The more I think about this, the more it angers me.
All of the performers who were arbitrarily left off the 2020 “In Memoriam’ montage were devoted dramatic artists who gave their professional lives to entertaining the public and supporting their industry and colleagues. They deserved the respect and gratitude of their community symbolized by a final remembrance for the audience, and last round of applause. An extra minute would have done it. Instead, the Academy decided that it would honor a local NBA star who had died in a tragic accident, under the pretense that he was an Oscar-winner, a distinction itself that seemed driven by public relations considerations. The move was guaranteed to be popular among Los Angeles residents and sports fans, and perhaps even pick-up some extra ratings points. For that, an actor with the status and body of work of Michael J. Pollard had to be ignored, an affront to fairness as well as his families and fans.
Here are other Hollywood departed who met Pollard’s undeserved fate.
(May 28, 1999 – July 6, 2019)
Unless you are 15, you probably don’t know Cameron Boyce, whose most prominent claim to stardom his role as Luke Ross in the Disney Channel’s comedy series “Jessie” from 2011 to 2015. But then Boyce was only beginning his career, and died of complications relating to his epilepsy at the age of 20. Still, he had appeared in three feature films, and had a lot going that suggested that good things were on the horizon. He had bee cast in the indie film “Runt,” and last year Boyce had joined the cast of HBO’s “Mrs. Fletcher.” Just before his sudden death, Boyce was about to begin production on a new Adam Sandler film.
(October 11, 1937 – December 6, 2019)
Sometimes the Academy’s excuse for omitting an actor is that he or she was just a passer-by on the movie scene, and should be properly categorized as a TV actor, or a stage star. This was the argument when “In Memoriam” snubbed the great Carol Channing last yea, and it will surely be the argument for ignoring Leibman, who was a major Broadway star, most notably winning awards and raves for his tour de force portrayal of Roy Cohn in both plays in the epic “Angels in America” series, arguably the last culturally significant drama Broadway has produced.
Leibman won a a 1993 Tony Award for playing Cohn. For his varied television work. He won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series, in 1979 for ” Kaz” (1978–79), a series which he created and co-wrote. TV is where the average member of the public probably met him: on “Friends” he had a recurring role as Rachel Green’s (Jennifer Aniston to the culturally ignorant) overbearing father. He had a another recurring role on “The Sopranos” as Dr. Plepler, and yet another recurring role on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
Leibman didn’t make a lot of movies—just 23— but some were important, none more than “Norma Rae,” in which he played the union organizer who mentors and pushed Sally Field into a new life and passion. Leibman’s energy and nuanced performance is a bulwark of that movie, and I would argue that Field owes her career-altering Oscar win in part to him.
If a career like Ron Leibman’s isn’t one the Academy is proud to embrace, then I don’t know what it stands for. Continue reading