ms. Farmiga’s defense, who wouldn’t?) But to go three and a half hours without a mention of Michael Jackson, without a salute to Patrick Swayze, without a hat-tip to the irreplaceable Karl Malden – well, it would have been heresy.
This year’s montage was noteworthy for a few reasons. In a wise move, the Academy retained James Taylor, the most plangent pop-musician in recorded history, to accompany it. Positioned at center-stage, with his guitar athwart his lap and the clips unspooling behind him, Taylor played a version of the Beatles’ “In My Life.”
Rather less wisely, the Academy opted to forgo observing the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Bea Arthur. Even posthumously, for those who set their rest on the screen trade, the threat of the snub persists.
As the images faded and flitted forward, the audience, as the blood demands, bestowed their heartiest displays of sorrow on those who had died too soon. Thus were Brittany Murphy, Swayze, Jackson and Natasha Richardson honored with similar spikes of applause – notwithstanding the vast disparities between what they did and how they died. Davd Carradine and Eric Rohmer, both of whom enjoyed, to the end, cult and critical cachet, were likewise sent off effusively.
The oddest name to draw an individuated response from the audience? For my money, Roy Disney, a rather middling senior executive of the family conglomerate — if still a very rich man. In Hollywood, your surname, apparently, remains on a par for importance with your CV. See for yourself after the jump:
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