The Worst Oscars Ever? 5 Spots Where the 83rd Annual Academy Awards Went Wrong

"If it is the worst Oscar show ever, who cares?" James Franco told Vanity Fair three weeks ago. "It's almost, like -- fine. It's, like, one night. It doesn't matter. If I host the worst Oscar show in the history of the Oscars, like, what do I care? I'll try my best." Except for that "try my best" part. As Franco seemed to predict, he and Anne Hathaway might have participated in the worst Oscars ever. Or at least the worst since "Uma" and "Oprah." Where did it all go wrong? Ahead five reasons why we should never speak of the 83rd annual Academy Awards again.

· There was no chemistry between the hosts

As Rachel Sklar noted on Twitter, Hathaway and Franco had "zero sexual chemistry." To put it another way: even Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin had sexual chemistry when they hosted the show last year. It was more than just the fact that Franco seemed like he didn't want to be there, while Hathaway was doing everything beyond slipping on a banana peel to make the audience love her; it was that they seemed to barely want to be around each other. Actors act, and in this case some acting would have been warranted from both parties. Make it sexy! Even a little? Not that it should have been a total surprise -- the only time Franco has had sexual chemistry with anyone on-screen is with Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express -- but considering how funny their promos were, it was shocking nonetheless.

· There was no spectacle

Part of this rests at the feet of Franco -- who was inert to the point of catatonic -- but where was the big production number? Mock the 1989 telecast, but at least the idea of Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White was an idea; this telecast included no ideas (beyond that Hathaway and Franco are "hip"). The only true "bits" -- the opening dream tour of the nominees, and the "Let's Auto-Tune Twilight and more" interstitial -- were pre-produced. And while Hathaway got to sing "On My Own" live, it felt like a missed opportunity -- she was left with only her skinny tuxedo and awkward audience shots of a chuckling Hugh Jackman to get her through. What makes an awards show special is the magic of being live, and yet the Oscars barely capitalized on that at all -- beyond the many flubs. If you were playing the Hathaway-approved drinking game based solely on mistakes, you might be in the hospital right now.

· The writing was terrible

Why mince words at this point: Bruce Villanch is bad at this. "This" being writing acceptably passable jokes and host banter. Too often Franco and Hathaway were left twisting in the wind among bad set-ups and worse punchlines. To give Vilanch an ounce of credit: maybe this was a case of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Either way, though, the results speak for themselves. Franco and Hathaway would have been better off doing the monologue Ricky Gervais wrote for them. Speaking of which...

· It wasn't funny

You don't need to be a comedian to host an awards show -- but it sure helps! (That joke was written by Bruce Vilanch.*) That's why Billy Crystal got a standing ovation (!) in the middle of this Bataan Death March: the audience knew he'd at least attempt to make them laugh. (He did; sorta.) I get it: Hathaway and Franco weren't going to crack jokes at the expense of their industry friends; they were going to celebrate Hollywood. That's fine -- the Oscars are different than the Golden Globes and deserve a modicum of respect -- but that's what Hugh Jackman wanted to do, too, and he still managed to be funny while hosting. There was no edge here, no buzz, no laughter. The best moment of the night was when Franco uttered, "Congratulations, nerds" after the technical awards montage. That was funny; the other 3 hours and 15 odd minutes were not.

[*It wasn't. Too funny for him.]

· It was all too predictable

To which you'd say: of course. But, still: the biggest shock of the night for me was that The Social Network won Best Editing (an award it also won from the American Cinema Editors), and Melissa Leo won for Best Supporting Actress. And both were the favorites in their respective categories! Oscar watchers are already comparing The King's Speech beating The Social Network to Crash over Brokeback Mountain (or, as Steven Spielberg inadvertently reminded everyone, Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan), but this was actually worse. In both those cases, the final outcome was a surprise; here, it was predicted for weeks. Which either means that the cognoscenti is getting better at predicting when the Academy is going to make a terrible mistake, or there are too many precursors during the endless awards season. Probably a little bit of both.


  • Juli Schatz says:

    My question: why were kids brought in all the way from NYC to perform? I find it hard to believe that the L.A./Hollywood area doesn't have ANY talented school children. Local kids should have been given a chance to shine on national TV and to show off that it's not only in the movie industry that Hollywood has its stars.
    Other than that, there was just so much that was bad about the Oscar production last night, one has to consider the possibility of its status right down there with the ill-conceived introduction of New Coke back in the '80s.

  • Martini Shark says:

    My take on the proceedings: The irony is that James Franco was able to cut his arm off in his movie, yet the producers were incapable of cutting off his mic last night.

  • Couch Tamale says:

    1) This is a really small criticism of a piece I agree with...but if we're calling out the Academy for unfunny, tired routines, shouldn't journalists finally retire the 'Uma, Oprah...' joke reference? The main reason that line lives on as the benchmark of bad Oscar jokes is because people repeat it over and over...Letterman himself drove it the ground when self-critiquing his hosting job. I, for one, was fairly entertained when Dave hosted. The show had a silliness throughout that punched a hole in the usual solemnity. And that 'Uma, Oprah' joke always makes me smile for the sheer loopiness of it, not to mention that it pokes fun at two women in Hollywood who seldom poke fun at themselves.
    2) Just think of the snazzy Jean-Luc Godard tribute/production number they could have come up with. 'Band of Outsiders' costumes, sixties dance moves, black and white, jump cuts. It could have been gauche, surreal, jazz...Godardian, even. A whole town of smart people, and nobody could make something witty out of that? Everybody knows the target youth demo group of young Hollywood saw Godard in film school. They owe their jump cuts, quick edits, hand-helds, anti-heroes, vintage cardigans and hipster slouch to Godard, and a stylish tribute to him is something I can imagine Franco getting roused awake for.

  • Dave H. says:

    Gene Siskel once said after a complaint about The Accidental Tourist that the movie wasn't slow, just the person watching it. Ditto here. And you may want to fact check before you make snarky comments: Budget for The King's Speech...15 million, budget for the 'very low budget' Fighter...25 million.

  • snarkymark says:

    Watching Sunday night, I felt like there was no one directing this show. If Don Mischer wins an Emmy for this dreck, then the Television Academy is full of dunces. It was awful last night. Franco/Hathaway were bad together (Timberlake/Hathaway would have been a much better choice). But presenters felt like they could do any old thing. Kirk Douglas chewed up 15 minutes in the first hour of this show! Fine, he's a nice old guy but no. Bruce Villanch has written his final Oscar show, as far as I'm concerned. Go beg six guys from The Simpsons to give it a go. And to all the Billy Crystal lovers in here, he's over too. He was fresh and funny once. He won't be when he has to run another three hour Oscarcast.

  • Christy says:

    It isn't the writing that needs help. Writers are coming up with new and beautiful stories every day. Studios are too scared NOT to choose remakes to produce.
    Honestly, I can't believe I read this article beyond banana "peal."

  • Logo says:

    I loved Anne Hathaway last night, she hosted the whole thing by herself, it was like James wasn't even there. What was that about? Other than that Sandra Bullock was the funniest (can she host next year?) along with Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr, Russell Brand and Helen Mirren. Colin Firth was a darling too and Natalie is just too adorable.

  • Karen says:

    Well said....TKS is no where near a Crash far as I'm concerned TSN is the Emperor's New Clothes of film......"snappy" writing and delivery do not mask the fact that this was a pretentious bore of a movie....

  • HJB says:

    Worst Oscars ever. And don't confuse the movies with the awards show. The awards show stands or falls on its own no matter what movies are nominated. This was a dreadful show, just dreadful.

  • Kevin says:

    Please don't let Anne Hathaway to host any more shows. She tries too hard to be funny, unfortunately she's not.

  • penny says:

    I disagree with Rachel Sklar, Anne Hathaway did everything she could to connect with the disinterested James Franco. I lost respect for James , he left her high & dry, and she had to take up his slack. Hathaway deserves all the kudos because she did her very best and she had the burden of the heavy weight of a bad production, hideous writing, and very predictable show- on her shoulders. Anne was a trooper from beginning to end on that Oscar telecast. And, no Oscar host could have saved that show.

  • Dave H. says:

    Gene Siskel once said in regards to a complaint about The Accidental Tourist that the movie wasn't boring, just the person watching it and complaining. Ditto here, I think.
    As well, you should really fact check before making snarky comments: Budget for The King's Speech...15 million, budget for 'very low budget' The Fighter...25 million.

  • Celia says:

    Was it me or did Anne Hathaway's cackling laughter at the end of the whow seem to cheapen the Oscars? It went on and on...soooooooo not Oscar classy!!

  • filmex says:

    Franco's uninterested cool schtick worked fine on "Freaks & Geeks" but he was simply too cool for school here. Anne tried hard, probably too hard, but at least she gave it a go.
    The New York Times had the best wrapup, noting the offputting chemistry was akin to matching James Dean with Debbie Reynolds. Only Franco's no James Dean, no matter how hard he tries to be.

  • ssa says:

    Great critique of the writing. How could the producers think Hathaway and Franco could make the show "young and hip" with the same old vaudeville-schtick writing? Talk about unclear on the concept. If they want the show to be "young and hip," or even middle-aged and amusing, then it's time (way past time) to lose the inane scripted " banter" between hosts and between presenters, because it rarely works and often is painfully bad.
    As I watched the show, Franco seemed out of it, way too detached and completely out of touch with Hathaway and the audience. But now, with all of the snarking about the show, I think he's taking too much heat. I think the producers deserve much of the heat currently directed at Franco. They agreed to weekend-only rehearsals for him (clearly a bad idea) and had him twittering, etc., backstage (and even onstage) throughout the broadcast, which did not help or improve his onstage performance as a host. In essence, they asked him to play two different roles during the broadcast - the traditional host onstage and the indie-outsider-commentator backstage. I don't think it's just hindsight that makes this look like recipe for disaster. Who could do both of these roles well during a live broadcast? I know that Franco is such a multi-tasker that he could have thought that he could pull off both roles. But the producers should have known and, if they did not know, then should have seen during rehearsals that he could not, in fact, do both roles well. At that point, they should have restructured his role and/or the show in order to save the show and save him.
    I thought Hathaway was fine, but then the producers asked her to play just one role: the traditional onstage host. If she had been the only host, or if she had had a traditional co-host, she might have been even better.
    I think the best host ever was David Niven, based solely on the clip of his terrifc response to the nude male streaker who ran across the stage one year. He made a dry, witty comment about exposing one's "shortcomings", which brought down the house. The producers need to find someone like Niven who is smart, witty, and able to think on his or her feet. I'd nominate Stephen Fry, who was superb hosting the BAFTAs for years, Sandra Bullock, Tina Fey, or Russell Brand.

  • I laughed more during this article than I did during the Academy Awards Show. Still, the hosts don't deserve crucification.

  • after3 says:

    I cant believe anybody would ever watch an award show. But then again I just spent 5 mins reading about one, then felt compelled to comment so what do I know.

  • Watcher says:

    Anne Hathaway was massively tiresome. I had to stop watching. She's like the high-school drammy who has to be the center of attention every single minute. Snore!

  • ashok says:

    Not sure that 'Congratulations, nerds' bit was funny either. I can just imagine being a tech guy who's worked tirelessly (and without glory) all his life to develop a technology that improves movies a whole lot but that no one will even notice. He finally gets an Oscar for his efforts in a ceremony that isn't even broadcast. And in the one nod he is ever going to get for his work - the Technical Awards montage at the Oscars - the whole thing is undercut by a smug host tossing out a cheap anti-intellectual joke to pander to the young cool people that AMPAS hopes are watching (and aren't).
    Can you imagine them sending off Kirk Douglas with a 'good job, ya old perv'? No.
    I thought it was insulting.

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