“YOUTH IS wasted on the young,” said George Bernard Shaw.
* * *
WELL, youth was certainly wasted on Oscar night! The Academy’s idea to freshen up the annual show and “appeal to a younger demographic,” in the persons of Anne Hathaway and James Franco did not exactly set the world on fire.
By now, you’re all probably Oscar-ed out, and have read or heard or exchanged your own critiques. But I must unburden a little.
After an amusing pre-taped beginning, with Hathaway and Franco popping in and out of the nominated movies in an “Inception”-themed dream, the live versions of the two actors appeared onstage. Well, one of them was alive —Miss Hathaway. Much, much too alive!
She not only played to the balcony at the Kodak Theater she played to balconies in China. She took “perky” to dizzying new heights of vertigo-inducing energy. But perhaps she was simply desperate, as her red-eyed, laid back co-host just didn’t seem to give a damn. (He did say he’d been studying at Yale and hadn’t rehearsed too much.)
Maybe Mr. Franco was paralyzed with nerves, maybe he was sick? (In a pre-show interview on ABC he was already displaying symptoms of flu, ennui or regret at tackling the coming three hours.) But whatever his problem, it became so extreme as the show neared its finale that when Billy Crystal appeared, the comedian and popular former Oscar host received a rousing standing ovation. You could sense the relief. Maybe Billy rode in to save the day? Worse was to come. Crystal was actually there to pay homage to Bob Hope, who hosted the Oscars a record 18 times.
The old black and white clips of Hope may have made the hippest, youngest persons in the place — all “The Social Network” team — yearn for some good old-fashioned stage presence up there at the podium.
* * *
POOR MISS Hathaway was left to multiple costume changes — which was fine — but a significant strain on her charm. She went though her entire bag of tricks, and then frantically found a few more. After a while she just wore me out. I imagine at evening’s end she must have been near collapse.
I suppose this was a noble experiment — after all, a certain generation of “real” stars are gone or fading — but it didn’t work. I’d rather have seen Sharon Stone and Raquel Welch host the night. (Caught a glimpse of Stone on the red carpet, looking every inch the movie queen.) Or, if you want a great glam couple — somehow persuade Brad and Angie to do it. Cough up a few million for their charities. I don’t know if either one of them is a ball of fire onstage, but think of the fun the tabs would have, “reading” their body language as they handled the awards.
Oh, really, it is all much ado about nothing. The Oscars will happen again next year, and we’ll have another opportunity to carp.
I hope Mr. Franco doesn’t take his reviews too hard. After all, he himself was an Oscar nominee, and not everybody can succeed standing onstage in front of millions. (Perhaps, as a nominee he felt it was beneath him to be up there all night long.) I wish him good luck, but hope to never see him as a host again. Oh, and Visine does wonders, James.
Miss Hathaway? After her vivid display, I suggest a very serious drama, in which she does not smile, move much, sing or change clothes. Give people a chance to forget.
* * *
AS FOR the winners, I am disappointed Annette Bening did not take the gold, though I admire what Natalie Portman did — and went through! — in preparing and filming “Black Swan.” Thrilled about “The King’s Speech.” (Harvey Weinstein, you’re the man again, congrats!) Thrilled about Colin Firth, whose curly ringlets so moved me in person, a month or so back. I was impressed by Melissa Leo in “The Fighter,” but don’t believe for a second her expletive at the podium was “spontaneous.” It came off badly. She needed to have her act together.
* * *
HALLE BERRY was ravishing paying homage to the late great Lena Horne, although the film-clip “tribute” itself was ridiculously brief. (Apparently, Halle never forgave herself for leaving Lena out of her Oscar acceptance speech a few years back. It also gave the Oscars a much-needed “black moment.” This year there were no African American nominees.) And Kirk Douglas? Well, it would have been okay-ish had he not hogged the moment, been so self-reverential and delayed opening the envelope … I thought Reese Witherspoon looked like an elegant Barbie Doll, with her hair in that retro upsweep ponytail thing … Some gowns worked, some did not. For sure, everybody tries their best to look their best. (Even poor Scarlett Johansson. Her house was apparently burgled by a thief who stole all her combs and brushes.) But that who-wore-what stuff is best left to Joan Rivers and friends on E!
Oh, among those left out of the memorial segment were Corey Haim, Peter Graves, and Betty Garrett.
You know — next season we won’t care that much. Really. 2012 — election year, remember? We will have other sources of entertainment and agony.