Let Anne Hathaway Host Alone

I’ll be the first to say that I love James Franco. His mute performances on SNL skit “What Up With That?” always tickle me.

But let’s be real. He wasn’t the REAL star of the Oscar duo last night.

There’s going to be all sorts of mumbling and grumbling about the Oscar hosting duo in the news today. The producers want to keep the prestige of the penultimate awards show, but the keep glancing over at all the fun everyone is having at the Golden Globes and think: I want to be the funny guy!

They tried too hard this year, trying to bow to Oscar greats like Kirk Douglas while roping in the youth. Big surprise. The split personality didn’t work.

What did work?


Anne Hathaway.

Although it was hard to tell because of the many flubs and blunders of the producers who were  very busy trying to make everyone — including themselves — the star of the show. (Did you you see one of those producers? That weird little guy that ABC’s anchor Robin Roberts interviewed right before the beginning of the show? Spielberg mopped his brow. That should have been cut.)

Rule of writing: write for your audience. Which I suppose is a tough one, when your audience is, well 1 billion people worldwide.

Except that this audience does have something in common. The audience of the Oscars is people of ALL ages who love Hollywood.

They love the established stars, and they love the glamour, and they love to see the up-and-comers getting their foot in the game.

They loved it when Cuba Gooding Jr went madly insane and won his place in the establishment, they love it when perennial nominee Randy Newman sings — again — and when old standbys like Jeff Bridges make career comebacks.

They love that Justin Timberlake made his move to the screen and that there always seems to be one young ingenue amazing us every year.  In 1999 is was Natalie Portman… look where she is now! We can hardly wait to follow the careers of Jennifer Lawrence and Hallie Steinfeld.

They love Hollywood so much, they sat through YEARS of Debbie Allen’s choreography without a mutiny.

Why is it so hard for the producers to write a beautiful, fun evening with this in mind?

The evening would have worked better if they didn’t try so hard to “appeal” to people, because that never works. Anyone who has every TRIED to impress a girl or boy they like knows just who well that works. (Hollywood should know that too since it’s the plot of several trillion romance and teen films).

It’s the Host, Stupid

The reason Ricky Gervais works, the reason that Billy Crystal worked (and Steve Martin too, though in a different way) and Bob Hope in his time, is they are truly great at what they do. Funny people who took their job — to entertain for the evening– seriously, and who contributed to writing an evening that isn’t about apps and Twitter, but about great showmanship.

Get a performer — young or old — who connects with the audience through humor and a flaying love of film and Hollywood– and you  have your host.

Why were they flying the obviously pre-occupied Yale phD student James Franco across the country when Anne Hathway, clearly, had the job covered?

On stage by herself, she looked comfortable, she ad-libbed with finesse, and she had the beauty and the charm of Gracie Allen. Next to James Franco, the chemistry we expected (of Burns and Allen) was empty and absent.

Anne Hathaway filled the spotlight just fine. Next year, the Academy should do what they should have this year: give her a solo gig and leave the lame iPhone app jokes out. But they probably won’t, which will be their loss.

Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home.

 

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  6 comments for “Let Anne Hathaway Host Alone

  1. Stacy Kearney
    February 28, 2011 at 8:06 am

    He hurt my soul. There were several times when I looked over at Bryan and said, “What is wrong with that guy?” Especially loved when he quipped, “Yay, Geeks!” or nerds or whatever lovely phrase he used after the technology Oscar presentation was over. Made him seem like a big ole jerk. But Anne is lovely. I’ve always like her and liked her even more when she had her small confrontational moment on Oprah during the Brokeback Mountain special. She’s funny, she can sing, she’s lovely, and she seems classy even when she’s goofing around. Last night she gave us a preview of what she can do. I’d love to see what she can do if solo hosting next year. I might even look forward to the show more than I normally do.

  2. Suzannah
    February 28, 2011 at 10:06 am

    She was amazing. There were times when I couldn’t figure out if he was flubbing on purpose or just that out of it…but if you have to wonder…
    My favorite moment was probably her singing to Hugh Jackman.

  3. February 28, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Elizabeth,

    I saw only the first hour or so, but I totally agree with you. I thought James Franco seemed stoned during the pre-show interview, the producers made it too much about themselves, and the canned “conversation” just didn’t work. There was not much chemistry between the two hosts. I did enjoy the opening filmed sequence–it was kind of clever and kind of funny.

    But in the end, It was Anne Hathaway who caught and kept my attention. She is good. There was a great interview with her on “Fresh Air” recently. Give it a listen if you have not yet heard it:

    http://www.npr.org/2010/11/24/131566903/anne-hathaway-from-princesses-to-passion

    Chris

  4. tricia
    February 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I’ve heard that Franco always seems stoned, so I was surprised to hear that he would be hosting the Oscars. Surprised and intrigued, because I do love the guy, and thought he was great in “127 Hours,” and in “Freaks and Geeks” way back when. But he was clearly out of his element, and seemed especially amateurish next to Anne Hathaway. He probably had class in the morning, too :].

    • March 5, 2011 at 7:31 am

      tricia, I saw in the the NYT that he did, in fact, make it to his 9:30 class on Monday, taking the red eye. He’s OCD on school, which isn’t bad.

  5. February 28, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    I’m pretty sure JF wasn’t ACTUALLY stoned – I think that’s just his general persona – but overall I didn’t like either one of them. Bring back Jon Stewart!

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