Wednesday, September 7, 2011
So as this scene unfolded, I got to thinking - what do I want in an Oscar host? After all, there's no use sitting around groaning about something if I lack the resolve to know what I want to begin with. And the truth of the matter is - it depends. On some level I want an Oscar host to be a big draw. Someone that will inspire the masses to throw their remotes out into the distant beyond and tune in for 3 and half hours (ish) of pure cinematic self-indulgence. But that's just not realistic these days. There's too many options for someone to choose from for the Oscars to return to the height of fandom. Besides, who could possibly turn down the opportunity to watch a 24 hour competitive beard growing reality show marathon? Or a bunch of people with abs and greased back hair in a house doing... whatever it is that they do that makes people watch them.
With the opportunity for incredibly broad appeal out of the way, I think what an Oscar host needs is balance. Someone who is funny enough to attract those seeking a good deal of mindless escape. Someone charismatic enough to not spend the entire time just mumbling one liners, and waiting for the crickets to quiet down so that one guy snickering in the back can be heard. And last, but surely not least, someone willing to able to take a few low shots at the Hollywood establishment. An event as self-serving as the Oscars deserves to have at minimum five good mocks during the proceedings or the sheer thickness of the stench of egocentricity will engulf half of the west coast (admittedly certain fractions of people would consider this a good thing but I am not among them).
For my money Hugh Jackman was the best Oscar host since my coming into the world of cinema (around 2004). Chris Rock, is... well. Chris Rock and didn't seem like he knew if he wanted to be edgy or safe. I like Jon Stewart, but he's a niche performer and really stumbled through his first year. I thought Ellen DeGeneres had all the right stuff, but packed her show with all the wrong components (seriously, who needed gigantic shadow puppets?). Baldwin and Martin were perfect on paper, but both seemed uncomfortable and irritable. Geek approved Anne Hathaway was on the right track but constantly weighed down by a half-aware James Franco.
So the question remains, can Eddie Murphy be the kind of performer I'm looking for. Well, with the increasingly diminished role of Oscar hosts, he only needs to be solid for a handful of set pieces, and a few introductions. Not that hard for someone whom I would argue was once one of the best stand up and sketch show performers ever. I kind of think he could. That is of course dependent on him being able to either look beyond his recent struggles, his Oscar upset, and embrace the sort of self-mockery I've come to adore in an Oscar host. So, Eddie Murphy while many may grumble at your 'casting,' I'll reserve judgment and hope for a return to your glory days. Just please, do us all a favor and don't mention Norbit getting an Oscar nomination. Some things are best left never mentioned again.