The Academy Award is generally seen as the crowning achievement of a stellar accomplishment in film. Each year, actors, writers, directors, cinematographers and composers, among others, eagerly anticipate winning a nomination. A select number get to claim a 13 ½-inch gold statuette and gush to colleagues, “You like me! You really like me!” as Sally Field did in 1985 when she won the best actress award for “Places in the Heart.”
Film studios launch campaigns, spend a lot of ad money and put actors on the talk show circuit to promote the film and, they hope, woo Academy voters to choose their projects.
The Oscar, as it is commonly known, is to die for.
In fact, the dead do compete for Oscar honors.
Starting in 1994, the Academy Awards added a scroll of stars and important producers, directors and others who have passed away in the past year as a regular feature in the show. But like the awards themselves, there are a limited number of slots, and intense campaigning is waged to get candidates into the mix.
According to The New York Times, actors Ernest Borgnine and Charles Durning, writer Nora Ephron and composer/conductor Marvin Hamlisch are likely shoo-ins this year. Contenders for the remaining slots are up in the air.
Might Whitney Houston or Michael Duncan Clarke make the scroll? What about Dick Anthony Williams, best known as Pretty Tony in the 1973 film “The Mack,” and a star in many movies, including “The Jerk,” “Tap,” and “Mo’ Better Blues”?
The selection process sometimes results in questionable inductees and stunning snubs. Eartha Kitt, who had soundtrack credits as well as a long acting history, was left out in 2009. Last year, Harry Morgan – best known to some as Col. Potter in television’s “M*A*S*H” – didn’t make the cut, despite a distinguished career in about 100 films, including the legendary “High Noon” and ”The Ox-Bow Incident.”
And there is no fixed number of honorees. Thirty were honored in 1994; in 1998 there were only 23.
The names of the committee members who select the honorees for the obituary reel are concealed from other members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to protect them from those who might try to lobby for a friend, former client or loved one.
“The committee’s names are never mentioned, ever,” Tom Sherak, former president of the Academy, told The Times.
In an effort to appease some, a longer obituary list is posted on the official website, Oscars.com.
“Of all the committees, it’s the hardest one to do,” Sherak told The Times.
And you thought snubbing Ben Affleck as a best director nominee for “Argo” was a tough call.
Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”