The annual “In Memoriam” segment honoring recently deceased talents had extra emotional punch at Sunday’s 86th Academy Awards, for several reasons.
Introduced by Glenn Close, the tribute was bound to have impact through its spotlighting of unexpected deaths during the past year, such as those of “Capote” Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman and “The Fast and the Furious” franchise star Paul Walker.
Presented without the audience applause that sometimes accompanies mentions of particularly beloved talents, the segment was set to John Barry’s memorable theme music from “Somewhere in Time.” That was an especially meaningful choice, since veteran fantasy writer Richard Matheson — who died last June, and was included in the salute — adapted that film’s screenplay from his novel “Bid Time Return.”
Stylized photos of the late actors, directors, writers, musicians and other craftspeople often were accompanied by clips of their work, as with Peter O’Toole (“Lawrence of Arabia”), Joan Fontaine (“Suspicion”), Annette Funicello (“Beach Party”), Harold Ramis (“Ghostbusters”) and visual-effects master Ray Harryhausen (“Jason and the Argonauts”).
As the compilation ended, Bette Midler — in her first-ever Oscars performance — stepped onto the stage to perform an appropriate number: one of the defining songs of her career, “Wind Beneath My Wings,” featured in her 1988 movie “Beaches.”
And at the end, she received a standing ovation from an audience that appeared largely tearful … as was Midler herself, with all concerned evidently overcome by the moment itself as well as its larger significance.