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.