Monday, February 28, 2011
I'd Like to Punch the Academy
We've had our ups and downs, haven't we, Oscar? Remember when Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan? What happened there? And Crash? Seriously, Crash? And we've disagreed at times. I liked David Letterman as host for instance. But I've stuck by you. That's what you do when you're a devotee. Even back in the mid 1990s, when the shows were like, 19 1/2 hours long.
But last night, you tested me. The telecast was only a little over three hours, but it felt longer than any of those bloated affairs from the past. It was by far the least enjoyable show I've watched in my memory of the telecast. Why, you may ask? Well, let me give you some reasons:
1 - The Hosts - I like James Franco. And I like Anne Hathaway. But they were clearly not up for hosting that show. And it's not because they're actors. That wasn't the thing. Hugh Jackman did a great job when he hosted. Jack Lemmon did it 1984. Alan Alda and Jane Fonda hosted (with Robin Williams) the following year, and Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan did it (with Chevy Chase) the year after that. Actors can host the show successfully. And I get that you're trying to skew a little hipper and younger. But you can't just stick anybody in there. And Franco looked bored or stoned or both. Hathaway had to go on some sort of insane overdrive to compensate, hooting and giggling. None of their jokes worked. Not one. That's almost impressive. To host this show, you need someone who is completely at home up there, knows their audience and can react to it, and is a born entertainer. It helps if they're naturally funny, but it's not vital. One of the reasons why we've cycled through so many hosts since Billy Crystal is that everyone treats as a room you have to absolutely kill in. It's not. The host has to be secure enough to not care about whether it's the greatest performance of their life, but has to be such a born entertainer that they will be worried and concerned with making sure the show is fun. And Franco and Hathaway's talents do not lie in that direction.
2 - The Writing - But not all the blame can lay there. Listen, no one had a solid joke the whole night, really. If anyone did, it was an off the cuff thing. The jokes were bad. They didn't work. This is why a comedian is usually used, because their style directs the material, and their skill can help punch it up when the scripted stuff flops. But when you're using two hosts who aren't comedians, then you don't have that added focus, and it showed last night. You know when you get Robert Downey and Jude Law to come out, two charming and funny guys with great chemistry, and even they can't make a joke land, you need some fresh blood in the writing room.
3 - If It Ain't Broke - The Memoriam segment was always a highlight in times past. It was a classy, affecting part of the show where everyone stopped and took a moment to appreciate the life's work of some people in their community who were lost the year before. It was always one of my favourite moments. But now they seem to think that it's an opportunity for someone to come out and sing a song. It's distracting. No one knows what they should be paying attention to. Last night, you guys even cut back to Celine Dion right in the middle of it. Lame. Also , a couple short films or lifetime achievement awards aren't going to kill the night. It should get out of hand, but just handing out award after award can drag, especially when you get to the middle of the show, and it's all the technical stuff. Punch it up. NOT with musical numbers.
So, here's my suggestion for next year. Step 1, hire Tina Fey or The Daily Show writers or whoever helps Ricky Gervais write the Globes. Step 2, hire Neil Patrick Harris to host. He can sing, he can dance, he's funny and he has the right combination of youth and showstopping desire. Also, he probably ain't going to be up for an Oscar. Seriously, that was awkward last night. Step 3 - Make it more of a show, but really think about ways to do that. We don't need Stomp or Blue Man Group or public school kids. We need the guys from Funny or Die to make little vignettes.
I say it with love, Oscar. Tough love.