Oscar producers explained the logic behind pairing Franco, who portrayed Beat poet Allen Ginsberg earlier this year in "Howl," with Hathaway, who's fresh off her performance in "Love and Other Drugs" alongside Jake Gyllenhaal. According to producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer:
James Franco and Anne Hathaway personify the next generation of Hollywood icons -- fresh, exciting and multitalented. We hope to create an Oscar broadcast that will both showcase their incredible talents and entertain the world on February 27. We are completely thrilled that James and Anne will be joining forces with our brilliant creative team to do just that.
Hiring Franco and Hathaway to emcee the event marks an even bolder strategic shift by the Academy, which has been accused of being out-of-touch with mainstream tastes for years. Last year's attempts to attract younger, advertiser-friendly viewers included an expansion of the Best Picture category from five to 10 films and presenting duties for Disney stars Miley Cyrus and Zac Efron as well as Twilight's Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner (Alec Baldwin, 52, and Martin, 65, played host).
Unlike former hosting duo Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, Linda Holmes writes on NPR, Franco and Hathaway's performance should seem a little less scripted:Part of the reason the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences feels comfortable going with these two is that both James Franco and Anne Hathaway have both very successfully hosted Saturday Night Live. And they looked at that and felt these young actors could work in front of a live audience which is why in the past the Academy has gone to so many stand-up comedians. And, of course, the other factor is that they really "young up" the Oscars this year. It's an interesting choice and certainly unexpected and bold.
Don't get me wrong; Martin and Baldwin weren't bad. But you knew exactly what you were going to get, and there wasn't likely to be a significant younger audience tuning in to see them. I don't think anybody knows exactly what James Franco and Anne Hathaway will be like as hosts, and they certainly seem likely to inspire a moderately younger demographic. I'd certainly rather have Hollywood reach out to people under 40 by hiring different hosts than by tinkering with the awards themselves any more than they already have.
The only awkwardness could stem from the fact that Franco is a surefire Best Actor contender for his performance in "127 Hours," while after the mixed critical and commercial reaction to "Love and Other Drugs," Hathaway is looking more and more like a long shot at best. Or wait ... do we now have a good kick-off topic for their hosting bits?
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