Oldest/Youngest/Dullest Oscars

Franco and Hathaway didn’t seem to know what they were doing

Okay, so you watched the Academy Awards, and it may well be that this guy is starting to look pretty good right about now:

At least Letterman’s story was just that he tried to do exactly the same thing on the Oscars that he did every night on his show, and it didn’t work in that context. It’s hard to know what Franco and Hathaway were trying to do, because even they didn’t seem to know. Basically, especially in Hathaway’s case (with her “Whoo”-ing and costume changes) they just seemed to want to be there and have fun. But Franco never really looks like he’s having fun even when he’s smiling. Franco was clearly the weaker of the two, since he simply can’t feign enthusiasm without a script and a director. But I doubt people will blame them either of them too much in the long run, anyhow. They’re actors, not comedians, so they can’t save bad material with ad-libbing, and the producers just didn’t give them much material to work with.

The narrative of the night, to the extent that it had one, was the producers’ obvious uncertainty about how to bridge the gap between young and old. Popular culture these days sometimes seems to be characterized by generational warfare to an extent that we haven’t seen since the late ’60s and early ’70s. Back then, the old and the young almost had their own separate entertainment worlds and star systems; in 1969 the movie industry was split between Establishment moviemaking like True Grit and Youth moviemaking like Easy Rider, with other movies falling somewhere between the two poles. Now the split between Establishment and Youth is clearest in television, where the young and old have their own separate worlds (Jersey Shore for the under-34, NCIS for the old, to be really simplistic). Well, the Oscar show didn’t seem to know what world it lived in.

Traditionally, the answer is clear: the Oscars live in the world of generalized, all-ages entertainment, the American Idol world. But tonight’s show didn’t work as all-ages entertainment. Instead it seemed to go back and forth. Despite the history-of-the-awards theme, there were fewer references to old movies than in some past Oscar telecasts. But there was also more Old Showbiz trouperism than at most shows. Kirk Douglas presenting, Billy Crystal paying tribute to Bob Hope; these segments seemed like token nods to the older demographic, while there were of course plenty of segments that represented the writers’ inaccurate idea of what the young people are into. It was almost like a late episode of The Ed Sullivan Show, with different generations encouraged to go to the bathroom at different times.

Anyway, I don’t want to sound like I’m too serious about the generational pop-culture war; it exists, but neither the young or the old were likely to be satisfied by most of these bits, no matter which age group they were trying to pander to. Long before the episode was over, James and Anne had been transformed from hot young actors to corny old showbiz troupers; that’s what the Academy Awards do to anyone, and they seem to work best when they admit and embrace their inherent unhipness.

I think one thing that made Billy Crystal an effective host — sometimes cheesy, but effective — is that he did embrace the corniness (it’s part of his style) but in a way that most of the viewing audience could enjoy. Specifically, those song parody medleys: a very old-fashioned thing to do, yes, but they guaranteed that our attention would be focused on the nominated films that he was singing about. Many Oscar shows do a really ineffective job of making it clear that the night is supposed to be about the movies, not the celebrities.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUCYWk5zXCc

Talking about the awards themselves is best left to others, but I will note the interesting thing about Tom Hooper (and not, as I had hoped, Tobe Hooper) winning over David Fincher. The Social Network is, as many people have noted, a supposedly hip modern subject handled by the director in a very restrained, almost classical way; if anything, it’s a movie that tries to show how little things have changed in the Facebook era, not how much. I wonder if that might have contributed to the voter backlash against the film, as voters were disappointed when the novelty of the subject wore off and they realized that it is not, in fact, some kind of incredibly new and cool thing.

And The King’s Speech was the perfect place for them to go, not only because it’s an Oscar-baiting type of film, but because Tom Hooper specializes in showy camerawork that conveys the impression that he’s doing something unusual. (I think it’s a weakness of John Adams and his other work that they engage in show-off camerawork for no clear reason sometimes, but it’s the sort of thing that wins awards.) Apart from being defeated by Harvey Weinstein’s publicity genius, I think Social Network may have been defeated by the idea that a movie about New Media should be a New Media kind of movie in every way, even though there’s no real reason that should be.

Well, anyway, King’s Speech had Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, which was worked into the montage that preceded its by-then-inevitable victory. Here’s the movement it used, as performed (rather more slowly than I personally prefer) by the Canadian period-instrument orchestra Tafelmusik.




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Oldest/Youngest/Dullest Oscars

  1. I agree it was a very poor showing by the hosts, though I thought franco was the stronger of the two.

    Watching Anne Hathaway be uncomfortable on stage for 3 hours made me feel uncomfortable.

    At least Franco wasn't begging us to laugh at his jokes as much as Hathaway was all night.

  2. I agree it was a very poor showing by the hosts, though I thought franco was the stronger of the two.

    Watching Anne Hathaway be uncomfortable on stage for 3 hours made me feel uncomfortable.

    At least Franco wasn't begging us to laugh at his jokes as much as Hathaway was all night.

    • i agree, I didn't catch it all, but Hathaway seemed nervous, Franco seemed to have a devil may care attitude.

  3. Hosts were awkward and the presenters were as well. Jude law and Robert downy jr were the only presenters who really handled the humour well. The Billy crystal coming out just reminded us how bad everyone else was with his ease and charm.

  4. Hosts were awkward and the presenters were as well. Jude law and Robert downy jr were the only presenters who really handled the humour well. The Billy crystal coming out just reminded us how bad everyone else was with his ease and charm.

  5. The great enigma (at least to me) has been how David Fincher has morphed from the director of Seven, Fight Club, and the Nine Inch Nails "Closer" video to the director of Zodiac, Benjamin Button, and The Social Network. Where he had been very viscerally involved in his early work, he has stepped so far back from his recent work that it has almost become sterile. Now, that worked in Zodiac (where the focus was on the mystery) and The Social Network (where we weren't really supposed to like the main character), but it backfired horribly in Benjamin Button. Regardless, I find it really hard to defend him as a great director these days, even if he sometimes makes great movies.

  6. The great enigma (at least to me) has been how David Fincher has morphed from the director of Seven, Fight Club, and the Nine Inch Nails "Closer" video to the director of Zodiac, Benjamin Button, and The Social Network. Where he had been very viscerally involved in his early work, he has stepped so far back from his recent work that it has almost become sterile. Now, that worked in Zodiac (where the focus was on the mystery) and The Social Network (where we weren't really supposed to like the main character), but it backfired horribly in Benjamin Button. Regardless, I find it really hard to defend him as a great director these days, even if he sometimes makes great movies.

  7. It was so boring but I did like the part where Anne plays the brown swan. That was hilarious. I also like the music video thing. Everything else bad.

  8. It was so boring but I did like the part where Anne plays the brown swan. That was hilarious. I also like the music video thing. Everything else bad.

  9. Every year the same is written about the academy awards: too long, too boring. I suppose we need to accept that this show just isn't going to be terribly entertaining and move on. I just DVR'd the show and just watched enough to see the awards given out and for certain categories I watched the acceptance speech.

  10. Every year the same is written about the academy awards: too long, too boring. I suppose we need to accept that this show just isn't going to be terribly entertaining and move on. I just DVR'd the show and just watched enough to see the awards given out and for certain categories I watched the acceptance speech.

  11. I watch the Oscars every year and have to say that this is the only Oscar show that I almost turned off. Usually, I look forward to the film intro – it was terrible! I thought "OK, move on!". No, it just got worse. I saw Anne Hathaway on SNL and I liked her then but eww this was really, really bad. She was gushing over people on stage and it was just beneath her, then the musical number? What were the directors thinking? And how many times can you change a dress (even into a suit?). She looked good on the red carpet and looked good in all those dresses but please just keep it to one or two. Then James Franco… I think this guy is great – what happened last night? I think the final blow for me was when Christian Bale took the stage and his first words were "Bloody Hell!". Was this really the same guy who was in Batman? Ugh! Please come back with a classy Oscar ceremony next year.

  12. I watch the Oscars every year and have to say that this is the only Oscar show that I almost turned off. Usually, I look forward to the film intro – it was terrible! I thought "OK, move on!". No, it just got worse. I saw Anne Hathaway on SNL and I liked her then but eww this was really, really bad. She was gushing over people on stage and it was just beneath her, then the musical number? What were the directors thinking? And how many times can you change a dress (even into a suit?). She looked good on the red carpet and looked good in all those dresses but please just keep it to one or two. Then James Franco… I think this guy is great – what happened last night? I think the final blow for me was when Christian Bale took the stage and his first words were "Bloody Hell!". Was this really the same guy who was in Batman? Ugh! Please come back with a classy Oscar ceremony next year.

  13. i agree, I didn't catch it all, but Hathaway seemed nervous, Franco seemed to have a devil may care attitude.

  14. Lamest hosts ever. She buzzed around like a cheerleader on steroids. All that was missing was the pompoms. The frozen Franco by contrast seemed to be on downers. Either that or he'd just had a root canal. Neither could act the part of witty or funny.

  15. Lamest hosts ever. She buzzed around like a cheerleader on steroids. All that was missing was the pompoms. The frozen Franco by contrast seemed to be on downers. Either that or he'd just had a root canal. Neither could act the part of witty or funny.

  16. James looked like he didn't even want to be there. Anne tried at least. Did she fail? Yes. But she tried

  17. James looked like he didn't even want to be there. Anne tried at least. Did she fail? Yes. But she tried

  18. Anne Hathaway spent the entire evening with an over-excited grin plastered over her face and James Franco just looked stoned. Failure.

  19. Anne Hathaway spent the entire evening with an over-excited grin plastered over her face and James Franco just looked stoned. Failure.

  20. franco was awesome. if you're old, you probably didn't get it.

  21. franco was awesome. if you're old, you probably didn't get it.

    • I'm pretty sure young people are smarter than you give them credit for.

  22. Along with all others that I have said it, the program was a complete bored. The only part that I really enjoyed was watching Kirk Douglas ignoring what was on the teleprompter and ad-lib the supporting actress award. In my opinion, he was trying to salvage to what he thought the program was going nowhere. Hats off to Mr. Douglas!

  23. Along with all others that I have said it, the program was a complete bored. The only part that I really enjoyed was watching Kirk Douglas ignoring what was on the teleprompter and ad-lib the supporting actress award. In my opinion, he was trying to salvage to what he thought the program was going nowhere. Hats off to Mr. Douglas!

  24. I'm pretty sure young people are smarter than you give them credit for.

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