It’s the most heartrending part of any Oscars ceremony: the “In Memoriam” montage is a chance to reflect on those in the industry who’ve passed in the previous 12 months. But this last year was different: Along with taking half a million lives globally, the pandemic — and the murder of George Floyd — put loss front and center in all of our lives. So during the 2021 Academy Awards, the montage hit even harder than usual.
Angela Bassett presented this year’s “In Memoriam,” addressing, as so many did over the night, the elephant in the room. “Considering the enormity of our collective loss, and the often incomprehensible times we’re living through, we wish to also acknowledge those precious lives lost — to the violence of inequality, injustice, hatred, racism, and poverty,” she said. “To all of those who left our lives too soon, we cherish the moments we had the honor of having with you. Tonight we want to celebrate the artists who gave us the permission to dream, the technical pioneers and innovators who expanded our experience of movie love. Let us as one community say, ‘Thank you. You will remain as we remember you in our hearts, always.”
The montage itself played over a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “As,” off Songs in the Key of Life. It was kicked off by the brilliant actress Cicely Tyson, and it rolled through untold legends, like Max Von Sydow, Olivia de Havilland, Ian Holm, Christopher Plummer, George Segal, Hal Holbook, Rhonda Fleming, Yaphet Kotto, Cloris Leachman, and Diana Rigg. There were film directors, like Joel Schumacher, Bertrand Tavernier, Michael Apted, Joan Micklin Silver, Alan Parker, and Lynn Shelton. There was Wilford Brimley and Fred Willard and Brian Dennehy and Jerry Stiller. There was Carl Reiner. And at the end, there was Sean Connery followed by Chadwick Boseman.
Some of these people died from COVID-related complications. Others did not. They all of them, no matter their age, left us too early. You can watch the full montage in the video above.