The Academy’s “In Memoriam” Snubs: Much Better This Year—Thanks, Oscar

The great Jonathan Winters in the not-so-great "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"

The great Jonathan Winters in the not-so-great “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”

In past years I have taken the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to task for the ethical breach of ingratitude and disrespect, as the honor roll of the year’s deceased film notables have omitted important figures who deserved their final bows. Omissions are inevitable, I suppose, but some of the past examples were unforgivable—last year alone, for example, the Academy snubbed Ann Rutherford, Andy Griffith, R.G. Armstrong, Russell Means, Harry Carey, Jr., and Susan Tyrell. 2012 was worse.

2013, however, shows that the Academy is being more careful, and Oscar deserves credit for cleaning up its act. I have ethical and historical objections to bestowing the prestigious final slot on actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, dead prematurely of self-inflicted drug abuse, when a genuine, bona fide Hollywood legend, Shirley Temple, was on the list. I understand the thinking: Hoffman had friends and colleagues in the room, and Temple is of another generation; his premature death was a tragedy, and she lived a long and productive life. Still, the priorities and relative values such a choice exemplifies is disturbing. Great actor that he was, Hoffman was a criminal, an addict, and left his children fatherless. Shirley was the greatest child star who ever will be, a ray of sunshine in the dark days of the Depression, a one-of-a kind talent and icon, and later a lifetime public servant who raised a family. She represented the best of Hollywood and the profession; Hoffman represents its dark side. Naturally, he’s the one who received the greatest recognition. I will suppress my dark suspicions that Shirley was docked because she was a Republican. A  Facebook friend actually wrote that Shirley deserved to be penalized because some of her movies were racist. My response to this slur was not friendly. Continue reading

The Emmys Play Favorites And Undermine Their Mission

Quick, now...and no cheating: Who is this recently deceased TV legend?

Quick, now…and no cheating: Who is this recently deceased TV legend?

Three separate organizations present the Emmy Awards: the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS), the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), and the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Each is dedicated to the television industry, and the award the organizations collaborate to  hand out for excellence are intended to serve multiple objectives. Prime among them is to honor and promote the professionals who bring—in theory, at least, quality entertainment into the homes of Americans. The show itself that broadcasts the awards only exists because of their larger mission, which is to say that the Emmy show exists to support the Emmys, not the other way around. The program’s producers, not for the first time, managed to forget their priorities this year, and are getting well-deserved scorn for it both in and outside the entertainment community.

The offense occurred during Sunday’s live telecast, when the show reached its annual “In Memoriam” segment. The Oscars have botched this crucial part of its own show in recent years by failing to recognize the deaths of important Hollywood figures who deserved their final bow and a last ovation. Emmy found a new and different way to insult its own. The Oscars’ omissions were negligent; the Emmys insult was, incredibly, intentional. It’s just that either nobody realized it was insulting, or, more likely, they knew but had other objectives. Continue reading