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Give James Franco a Break

April 6, 2011

No, he wasn’t Billy Crystal. He wasn’t Jon Stewart. He wasn’t even Ellen DeGeneres (even if, during one segment, he did dress in drag). And his performance in 127 Hours was far superior to his performance as this year’s Oscar co-host.

But it’s time for people to stop ragging on James Franco as if he was the worst Oscar host in history. Give the dude a break.

For one thing, he’s not a professional comedian/entertainer. There have been 71 hosts/co-hosts of the Academy Awards in its 83-year history, and while not all of them have been comedians, the vast majority of them have been. (Bob Hope holds the record, having hosted the Oscars 18 times.) But just because you’re a great comedian doesn’t guarantee you’ll be a great Oscar host. Anybody remember David Letterman’s bizarre Oprah/Uma joke? Many of us are still trying to figure that one out.

Franco definitely has comic skills—just watch Pineapple Express—but he isn’t a comedian. And he’s not really an actor-entertainer either. He’s an actor–and a pretty damn good one at that. But nothing in his background or previous work should’ve made people expect that he’d be able to carry a 3+ hour awards show on his shoulders (even with the help of the lovely Anne Hathaway, who despite her vivacious charm, also isn’t a comedian).

Second, this is what the Academy gets for their it-would’ve-been-brilliant-if-it-worked ploy to attract younger viewers. Not to say it couldn’t have worked—but it didn’t. Indeed, the ratings for this year’s Oscars were lower than last year’s, both in total viewership as well as in the key 18-49 demo. So if Franco (and Hathaway) bear some responsibility for those numbers, so does the Academy.

Third, exhaustion, rather than being stoned, was probably the main factor in Franco’s low energy hosting performance. The man’s obscenely busy. He starred in 3 movies in 2010 alone (with 3 set to come out in 2011). He published a book of short stories last year. He’s getting a Ph.D. from Yale. He recently announced he’s teaching a directing course at NYU. Oh, and did I mention he’s also an artist, and just had an art exhibition in Berlin.

No wonder the guy’s frickin’ exhausted.

Finally, Franco wasn’t just hosting the Oscars…he was also a nominee. (This puts him in the distinguished company of David Niven, Walter Matthau, and Michael Caine, who were also Oscars nominees the years they hosted the show.) Leading up to the awards, Franco was pretty sure he would lose Best Actor to Colin Firth (and he did). All the same, can you imagine having to host the Oscars while also being a nominee?! Throw in a brutal work schedule, not enough sleep, and a dissertation, and it’s a miracle he didn’t leave the ceremony in a stretcher.

I applaud Franco for stepping outside his comfort zone. It’s a quality more of us should embrace. Yes, his hosting turn was certainly low energy (he’s admitted as much). But it’s time to stop hating on the guy and move on. Franco has. (Indeed, he’s got a new movie out this week…and apparently he’s devising a plan to balance the budget and turn Charlie Sheen into a mute. Isn’t he amazing?)

And to the Academy, here’s an idea: consider hiring Ricky Gervais and the cast of Glee to co-host next year’s Oscars. It could be a spectacular disaster…but it sure wouldn’t be low energy!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. John Halbert permalink
    April 6, 2011 10:50 am

    I give props to Franco for trying something different. In an interview just before the Oscars, he said that when he was offered the gig, all of his people told him it was a bad idea. So that’s why he did it: because everyone else thot it was a bad idea. So, props for taking risks, but sometimes those people are right.
    I don’t think he was exhausted, and it’s his fault if he was: he knew months in advance this was coming, he should have adjusted his schedule accordingly. Also, I saw an ad for Your Highness with him and Danny McBride. McBride was funny, but Franco barely moved. He’s not a performer.
    I do give the Academy credit for taking risks. They keep doing that. Remember inviting all of the nominees onto the stage for the announcement? But they also realize – immediately – when something isn’t working.
    I thot Anne Hathaway could have been great with a great co-host. She was trying her damnedest to be very entertaining.

  2. Angie Girl permalink
    April 6, 2011 1:16 pm

    CAll me crazy but I actually liked James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Maybe my expectations were low. I mean who could live up to the Billy Crystal days?..I could have told the Academy they wouldnt draw the 18-49 crowd with them but hey, they didnt ask me. I think the Gervais/Glee suggestion is hilarious!

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