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Oscars Smackdown: Franco Gave Up an Arm, But Hathaway Was All Heart

Randy Newman pointed it out: The producers of this year’s Academy Awards show instructed the presenters and nominees about the behavior necessary to ensure a “good television” experience for the viewers, but once the award winners reached the podium, it was all about them.

They were mostly actors, after all, and acutely aware of image implications. You have to assume that each of them (even Melissa Leo) exerted some control over their “performances.” And we — their real, if distant, audience — judge them by how connected we feel to them, not just by how happy they are for themselves.

As for this year’s hosts, James Franco and Anne Hathaway may both be gifted human beings, but Hathaway proved she is more gifted at being human.

Franco couldn’t have looked more bored or distracted, like it truly was a chore for him to be there. Maybe he had missed too many rehearsals while pursuing his doctorate in English Lit at Yale. Maybe something terrible was going on in his life and this was his way of coping. But it seemed as if he couldn’t have been any more blasé, or cared any less about the audience.

So I felt an almost physical sense of relief when a few old pros took the stage: Kevin Spacey, for a moment of vaudevillian singing; Billy Crystal, along with his co-presenter Bob Hope, who, despite being long dead, showed more life in his electronic contribution than Franco did; and the stroke-marred but still courtly and comedic Kirk Douglas.

And as far as I’m concerned, the Oscar for Best Audience Experience goes to… Anne Hathaway.

She was the epitome of happy-to-be-here. She looked positively joyful. Through half-a-dozen changes of hairdos and gowns, her full-facial smiles, eye contact, and comfortable delivery showed she was vibrantly herself, completely engaged, and wanted to be exactly where she was, doing exactly what she was doing.

There were also some lovely, gracious award acceptances:

  • Natalie Portman thanked behind-the-scenes people who don’t usually hear public praise — the ones who really helped her do her job.
  • Colin Firth, who seems like such a lovely fellow, mused with self-deprecation that his career “just peaked,” which made the award feel truly deserved, as if he had received it for a lifetime of achievement — or in one of those overnight successes that, as he said, had taken 20 years.
  • David Seidler, who won the award for Best Original Screenplay for The King’s Speech, and is the oldest person ever to receive a first Oscar, noted in his acceptance speech that, “My father always said I would be a late bloomer.” Who knows, maybe his dad’s declaration slowed him down a bit. But for those of us who don’t own any kind of statuette, it says we still have time to win!

Onward and upward,


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