The Most Unexpected Oscar Hosts Yet: James Franco and Anne Hathaway

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They’re delightful! They’re beautiful! They’re going to read lame gags from a teleprompter! Behold the two movie stars who have been tapped to serve as the next Oscar hosts.

James Franco and Anne Hathaway will serve as the co-hosts of the 83rd Academy Awards, it was announced Monday afternoon.  “James Franco and Anne Hathaway personify the next generation of Hollywood icons — fresh, exciting and multi-talented. We hope to create an Oscar broadcast that will both showcase their incredible talents and entertain the world on February 27,” said telecast producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer. The bash is set to take place on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center.

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For arguably the most high-profile awards show in the world, the Oscars has, at best, a patchy record in recent years when it comes to the host. Long gone are the days of safe choices such as Billy Crystal or Whoopi Goldberg (or indeed, Bob Hope before them) with Oscar trying out chat show hosts like David Letterman (pretty much considered a disaster), Jon Stewart (he’s now sticking to the day job) or comedians Chris Rock and Ellen DeGeneres and the ratings unfortunately matched their efforts.

That said, the past couple of shows have shown that there’s life in the old Oscar yet. Hugh Jackman brought a sense of vaudeville to proceedings in 2009 — and 37 million viewers — and this year’s pairing of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin must have shown the producers that double acts are the way to go as the program drew an average audience of 41.3 million viewers, its best performance in five years. Baldwin/Martin also scored favorably with the all important 18- to 49-year-old demographic (a 13.1 rating) and when you consider that Franco/Hathaway’s combined age (61) is younger than Martin himself, ABC will be hoping for more of the same, if not higher figures in a few months time.

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As for the hosts, one fascinating subplot is that both of them could be nominated on the night.

Franco is considered a sure thing to get a Best Actor nod for his portrayal of Aron Ralston in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours and Hathaway may get a second nomination (her first was for Rachel Getting Married in 2008) for Love and Other Drugs. NewsFeed is pretty much certain that no Oscar host has ever won the gold statue in the same year as taking charge of the broadcast. But it’s always worth remembering that no matter how compelling the possibility of awarding yourself an Oscar may be (or at least linking to somebody announcing that you’re the winner), it’s the quality of the movies and performances that will draw us in on the night, especially if bragging rights are at stake when it comes to the office Oscar pool.