The Oscars Have a Luke Perry Problem

Let’s face it: The annual Oscars In Memoriam segment always seems to find a way – sometimes improbably – to leave out one or more noteworthy acting talents.

 In 2011 the venerable Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences flat out omitted an acting favorite of mine and many others, the erstwhile one half of the famed Two Coreys, Corey Haim. This struck many – including myself – as a total rebuff of a former child actor who had fallen off the rails thanks to a myriad of issues that are hauntingly familiar to anyone who has ever picked up a copy of People Magazine. Shortly before he passed away of pneumonia at the way too young age of thirty eight, Haim had begun staging a comeback and had worked hard to get and stay clean from a variety of prescription meds. This little reported success of Haim made his curious snub at the Oscars doubly poignant to family, friends and fans of the actor who were genuinely hurt by the lack of final recognition of the onetime star of such popular films as Silver Bullet, Lucas, The Lost Boys and Dream a Little Dream.

Other actors and notable directors, producers, screenwriters, etc. that have been snubbed throughout the years by the Academy includes such luminaries as Stanley Donen, Carol Channing, Della Reese, Tobe Hooper, Adam West, David Cassidy, Glen Campbell, Jim Nabors, Tom Petty, Rosemarie, Hugh Hefner, Bill Paxton, Dorothy Malone, Frank Vincent, Nelsan Ellis, Powers Boothe, Robert Guillaume, John Mahoney, David Ogden Stiers, Reg E. Cathey, Robert Vaughn, Garry Shandling, Dan Ireland, Doris Roberts, Gunnar Hansen, Glenn Frey, Vanity, George Gaynes, Amanda Peterson, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Uggie the Dog, Joan Rivers, Abe Vigoda, Geoffrey Lewis, Tony Burton, Joan Leslie, Elaine Stritch, Jan Hooks, Taylor Negron, Richard Kiel, Cory Monteith, James Avery, Tom Clancy, Nelson Mandela, Dennis Farina, Gary David Goldberg, Marcia Wallace, Lisa Robin Kelly, Lee Thompson Young, Phil Everly, Phil Ramone, Lou Reed, Pete Seeger, Ruth Robinson Duccini, Russell Johnson, Jim Jacks, Clive Burr, Jonathan Winters, Eric Lawson, Alicia Rhett, Alain Resnais, Alice Herz-Sommer, Donna Summer, Lupe Ontiveros, Jeff Conway, Betty Garrett, Aaron Spelling, Farah Fawcett, George Carlin, Brad Renfro, Andy Griffith, Larry Hagman, Harry Carey Jr., Ann Rutherford, David R. Ellis, Nagisa Oshima, Susan Tyrrell, Alex Karras, Mel Stuart, Gore Vidal, Phyllis Diller, Russell Means, Lupe Ontiveros, Robin Sachs, Sherman Hemsley, Jerry Nelson, Conrad Bain, Bea Arthur, Florence Henderson. There are many more beyond this small accounting that were unfortunately overlooked.

Of course the big oversights this year were Luke Perry, Cameron Boyce, Jan-Michael Vincent, Michael J. Pollard, Tim Conway, Rene Auberjonois, Robert Conrad, Valentina Cortese, Carol Lynley and Sue Lyon. Perry, specifically, was a disturbing absentee. The versatile actor passed away in 2019 and had a plum role in a film that was up for numerous Oscars in the Dolby on Sunday night, including Best Picture, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Actor Valentina Cortese was also a serious omission because she had at one point been celebrated by the Academy with a nomination for Day for Night, yet for all the world knew this major acting career had either never happened in the eyes of the governing body of the Oscars or Ms. Cortese was alive and well and working on a new project (and boy, do I wish the latter were the case). After all, for what other reason would such a major talent go unrecognized by her peers and contemporaries?

The Academy issued a statement on Tuesday about the now annual flap left in the wake of their In Memoriam gaffes saying, in part, that “The Academy receives hundreds of requests to include loved ones and industry colleagues in the Oscars In Memoriam segment. An executive committee representing every branch considers the list and makes selections for the telecast based on limited available time.” The statement went on to report that all the submissions are included on and will remain there for the entirety of 2020.

 The time is about as good as it will ever to be to go to bat for the people who have given their entire lives in devotion to the art of filmmaking and suggest to the Academy that these people deserve in return a few moments of television time to recognize their considerable achievements. Whichever person(s) that has been responsible for compiling the In Memoriam segment for the broadcast over the years needs to either fully and properly earn their paycheck by knowing and researching their Hollywood history and making sure it winds up onscreen at the Dolby or else give the role over to someone with enough love and respect for the industry who will do the job properly and correctly. And when the inevitable omission does happen (because, after all, we’re only human) for the love of Pete – Make a genuine and heartfelt apology instead of issuing what many consider to be an insulting statement about logging onto a computer to maybe see a more thorough accounting of the talented artists who have departed. No apologies to the families and friends of the deceased? Really?

 As a student and fan of film, I have a problem with the Academy and their non-apology as it denigrates and minimalizes the work by very talented individuals who collectively weave and create the very fabric and DNA of our dreams and hopes. In this two-bit journalist’s mind, that’s at least worth blasting a righteous full rendition of Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond (which clocks in with a 26 minute running time) and giving the due respect and courtesy to all of these wonderful dream makers on Oscar night.

About Ryan Vandergriff

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