Oscars’ attempt to please younger audience felt half-hearted

Hollywood is having a midlife crisis.

Or so it would seem from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ lame attempt at embracing a young audience at Sunday’s Academy Awards.

From their opening bit, unlikely co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco poked fun at the obvious, and totally misguided, reason they were chosen for the job.

Franco complimented Hathaway on looking hip, to which she responded, “You look very appealing to a younger demographic as well.”

There’s no doubt these two are pleasant to look at for people of all ages, but that doesn’t make them right for the role of host.

Perhaps actively catering to the demographic he was meant to attract, Franco acted as though he was on some kind of narcotic for most of the night. With drooping eyelids and a dreamy smile, most of his one-liners fell awkwardly flat.

Hathaway, on the other hand, enacted her youthfulness with incessant giggling at everything Franco did, and school-girlish over-excitement when introducing big-name stars like Steven Spielberg.

When she flubbed an introduction, Hathaway referenced the drinking games young viewers were presumably playing at home.

The two young stars might have embodied some sort of youthfulness, but it wasn’t an especially appealing one.

Further efforts at being hip included Justin Timberlake’s onstage reference to the ever-increasing breadth of smartphone apps, and a video in which scenes from recent movies, such as Harry Potter and Twilight, were auto-tuned into ridiculous techno-pop songs.

There were some chuckle-worthy moments throughout the night, but nothing that signaled a genuine generational shift, and really, nothing all that memorable.

The show was made up of inane grasps at what the producers believed to be hip humor.

Funnily enough, one of the stronger moments of the night came when eight-time Oscar host Billy Crystal introduced a retrospective video on Bob Hope, an 18-time host.

With one simple joke about the Oscars running over their scheduled time, Crystal brought a comfortingly familiar style of humor back to Oscar night.

Maybe the Academy should try to age gracefully instead of splurging on the flashy, but useless, convertible that was Franco and Hathaway.

The tension between a new generation of Hollywood and the old guard (exactly where the distinction lies between the two of them is entirely debatable) was significantly more evident in the awards themselves.

Although the producers of the Academy Award broadcast might have wanted hot young things onstage to attract viewers, the Academy voters were not as concerned.

The King’s Speech’s sweep of four major categories — Best Picture, Director, Actor and Original Screenplay — reveals the Academy’s continuing taste for traditional Oscar bait.

As demonstrated by Dame Helen Mirren and Cate Blanchett, who played two different Queen Elizabeths, the Academy has a taste for British monarchs, and Colin Firth, who portrays the stammering King George VI, was widely accepted as having a lock on the Best Actor award.

But the race between The King’s Speech and The Social Network was much closer for the Best Picture and Director categories.

The Social Network, hailed as the film that defines our generation, was the Academy’s chance to prove that it is in touch with today’s youth.

Often referred to simply as “the Facebook movie,” the film captured something of the technology-induced alienation of millions of tweeters. It even represented the linguistic shift occurring in our society, as words like “friend” and “like” now have new meanings.

Although this sounds overstated, the film was able to tell a story that belongs uniquely to a younger generation. And predictably, the Academy voters instead chose the safe, broadly inspirational period piece that tells a story belonging to an era, a country and a class of people beyond a younger audience’s reach.

With The King’s Speech dominating the second half of award season, its Best Picture win did not come as a surprise. The Weinstein movie machine cranks out Oscar wins at a formidable pace, and the film’s sweep of the various Guild awards had a lot to do with pitch-perfect marketing.

But many critics believed The Social Network’s David Fincher would still take home the Best Director award for his uncanny ability to make nerdy guys sitting at computers so exhilarating.

Although Fincher is 10 years older than The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper, he has been considered a definitive artistic voice in our generation since the cult classic Fight Club in 1999.

Fincher’s loss to Hooper, a British director little-known in the States, seems to display the Academy’s blind insistence on sticking to its traditional ways.

Franco, Hathaway and a thoroughly unmemorable Oscar broadcast might not be the solution to Hollywood’s midlife crisis. The Academy could stand to broaden its horizons a bit. Then, maybe the young and the old can all be “friends.”

Cara Dickason is a senior majoring in cinema-critical studies and English. Her column, “Cine File,” runs Tuesdays.

2 replies
  1. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    I couldn’t stop laughing at Randy Newman’s speech. I found him to be sincere and hilarious.

  2. Logo
    Logo says:

    I loved Anne Hathaway last night, she hosted the whole thing by herself, it was like James wasn’t even there. What was that about? Other than that Sandra Bullock was the funniest (can she host next year?) along with Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr, Russell Brand and Helen Mirren. Colin Firth was a darling too and Natalie is just too adorable.

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