Anne Hathaway and James Franco Take Center Stage
It wasn't more than a few weeks ago that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed that Anne Hathaway and James Franco would host the 83rd annual Academy Awards in February. The announcement left many people scratching their heads. Oscar hosts in the past have usually been comedians and/or veteran actors. Some didn't always work: recent funny men Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, and David Letterman didn't leave everyone impressed with their heavily scrutinized turns, while action and musical theater star (an unlikely pairing if there ever was one) Hugh Jackman seemed to charm while he was on stage and quickly be forgotten when he wasn't. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin took the reigns last year and their repartee was ultimately forgettable. Then again, I guess it would have been a little disrespectful to do jokes about "The Hurt Locker."
The knighting of Hathaway and Franco appears to be an obvious ploy by the Academy to be hip. Will this move increase ratings? Not at all. They aren't "mega-stars" by any stretch of the imagination, but enough young moviegoers and pervy Hollywood industry men find the pair attractive and talented enough to tune in. And when you think about it, the opening monologue is the only thing the two have to worry about (although perhaps they shouldn't be too worried, as the majority of hosts' opening bits putter out of steam fairly quickly). They can be funny, but can they use each other for off-the-cuff comedic quips and asides? Most of the speculation about their upcoming gig will have to do with their chemistry, or the lack-thereof. In terms of live performing, Hathaway has the upper-hand; she starred two summers ago in Central Park's Shakespeare production of Twelfth Night. "The Princess Diaries" star has been an Academy friendly actress for a while now, netting a nomination for her work in 2008's "Rachel Getting Married", as well as singing with then host Hugh Jackman in his opening musical number, but James Franco feels like an out of left field choice. Will he bring the Independent Spirit award he won for "Milk" to the Kodak theater for laughs?
Having these two actors emcee also creates a hosting rivalry. They were both in films by major directors this year; Hathaway starred in the poorly received Edward Zwick rom-com, "Love and Other Drugs" and Franco was in the well-reviewed but drastically overrated — critics raving about a hyperactive scene involving the slicing of a body part turned the other way when "Antichrist" came to town — Danny Boyle flick, "127 Hours". According to Oscar pundits, Franco is expected to nab a Best Actor nomination for that film while Hathaway, once considered a good bet for a nom, now appears will be sitting on the sidelines. Choosing Oscar hosts that have current films out looking for awards attention feels like a distinct conflict of interest; it resembles hiring Obama to moderate the Presidential debates in 2012. These are hosts being groomed for career longevity, but it feels forced, as if set up by the respective actors' agents to get them a lifetime pass to the Academy luncheon. What used to matter most was the performance that earned you an Academy Award; now it may be your dazzling tour-de-force on the Academy broadcast.
My prediction is that the hosts will be turn out to be bland and safe, a combination that seems to be favored at The Academy Awards. I'm not even sure we need a host. Just let each invited presenter come out to either introduce a musical number or hand out a golden trophy and move on with the show. The flow will be uninterrupted and the whole thing will conclude before the break of dawn. Speaking of "break of dawn", my guess is that Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, stars of next year's "Breaking Dawn", will be assigned hosting duties for the 84th ceremony. Even the man behind the camera of that upcoming "Twilight" film, Bill Condon, was allowed to direct Academy telecasts in the past. Ratings will swing upwards and bloggers will have a field day. In the end, we will all complain, clench our fists, and watch anyway. After all, there's always the MTV Movie Awards to rant about in June.