Unpopular Opinions: Oscar Hosts
The Arts Desk is tired of giving hot takes on snubs and surprises and have decided to critique a different aspect of awards shows: the hosts!
February 20, 2019
Well, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to forgo a host for this year’s Oscars, so what better way to ignore such a boring move than to celebrate the art of hosting itself. The Oscars are the most prestigious film awards, but to call the show exciting would be a stretch. Watching the ceremony from start to finish is quite the task due to its near four-hour runtime. Not every host has been able to bear such a huge burden, while some surprise the masses with an astounding performance. This is Unpopular Opinions: Oscar Hosts.
Seth MacFarlane — 85th Academy Awards
The “Family Guy” creator was never the obvious choice to host the Academy Awards. In fact, much of Hollywood was upset by the Academy’s choosing him, warning of the possible unfiltered jokes that would ensue during a supposedly family-friendly show. MacFarlane has spoken on this in many interviews since then, remarking on his desire to comment on the negative press that had been thrown his way in advance of the ceremony. This is how the iconic opening number, “We Saw Your Boobs,” came about. The song pointed out many of the actresses attending the event who had undressed on-screen. Although perhaps tasteless, it was an absolute thrill to watch with my parents who were astonished and amazed by the host’s behavior. At the time, I thought it was hilarious. Looking back, however, the whole scene does strike a pointed, sexist tone. Why weren’t the men who had acted in intimate scenes made fun of as well? Why wasn’t there a follow-up joke about showing male genitalia on screen? MacFarlane has yet to answer these questions, but we can all still watch the scene and wonder, what exactly was he hoping to achieve? — Claire
Hugh Jackman — 81st Academy Awards
Hugh Jackman is the greatest showman both on and off screen. The star has acted across stage and film, can sing and dance and — perhaps one of his most underrated skills — can host like no other. His opening musical number at the 81st Academy Awards remains one of the best televised spectacles that has graced the Oscars broadcast. It ranged from hilarious homages to the year’s best movies, such as “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Milk,” to parodying the omission of “The Dark Knight” from the best picture race and how “The Reader” got nominated despite not many people having seen it by the time of the show. Jackman kept every second of the three-and-a-half-hour spectacle fresh and was a wonderful change of pace from the usual crop of Oscar hosts, who tend to be comedians. Though he has not hosted as many times as Billy Crystal or Jon Stewart, his one performance catapulted him to the top of the list of Hollywood’s best hosts. One hopes it is only a matter of time before he returns for another year’s Academy Awards. — Guru
James Franco–– 83rd Academy Awards
Hosting alongside Anne Hathaway, Franco was largely panned for this performance. Sure, he may have been a little more suave and much more aloof than you would like an Oscars host to be, but the novelty of the hosts was what gave the 83rd Academy Awards its charm. Everyone knows that the likes of Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres can host a show — it’s their job. We’ve seen plenty of monologues by that trio. Hathaway and Franco, even if they didn’t deliver, were at least fresh voices, and there is always the added intrigue of potential disaster. To be clear, the show was a near catastrophe, and not in an entertaining way. But we’ve taken the wrong lesson from it. For Franco and Hathaway, it may have simply been a matter of an awkward partnership, especially since we’ve seen a funny Franco in films before and after. Another oddity was that Franco was nominated for best actor the year he hosted. It’s an idea worth recycling. With the current dearth of willing hosts, the Academy should draft their host from the best actor nominees. Many of the jokes would be outsourced to professional writers no matter who’s hosting. So Bradley Cooper thinks he should be best director and actor for “A Star Is Born” this year? Let’s see if he can also host the show where he will be snubbed for both. Franco may have been reserved in the face of defeat, but perhaps others will not remain so composed. At the very least, it would be interesting to see more career actors hosting the Oscars. It’d be better than having no host at all, and certainly better than Kevin Hart. — Dante
Ellen DeGeneres — 86th Academy Awards
Ellen DeGeneres is no stranger to either the Oscars — having hosted in 2007 and 2014 — or to polarized public opinion. This year, with the Kevin Hart debacle, she even managed to bring the two together into a Twitterstorm of controversy. Despite her enjoying rather wide public support until relatively recently, I’ve never been a particularly huge fan of DeGeneres — she strikes me as both surprisingly uninspired in her comedy and creepily dead-eyed, like Jimmy Fallon but even more bland — not to mention being decidedly out of touch with her audience. Although I’m not here to talk about my dislike for DeGeneres in general, her gig as the 2014 Oscars host summed up everything there is to dislike about her. Bad jokes — she’s not funny. Ordering pizza for the celebrity audience — she’s gimmicky. And remember that infamous selfie, which was the most-liked tweet of all time for a little while? I didn’t either. — Alex
For as long as my memory allows, iconic celebrity hosts have guided audiences from all over the world through the kingdom of the Oscars, a complex and sometimes dragged-on journey. They narrated the trials and tribulations facing our country — such as Jimmy Kimmel taking jabs at the presidency last year — in addition to entertaining the crowd of over 30 million TV viewers who sat through the presentation for best sound mixing. Hosts are to the Oscars as teeth are to people: we can live without them, but they makes digesting the foodstuffs placed before us a whole lot easier. — Nicole
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