The Oscars are tacky. We expect the Oscars to be tacky. You would think, though, that the one thing the Academy would and could get right is the annual “In Memoriam” tribute to those in their profession who died the previous year. After all, how difficult is it to be quiet, tasteful, fair, and to not forget big names like Joan Rivers and Elaine Stritch?
As you’ll see below, for our Hollywood Rubes, it is near impossible:
That’s not all of it. Believe it or not, the segment closed with a big, loud, brassy song courtesy of Jennifer Hudson.
Here are my five tips to fix the Academy’s ongoing “In Memoriam” train wreck.
- It’s Not All About Queen Meryl
Meryl Streep’s painfully self-aware, precious and mawkish introduction to the “In Memoriam” reel was Hollywood at its very worst. Rather than get out of the way by playing it straight and like an adult, Meryl just had to make it all about her — her personal pain, or worse, her performance of her personal pain. I’m surprised the most overrated actress in history didn’t whip out an English accent.
Why not have the Academy president come out to introduce the reel with a few short words?
Tasteful, quiet, simple. In these situations, that is much more effective than having Meryl come out to pretend she’s still not over losing her baby to a dingo.
- Kill the Applause Meter
If you are not able to convince the provincial rubes in the Kodak Theatre to remain quiet during the “In Memoriam” reel, at least have the decency to kill the audio in the auditorium so those of us at home are spared the spectacle of Tinseltown hicks using applause to engage in a shameful popularity contest for the deceased.
No one expects HollyBillies to show any real class anymore, ever. But there is no reason the rest of us have to be horrified by this morbid applause-metering.
- Present the Deceased In Alphabetical Order
I have nothing but admiration for director Mike Nichols. Nevertheless, choosing him as a favorite to end the “In Memoriam” reel with is tacky as hell and actually worse than the applause. This should not be a popularity contest where some elite group gets to choose The Favorite Dead Person of the Night. Objectively, one could argue that James Garner, Mickey Rooney, and Lauren Bacall are more deserving.
That, however, is not the point.
The point is that this subjective decision has to be hurtful to the families of the deceased who lose the contest. Decent people simply don’t do this kind of thing.
- Stop Forgetting People
How in the world did Joan Rivers, Elaine Stritch, Taylor Negron, and Jan Hooks get snubbed this year?
Especially in the age of social media, this is not hard. You can crowd source this job — a simple Academy tweet and Facebook post asking fans to share names and memories will complete the job.
Or, you know, Google.
Or keep a file throughout the year.
- Please, Stop With the Closing Song
We all understand that Jennifer Hudson has a good publicist and could use a career boost,. But just as the “In Memoriam” segment is not all about Meryl Streep, it is also not a slot to be filled as a favor for someone who needs to be seen.
And if you must close the proceedings with a song, how about something simple and elegant?
Must the song be an over-produced opportunity for yet-another Whitney Houston clone to strut her pipes?
You’re welcome, Hollywood. I’m always here to help.
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC