Oscars In Memoriam: Recent Deaths Put Extra Pressure on Academy

Oscars In Memorium
Mark Davis/WireImage

The Oscars are coming Sunday, so get ready for controversy. No, not about politics, Woody Allen or even the Oscar results. Every year, one of the show’s most beloved segments, and the one that stirs up the most heated debates is the In Memoriam sequence.

An online petition is requesting that the Oscar segment include Sarah Jones, the 27-year-old Atlanta crew member killed by a train while filming “Midnight Rider.” That petition is touching and heartfelt, and I agree that any worker, in any field, deserves special recognition if he or she died in the line of duty.

The Academy tries to get a cross-section of film-industry people in a short amount of time. Academy decision-makers weigh a lot of factors about who to include. Bottom line: Every person shown in the segment will deserve to be there. But not every deserving person WILL be there, because time is limited. Academy reps are nearly always mum about who is included. The past year has seen the death of notables including Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Gandolfini, Peter O’Toole, Tom Sherak, Shirley Temple, Deanna Durbin, Joan Fontaine, Roger Ebert, Ray Dolby, Ray Harryhausen, Paul Walker and Elmore Leonard, to mention just a few.

Will Harold Ramis be included? There used to be a cutoff sometime around the end of January and some notables were omitted because the death occurred shortly before the ceremony. Technology has changed quickly and presumably it’s now easier to make last-minute changes. But would that entail bumping someone else?

People love this segment. They LOVE it. But it stirs up a lot of emotions. When Leni Riefenstahl was included, many people protested that their favorite had been bypassed — and for Hitler’s favorite filmmaker? In more recent years, there were protests at the omissions of Andy Griffith, Lupe Ontiveros and Larry Hagman, while the absence of Farrah Fawcett was protested so loudly that the Academy issued a rare explanation, saying that she was more of a TV actress than film.

Another source of controversy: Applause. Last year, Barbra Streisand sang (in the photo above), and past singers have ranged from James Taylor to Aretha Franklin. It’s a wonderful addition, but it was instigated to discourage the applause in the middle of the segment. For years, audiences were asked to abstain from clapping until the end, but several prominent faces got applause, followed by silence for other faces. “It’s like a popularity contest for the deceased,” lamented one Academy member. The singers seem to have helped quiet the clapping in the past few years.

But it raises another point of contention: Who gets the final image? That in itself is a source of controversy, because the Academy folks want it to end on an emotional moment. Philip Seymour Hoffman is a strong possibility, but a much safer choice would be Shirley Temple.

Did we forget anyone who should make the Academy Awards show? Leave your choices in the comments.

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  1. Gerald says:

    I hope they include Christopher Jones in the memoriam. He died in January of 2014.

  2. eith prado says:

    You did’nt pay tribute to ralph waite how inconsiderate

  3. Joan K. Thomas says:

    Christopher Jones from “Wild in the Streets”., from 1969, he was considered a successor to James Dean. He also did a few other movies. He was great in “Wild in the Streets!”

  4. Marilyn Gayle says:

    I noticed Ralph Waite was not included in “in Memorium” I know he was mostly TV, but was in “Cool Hand Luke”, a great movie. Just wondering

  5. Audrey says:

    Maybe Corey Monteith was known mostly for TV, but he did appear in films in his career as well. I didn’t see mention of his name during the in memoriam.

  6. Donna LaVigne-Kearns says:

    I heard of this site just today, March 2, 2014, the very day of the Oscar’s. To say I am sadden and shocked at the absents of Pierre Jalbert’s name, well that is not even half as to the way I feel. How an industry can forget one so important to the film making industry as he, is so beyond my comprehension.

    Let us look at his achievements…shall we.

    1988 Earth Girls Are Easy (ADR editor)
    1986 Nobody’s Fool (ADR editor)
    1985 Secret Admirer (supervising ADR editor)
    1980 Shogun (TV Mini-Series) (sound editor) (Pierre was nominated for an Emmy for sound editing.)
    1979 North Dallas Forty (dialogue editor)
    1979 Bloodline (dialogue editor)
    1972 The Godfather (assistant sound editor – uncredited)
    1977 Dark Echoes
    1977 The Van
    1974 One by One (Documentary)
    1972 43: The Richard Petty Story
    1972 The Godfather (assistant editor – uncredited)
    (the famous baptism intercut sequence at the end of the movie was Pierre’s suggestion!),
    1955 Kismet (assistant editor – uncredited)
    1950 Lights of My City (assistant director)
    1987 The Misfit Brigade (special thanks)
    1969 Footprints on the Moon: Apollo 11 (Documentary)
    Jules Verne (voice)
    Blackboard Jungle
    Bad Day at Black Rock
    Ben Hur
    Mutiny on the Bounty
    An American in Paris
    Tea and Sympathy
    Something of Value
    Concorde
    Bloodline
    Grease

    I am but a meer fan of Pierre Jalbert so I do not know of all of his achievements. But to snub someone who so loved this industry, in my opinion, is shameful and I, for one, have no interest in watching the Oscars as I think it is joke.

    Merci for letting me vent my anger. I hope I did not offend anyone.

    Donna LaVigne-Kearns

  7. Carolyn Michel says:

    What about SID CAESAR!!!!!

  8. Susan Rodriguez says:

    There was a man who worked for many years behind the scenes, his name was Pierre Jalbert. He was probably better known to many of us as “Caje” from the 1960’s TV show Combat!. However, he worked as a film and dialogue editor at Universal and MGM. Credits include Blackboard Jungle, Bad Day at Black Rock, Ben Hur, Mutiny on the Bounty, An American in Paris and Tea and Sympathy. After Combat he went back to being ADR at Paramount and worked on the movies, Concorde, Bloodline, Grease, The Godfather (including the famous baptism intercut sequence at the end of the movie). Pierre died on January 22, 2014 following complications from a heart attack. If anyone should be mentioned at the Oscars, it should be Pierre Jalbert, he was in the business for many years and he should be mentioned.

  9. Deanna Durbin must not be forgotten at the OSCARS.

  10. Melissa Poage says:

    So happy to see such overwhelming support for Sarah Jones. It is my understanding that she is going to be included…

  11. Melissa Poage says:

    I feel that Ed Grady and Lee Thompson Young should also be included in the memorium… Ed had a very long and prolific career as a character actor, and Lee was lost to us in his prime…

  12. Laura says:

    If they cut out the dumb banter between presenters, they could include anyone in the industry who passed. It’s awkward and dated. Just get up there and say “and the nominees for blank are….”

  13. vic bullock says:

    Roger Ebert ? I don’t think so, Whoppi mentioned Gene Siskal one year after the memoriam,
    she was almost jeered off the stage by live audience…..!!!!!!!!!

  14. vic bullock says:

    Don’t get James Taylor to sing it this time, he flubbed the national anthem recently ! And Fawcett
    being more TV than film, what about Johnny Carson hosting, he appeared in bedtime for bonzo ??

  15. BtzAnn says:

    The response is overwhelmingly obvious…Sarah Jones. Her life should be honored, her work and death not in vain. Perhaps a brief camera black-out will be the recognition that Sarah is deserving during the Oscars in Memoriam Segment? Would be fitting.

  16. Bob Brown says:

    Please honor Sarah Jones. All of us in the industry know who she is now.

  17. Lauri Plesco says:

    Show some respect for the people who make your Awards come to life… the crew! Casting Agents and Producers agree…We are all in this together; this isnt just about Actors.. its the ENTIRE film industry!https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203297784273843&set=o.623944214325676&type=1&theater&notif_t=like

  18. Sarah Jones represents all crew members who put their lives on the line every day to create the movies we all love. She absolutely should be included.

  19. GENE SMITH says:

    Yeah a big one, SARAH E. JONES

  20. Heath Hood says:

    SARAH ELISABETH JONES

  21. Amanda Davis says:

    SARAH JONES

  22. Tina Lambert says:

    Sarah Jones. She is all of us.

  23. Justin Marx says:

    She was killed while making a film. She belongs there more then anyone on that list. She was making a movie and deserves just as much respect as the people that died of old age or drug overdose. I don’t see where the debate is?

    • susannunes says:

      She might belong on the list, but she isn’t more deserving than Shirley Temple, Joan Fontaine, Peter O’Toole, and many of the others.

  24. Kristen Anthony Local 478 says:

    With all due respect…the aforementioned who have passed were not following direction when there lives expired…how many of them was it their decision?

  25. Jon Painter says:

    There is no reason why inclusion of Sarah Jones should be controversial. She was crew. She was working a shoot. Respect the craft and keep sets safe.

  26. Cait says:

    Sarah Jones should be included. Hands down. #slatesforsarah is truly an amazing thing. Go check it out on FB. Earlier this article had stated, “But it would be unprecedented to include a crew member whose name is not widely known.” Not widely known? Go, check out the FB page, the news articles, the tweets. Sweet Sarah is known and she will not have died in vain. Safety will become the number one priority.

  27. daniel caldwell says:

    Sarah Jones should definitely be included.

  28. Daurice says:

    Yes, Sara Jones should be included.

  29. Tiffany Waxler says:

    Sarah Jones

  30. jflick says:

    Sarah Jones. Please listen to the community.

  31. Steven Gamiello says:

    If you don’t include Sarah Jones, you will prove that you DO NOT GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE PEOPLE THAT ACTUALLY MAKE THE MOVIES. THE PEOPLE THAT PUT MONEY IN YOUR POCKETS. THERE WILL BE A BOYCOTT OF THE OSCARS IN THE FUTURE. WE WILL NOT FORGET SARAH. SARAH IS EVERY CREW MEMBER IN THE INDUSTRY.
    IT’S 2 SECONDS OF AIR TIME!!!!!! INCLUDE HER DAMN IT!!!!!!!

  32. Dmk says:

    Sarah Jones should NOT be included. Online petitions are completely out of control.

  33. Lauren Ford says:

    Sarah Jones.

  34. Oscarnod says:

    Didn’t The Academy honor the PR agent that was killed a few years ago?

    If that is a fact (please doble check my memory) then honoring a crew member killed on location isn’t so unreasonable.

    Also although we (mere mortals that do not get to the awards) do not see the ‘technical’ awards – a week prior to the ‘real’ awards – again isn’t it reasonable to include Sarah in the memorium?

    Also there are 2 ‘memoriums’ as I recall – one that is played as a backdrop to the ceremonies and one that is a scroll of names at the end of the awards (please correct me again – memory fading fast in old age).

    RIP Sarah you will be missed

  35. Mazie Baskin says:

    How about the final picture is shown then there is a zoom out to reveal all of the faces in the appropriate geometric shape to fit them all (square or rectangle zoomed till all fit)? This would signify the end of the slide show and give a final farewell where all in death are listed as equals. Technology can do that now too.

  36. Michael says:

    No one is more deserving than Sarah Jones.

  37. Mike Neal says:

    Sarah Jones…or the camera ops and sound should go black for 20 sec to show how important the crew is.

  38. Briana London, A.C.E. says:

    In what world is is OK to honor an actor who died with a needle in his arm and fail to recognize the dedication of a crew member whose life was lost in the line of duty. Fly me to another planet please, I want to get off this one.

  39. Michael Simo says:

    There wouldn’t be an academy awards, a single movie ever made, if not for crew members. This is even more important because it pressures the industry to tighten safety procedures, perhaps employ a new position on every set who can guide these procedures. To Hollywood, this means more money. Millions more. To everyone else like myself, a current PA and most likely a 2nd AC by this time next year (Sarah was an AC), this would make our jobs less fearful and safer. No production is worth a life no matter how much it grosses.

    The Academy should support all actors and crew. And if they’re worried about screen time during the Oscar ceremony, then these better employed safety procedures will help eliminate any chance of someone dying on set, eliminating the screen time issue.

    Take a stand, Academy. There will be no rewards, no anything without your humble crews!!!!

  40. BlendingAngels says:

    Sarah Jones.

  41. MSWJ says:

    Make it easier on the Academy. Don’t include anyone who died by their own hand, i.e. suicide or overdose. Honoring drug abusers is a horrible message to send, regardless of their contributions to the industry.

  42. Kyl Cobb says:

    All the famous are there because unnamed legions supported them. Sarah Jones is every woman and man that could have been forgotten. I spend time today looking at her photos… I never knew her and sadly never will. Because of the efforts of her co-workers and friends we can all celebrate her life.

  43. BK says:

    SARAH JONES!

  44. Dana says:

    I didn’t know Sarah Jones but she is me. She is all of us. She represents every single crew member who has ever put their life into their career and not received recognition. She stands for all crew members and should be recognized as the important role she played (as all crews play) in every film/show she worked on.

  45. John DeBoer says:

    The point is EVERYONE now knows Sarah’s name………

  46. Louise says:

    None of those actors would have made it onto the screen without people like Sarah making it possible. She has more right to be there than any of them. Sarah Jones

  47. Peter Nelson says:

    Sarah Elizabeth Jones, 2nd AC. Break whatever “precedent” there may be, I don’t think that is a legitimate excuse. None of the “best of” categories would be there without the below the line crews that make films happen, so why not add a touch of class with a recognition. There is an incredible groundswell of support and outrage over her tragic death. If something is not done in the “In Memoriam” section, a separate recognition for her could be done very quickly and these same crews would line up to be a part of it. As a DP, I know I would.

  48. The presence of Sarah Jones in the segment has the potential to contribute to substantial awareness and meaningful change in the industry- it is wholly worth making the unprecedented decision.

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