- - Monday, February 28, 2011

The emcees

“As soon as the readymade segments gave way to live banter and, worse, audience interaction, [James] Franco and [Anne] Hathaway seemed increasingly flustered and remote, with no sense how to gauge a laugh or work a crowd. It was painfully possible to watch in real time as they realized the show was slipping away from them.

“Hathaway reacted by overcompensating, mugging and shimmying and shaking the gold fringe on her de la Renta gown as if to say: ‘Well, that exchange bombed. Look! Shiny fringe!’ Franco did just the opposite, seeming to withdraw into himself as the show went on, growing flatter and more monotone until, by the end, he might have been reluctantly emceeing a distant cousin’s bat mitzvah.

“So complete was Franco’s desistance from the co-hosting project that there was speculation around the Web as to whether he might have been partaking of a little of the Pineapple Express backstage. … All I know is that at some point during what must have been a long, tedious and stressful night, Franco clearly decided, ‘I’m never doing this again, so it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.’ Unfortunately instead of loosening him up, this realization, herb-assisted or no, shut him down. He was like a one-term president dedicated to governing on the platform of Who Gives A Crap.”

Dana Stevens, writing on “James Franco Might Have Been Reluctantly Emceeing a Distant Cousin’s Bat Mitzvah,” on Feb. 28 at Slate

The audience

“Certainly, “young and hip” seemed to be what the Academy was going for with this year’s telecast, particularly with the hiring of the relentlessly peppy [Anne] Hathaway and the sleepy-eyed multi-hyphenate James Franco as hosts. …

“Of course, there was nothing particularly young or hip about the Academy’s choices for the awards. The boo that rippled through my viewing party when David Fincher lost Best Director to Tom Hooper, the eye-rolling that greeted Charles Ferguson’s sanctimonious lecture amidst his acceptance of the Best Documentary trophy for ‘Inside Job’ — these were discontented expressions of a disconnect.

“In order to ensure their own livelihood, the Academy knows they have to court the audience that has embraced movies like ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop,’ but their consensus votes continually marginalize that audience and its interests.”

Karina Longworth, writing on “Oscars 2011: The Most Embarrassing Academy Awards Ever?” on Feb. 27 at L.A. Weekly

The winner

“Last night at the Academy Awards, my favorite film of 2010, ‘True Grit,’ went 0 for 10. … And yet, I’m glad that the evening’s big winner was ‘The King’s Speech.’ Although not necessarily a better film than ‘True Grit,’ it’s a kind of film that we desperately need, and one in desperately short supply in mainstream cinema: a good, wholesome film about good, wholesome people. The wholesomeness of these characters and their milieu is something lacking in many of the year’s best films, including ‘Inception,’ ‘The Social Network,’ ‘Winter’s Bone’ and even ‘True Grit.’

“Films about unwholesome people and situations can still be very good and worthwhile films. They can be cautionary; they can challenge us with our own capacity for evil; they can raise awareness regarding injustice and oppression; they can inspire hope for redemption. ‘Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil,’ John Paul II wrote in his 1999 Letter to Artists, ‘artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption.’ …

“Even when films are praiseworthy — and they often aren’t — disturbing subject matter, over time, can become corrosive to the soul. Occasional disturbing content in an R-rated movie may be a problem for some and not for others; a steady diet of disturbing R-rated movies about unwholesome people in unwholesome worlds isn’t good for anyone’s soul.”

Steve Greydanus, writing on “Why I’m Glad The King’s Speech Won,” on Feb. 28 at National Catholic Register

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