There are a few things that I believe are so sure to happen on Oscar night, Sunday February 24, that if I had the proverbial farm, I would wager it down to the last little piggy:
- Ted the bear will make an appearance (A song, sung by Norah Jones, from the host’s film of the same name is nominated. Jones will probably have him on her lap as she sings it.)
- Daniel Day-Lewis will win Best Actor for Lincoln
- Anne Hathaway will win Best Supporting Actress for Les Miserables. (And deservedly so, even if she’ll give a better performance acting surprised when she accepts.)
- Ben Affleck will present an award and receive thunderous applause and a standing ovation – as if that could make up for the egregious snubbing. (Unfortunately, he probably won’t utter one of the best lines in his movie, “Argo fuck yourselves”, even though I’ll bet he’d love to. I know I’d love it.)
The producers of the telecast for the 85th Annual Academy Awards are trying very hard to capture (wrangle, reel-in – there are many metaphors to choose from and you will undoubtedly read or have read them all by the time the night rolls around) a younger audience, one that they can cultivate for years to come. This search led to the misguided pairing of Anne Hathaway and James Franco for the 2010 show, as well as the creation of the very cool poster that you can see below, by hot Mondo artist Olly Moss, and the appointment of “Family Guy” and Ted creator Seth MacFarlane to be this year’s host. (Don’t believe me? Then why have the members of the cast of The Avengers been asked to reassemble on Oscar’s stage? As a plug for the sequel that hasn’t even gone into production yet? No.) This goal could also be met by nominating some of the films that the coveted 18-25 year old male demographic typically goes to see, like The Dark Knight Rises or Skyfall, for Best Picture, both of which had been on a lot of people’s long lists and a cry of disappointment went up when neither made the short list, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Without comparing the merits of those two named films to the nine movies that are nominated, I’ll just offer my humble opinion. I don’t believe that dangling a carrot in the shape of an Oscar statuette with a superhero’s name etched on it would ever turn 18 year old boys into life-long watchers of the Academy Awards ceremony. They may sit around with their frat brothers to watch the guy who voices Stewie Griffin play host this year, but I guarantee that they’ve already thought of ways to turn it into a drinking game. Even if the experiment works and the Academy pulls in their greatest numbers ever, do they invite him back next year and every year until he and the audience age out? Do they try to top MacFarlane with someone hipper, edgier, more appealing to that market segment? Like who, Daniel Tosh?
Hosting the Academy Awards is obviously no easy thing and I imagine that every year several are called before someone says “yes”. What works in other arenas, does not work when hosting a globally televised awards show, just ask David Letterman or the aforementioned Franco and Hathaway. Irreverent humor often works as it did for the longest running hosts, Hollywood insiders Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal, but it's a fine line. It did not work for Jon Stewart (although he was asked back a second time). The cardinal rule is "know thy audience". The almost universally liked Ellen DeGeneres was too “soft”, Chris Rock too “hard”. Hugh Jackman in 2008 appeared to be "just right" and the natural successor to Crystal. Jackman is a born showman, a song-and-dance man as well as an actor, and seemingly without ego. The Academy and the producers of the show would have him back again and again, it’s Jackman who’s turned them down. Schtick never works, as in the case of Letterman (that “Uma/Oprah” thing was bad the first time he said it, let alone after it was repeated ad nauseum throughout the night) as well as the final time Whoopi Goldberg hosted. (Remember her endless costume changes including "white face"?)
Then there was last year’s debacle involving director Brett Ratner’s ignominious ouster and host Eddie Murphy’s subsequent departure. Ratner, best known as the director of those Rush Hour flicks as well as Tower Heist (of which Murphy was the star). Recently he’s turned his hand mostly to producing, but in any case, I think his selection was an attempt at “edgy”. (And yet the Academy was shocked that an ill-chosen remark went viral.) Old-school Billy Crystal was subbed-in almost at the last minute, did his usual bang up job and saved the Academy’s face.
Eighty five years of history would hang over the head of whomever had decided to take the hosting gig. Seth MacFarlane is very talented. He’s an accomplished singer of big-band era standards and I do hope we get to hear him during the telecast. In addition to his voiceover work, he’s obviously a comedically-gifted writer and even earned praise for his live-action directorial debut, Ted. Translating his brand of off-beat humor is still a dodgy proposition as evidenced by these soundbites:
I’m afraid the rest of the world won’t find him nearly as funny as he finds himself. At least he has the right attitude going in to the proceedings:
Now to those cool posters. In addition to the official poster showing a new rendition of the Oscar statuette, and including for the first time the names of the nominees, we have that Olly Moss poster, which depicts the Oscar modified to represent the Best Picture winner for each year. The AMPAS/oscar.org website features “Art Inspired by the Nominated Best Pictures” with a poster by hip and happening illustrators and graphic artists. (Be sure to *click* to see them better.) I’ll be back soon with my predictions.
AMOUR by artist Matt Owen.
ARGO by artist Anthony Petrie
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD by artist Rich Kelly
DJANGO UNCHAINED by artist Mark Englert
LES MISÉRABLES by Phantom City Creative
LINCOLN by artist Jeff Boyes
LIFE OF PI by artist Tom Whalen
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK by artist Joshua Budich
ZERO DARK THIRTY by Godmachine