Article One of a Five Part Oscar Backlash Series:
Every year after the Oscar telecast you can expect a maelstrom of criticism from the internet community aimed at not only the Academy’s Oscar choices, but the show itself. This year was no different; while much of the ‘pre-game’ controversy surrounded The King’s Speech going into the ceremony, the Brits remain rather unscathed compared to the beating Franco and Hathaway are receiving as a result of a lackluster hosting performance.
The question is, should we really be blaming them? My answer is no. Hathaway and Franco may have agreed to host, but there were many more hands in the production cookie jar. The Academy wanted to produce a ‘younger’ Oscar show, and they actually succeeded; the show was awkward, showed little purpose or direction, and may or may not have been smoking pot. Instead of choosing a host with experience in comedy, they went with a rather unlikely pair. Hathaway was a plucky dream come true, and in my opinion, she probably could have helmed the show on her own. She can sing, dance, be relatively funny, and very charming, yet Oscar producers failed miserably to use her skills this year, like they succeeded in doing two years ago when Hugh Jackman played host to rave reviews. So, I ask myself, even if Jackman didn’t want to reprise his role, why stick Hathaway with her polar opposite?
Franco is a great actor, but a great actor does not a comedian…or host…make. I couldn’t tell if he was just nervous, indifferent, or if he was genuinely trying to execute some sort of comedic schtick up there that I (and the rest of the audience) just didn’t get. But again, we can’t really blame two young actors for saying ‘yes’ to the job; I’m sure it sounded like a good time, and I’m also sure that both figured they’d be given some good material by the Oscar writers, directors, and producers. Unfortunately, they got caught with their pants down on Hollywood’s biggest stage.
But is wasn’t even Hathaway and Franco that gave the audience its biggest head scratches of the evening. The ceremony was punctuated by odd throwbacks and mini-tributes that may have been good ideas in theory, but were poorly executed, and only served to muddle an already confused focus for the evening (‘young’ is the way to go, but let’s bring out clips from a random Oscars hosted by Bob Hope and show these whipper-snappers how it’s really done!). Hathaway and Franco were supposed to not only bring the Academy forward, but make the change an appealing and joyous one. All the ceremony managed to do was look back, and prove that there is presently both a seriously lack of young comedic talent (in my humble opinion. I’ll take a Baldwin, Martin, Crystal or Goldberg over anyone under 30 any day of the week), and show producers that know little about how to handle young talent.
Bruce Vilanch was the veteran Oscar writer and coveted jokesmith who crafted much of last night’s broadcast. A far cry from his collaborations with former hosting heavyweights such as David Letterman and Whoopi Goldberg, perhaps what audiences witnessed was a simple failure of communication between differing generations. It must be difficult for a veteran writer to produce material for young actors with little to no comedic timing. Which raises another question: is the Academy ready for some new blood behind the scenes as well as in front? And, more importantly, would we want them to get rid of writers like Vilanch, who have been so successful in the past? If you can’t please both older and younger demographics, which one is worth alienating?
I sincerely hope that next year the Academy doesn’t rest its entire broadcast on the good-looking shoulders of its young inexperienced hosts, and expect a miracle. A young show, with young hosts, needs the necessary support and structure from the very beginning, so that if something doesn’t work, there can be a quick recovery without the whole evening going up in flames. Only time will tell if the traditionally stubborn Academy will lick its wounds and learn from their mistakes.
My pick for next year’s “young” Host: Luke Matheny. Supported by Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, and Kirk Douglas.