Every year the Academy Awards honors those died in the year since the last ceremony. The "In Memoriam" sequence is arranged by producers and shows the names and faces of late members of the film industry along with the dates of their deaths. At this year's Oscars, Meryl Streep introduced the segment, and the memorialized were rendered as watercolor drawings. Nothing about the sequence was offensive or in poor taste.
But every year the In Memoriam sequence becomes a talking point because of who the Academy forgot (or more likely chose not) to recognize. In 2014, the left out superstar was Joan Rivers.
Why should Joan Rivers have been included?
Joan Rivers, a comedian, actress, and TV personality, died in September of cardiac arrest a the age of 81.
Not only was Rivers a hilarious comedian who spent her life criticizing institutions like the celebrity culture of the Oscars, she had worked impressively in the film industry. She directed one movie — Rabbit Test in 1978, and starred in Spaceballs as Dot Matrix. She also appeared in the best Muppets movie of all time, The Muppets Take Manhattan:
Even though she is great in that role, Rivers real connection to the Oscars was on the red carpet, where she brutally poked right through the façades of celebrities and ridiculed the act of fame. She called out terrible dresses, made fun of anyone in her way, and was as sharp witted as sharp tongued.
No Joan Rivers in the montage??? She basically created the red carpet which makes all of these bitches millions. For shame!!!— billy eichner (@billyeichner) February 23, 2015
Joan Rivers is PISSED right now. And she STILL thinks everyone's gowns are hideous.— K3K (@kainoa3000) February 23, 2015
Why wasn't she included?
The sequence, ultimately, only has so much room. Every year dozens of Academy Award nominees die, but there's only room to memorialize about 30 of them in a show that almost always runs over time already.
"It is a beloved segment, but I would much prefer we didn’t do it," the Academy’s now retired executive director Bruce Davis told Steve Pond for the Wrap. "When you sit down to do the list, the last 15 or 20 cuts you make are people with substantial careers.
Joan Rivers wasn't the only one left out of the program, and she wouldn't have been in any year. The Academy typically places Academy members in the In Memoriam section before non-Academy members, so that could be one reason she didn't make the cut. But it also could be that the Academy simply didn't see Rivers as primarily a film star.
Rivers was best known for dissecting celebrities and celebrity culture, she was a comedian and TV personality who sometimes acted in movies. In a perfect world, she'd have appeared in the segment, but that time was needed for another Neil Patrick Harris joke — and Rivers always made time for a good joke.
In fact, she's probably writing a good one right now about her exclusion from a club she spent her life making fun of.
You can watch the members who were included here: