The Oscar hosts 2011 are far from a traditional duo. But the pattern of Oscar hosts these days has been far from traditional, although yesterday’s announcement took the cake. When they selected Hugh Jackman in 2008, it was a change of pace, but he had ample theater and awards show hosting experience. Last year, choosing Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin went against the grain, although they are veteran comic stars. But with James Franco and Anne Hathaway as the Oscar hosts, it serves as the Academy’s biggest gamble – even if it might not make that much difference.
Hosting the Academy Awards still has some importance, although the gig isn’t what it was in the Billy Crystal days. Yet the Oscars are trying everything they can to keep their broadcast relevant, including having 10 Best Picture nominees.
In choosing the hosts for 2011, virtually everyone assumed they did it to attract the youth. Franco and Hathaway are the youngest hosts in Academy history, and don’t have the traditional hosting resume. Although they have hosted Saturday Night Live multiple times, few even considered these two as potential choices until yesterday.
If they believe Franco and Hathaway’s star power will increase the ratings, it might not be a good strategy. Despite being on the A-list, they haven’t always been box office draws – though few actors are these days. Hathaway’s Love and Other Drugs just had a mixed opening weekend, while Franco’s 127 Hours is getting most of its box office buzz from the graphic ending.
Since the choice of the Oscar hosts is so unconventional, that alone might attract more interest. Yet, in spite of the new curiosity factor, it stands to wonder if Franco and Hathaway can actually do much of anything. Award show hosts often have very little to do after the opening monologue, so there may not be much room for them after the first 15 minutes.
Martin and Baldwin were ultimately wasted last year, despite their respective comic genius. However, ratings went up in part because of The Hurt Locker vs. Avatar battle, as the biggest hit of all time lost to an indie darling. But this year, hits like Inception and Toy Story 3 are merely considered sleepers, so the nominees themselves might not get more viewers onboard.
In terms of ratings, the hosts may or may not be able to help much. As for the terms of the show itself, no one doubts that Franco and Hathaway can entertain, but no one knows how the show will use them. Since Franco is likely to be a nominee for 127 Hours, it might make things more controversial – although Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Emmys as a nominee in 2008.
Franco and Hathaway have three months to answer all their doubters, as the Oscar hosts take the stage on Feb. 27, 2011.
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