In defence of James Franco
James Franco's performance as Oscar host has come in for some heavy criticism. Ron wants to ride to his rescue, though...
To sum up the responses to Sunday's Oscars telecast, Anne Hathaway is great and James Franco is the worst Oscars host since David Letterman. At least, that's the popular opinion. But I'm going to do something that even I'm kind of surprised by, and that's defend James Franco.
Was the show bad? Yes. Was his hosting job bad when compared to ‘I'll do anything to get a laugh and keep the show energetic' Anne Hathaway? Yes. Was it deliberate on Franco's part to be terrible? I'm going to go out on a limb here, read his mind, and say yes.
James Franco is not the kind of actor or person to do something lightly. I mean, he's bringing legitimate artistic intent to a role on General Hospital, so you know he doesn't actually think he's above a gig as prestigious as hosting the Oscars. If you can go from an Oscar-nominated performance to a television soap opera, you're willing to do just about anything you want to do, and what Franco wanted to do was send a message to the producers of the Oscars. That message: the young demographic is not watching the Oscars (at least not in the way that the Oscar producers want them to).
From the very opening of the show, Franco was apparently distracted, smirking, and/or on drugs (depending which of the reactions to his hosting you believe). When he walked out onto the stage to start the evening, he was playing on his cell phone. When they cut back to him moments before announcing Colin Firth as the winner of best actor, he looked bored and uninterested, because he knew (as we all did) that Colin Firth was going to take home best actor and none of the other performers had a shot at the award.
Look at the nominees. Franco and Jesse Eisenberg are too young, Javier Bardem's movie isn't in English, Jeff Bridges won last year. The only reasonable candidate was Colin Firth, considering the Oscars are usually not given to the actual best performance of the year, but as a make-up for previous performances that should've won, but didn't.
Do you know why Franco's performance as host was the way the kids are watching the Oscars?
1) He might have been on drugs (allegedly, of course).
2) He was distracted by his cell phone.
3) He didn't really care.
(Even Anne Hathaway made a nod to the younger generation's Oscar-watching habits by telling the home viewer to drink when she flubbed an introduction, and she was the cheerleader host, not the snarky one!)
Do you think anyone college-aged really cares about who wins? Aside from film school kids? No, not really. We watch the Oscars for the entertaining presenters (see Kirk Douglas pushing 100, but having the funniest presentation of the night), for jokes during introductions (see Sandra Bullock's best actor intro with Jeff Bridges), for the clothes on the celebrities (see Anne Hathaway's 18 costume changes), and for the people who win the awards to do fun things with their speeches. (See Melissa Leo's speech for further information.)
In short, we want 'holy shit' moments, from "Holy shit, I can't believe Franco's so high!" to "Holy shit, I can't believe Franco's wearing a dress!" to "Holy shit, that was a total train wreck!" Giving out the awards is a lesser priority, and the hosts are so unimportant that they may as well not even rate.
The last time someone watched an awards show because of the host was Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes. Did you expect anything really controversial out of the mouths of any of the Oscars hosts? Despite her youth and inexperience, someone like Anne Hathaway knows not to buck the system if you want it to reward you later in life. As for Franco? He doesn't care, and he made it perfectly clear that he didn't like being used as a way to make the show hipper.
I'm sure Billy Crystal (or whoever) will be a fine host next year, who will say and do all the right things in his limited screen time. However, will they be interesting? No, you know what you're going to get with Billy Crystal or Alec Baldwin. Nice hosts who tease, but never challenge.
James Franco refused to do that, and in doing so, exemplified his generation, distracted to the point of hyperactivity, snarky, and with absolutely no respect for anyone or anything that hasn't earned it. Basically, by thumbing his nose at pomp and circumstance, Franco is picking up the Marlon Brando mantle of most dangerous (and dangerously talented) actor alive.
On his General Hospital storyline, Franco plays a reclusive artist/serial killer/sociopath/general troublemaker. He's sort of a catch-all villain for the show. Maybe he's carrying this catch-all villain persona into real life and becoming the Franco of the Academy Awards?
What better way to point out the inherent stupidity and vanity of a fancy dress awards party than to become an anti-host, smirking and halfassing your way through a three hour back patting session?
Let's not forget, this is the year of Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck orchestrating a fake psychotic breakdown and drug-fueled career suicide. Isn't James Franco more than capable of intentionally destructing the Oscars telecast to make some kind of political statement?
Or, there's the logical excuse for his terrible performance: he's exhausted from attending two colleges, filming General Hospital, doing movies and press tours, and rehearsing for the Oscars while traveling across country twice a week.
I don't like that excuse. I like my completely hypothetical performance art idea much better.
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