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Oh, sorry, please don't hurt yourself on the way out, old timers, but the organizers of this year's Oscars show would really, really appreciate it if you'd just, well, you know, get lost.
That's pretty much the message the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences had in an interview with USA Today last week. There'll be no Billy Crystal hosting, no Steve Martin, no Whoopi Goldberg. Not even 2009 host Hugh Jackman who, sorry to say, was born during the Nixon Administration and thus fails to meet the Oscars' age quotient. No, the folks up there on Wilshire Boulevard are counting on James Franco, 34, and 28-year-old Anne Hathaway to lend gravitas to an event that a handful of years ago they were too young to stay up for.
Of course, Franco and Hathaway are terrific actors, and the fact is many moons ago a 28-year-old Donald O'Connor hosted the Oscar proceedings. I think it's the attitude of AMPAS President Tom Sherak that bugs me: "What you are going to see is young, hip Hollywood," he enthuses. "You are going to like the style." What you won't see, however is a presentation that has long been a highlight of the Oscarcast: the Honorary Oscar for stars and filmmakers who, because of accidents of history or voter malfeasance, never received a statuette. You know, little people, like Cary Grant. And Groucho Marx. And Charlie Chaplin.
"There is a long list of deserving people in the business who never won a statuette," Sherak sniffs. Besides, he says, those awards will now be given their own special ceremony each fall. And by the way, they won't be shown on TV.
The problem here, of course, is that the Oscars show draws what for Hollywood is considered a notoriously old demographic. To charge the big advertising bucks, TV needs young eyeballs, and to draw them the Academy is enlisting an A-list of young celebrities to sell its hardware. You can imagine the hand-wringing that's going on due to the fact that this year's front-runner, The King's Speech, is basically about the unusual friendship of two middle-age men, set against the socio-political turmoil of Europe in the 1930s.
Sure, it's a good movie. A great one, in fact. But here's the thing: Kids don't care how good a movie is. They only care about whether or not it will keep them entertained enough to come back again the next night with some friends. The Academy's voters, God bless 'em, tend to set a higher standard, and so they make the right artistic choice an amazing amount of the time.
So until Justin Bieber: Never Say Never lands a Best Picture nomination, Tom Sherak and company will just have to make do with hiring youngsters to hand off shiny gold statuettes to their more deserving elders.