On March 4th, Jimmy Kimmel will be hosting the Oscars for the second time (after the debacle of the Best Picture Award in 2017). But how does he stack up against other Oscar hosts of the last 10 years. Rank them from best to worst, and share your thoughts with everyone!
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Jon Stewart played it pretty safe with his opening monologue, which referenced Hollywood’s at-least-temporary restoration of labor peace (the Oscars were the “makeup sex,” he said) along with the current presidential race in a light, fast and consistently funny manner. Riffing on the nominees and Hollywood’s liberal bent, “The Daily Show” host’s best line satirized the Bush administration’s stance on remaining in Iraq, saying that despite their general failure commercially, “Withdrawing the Iraq movies would only embolden the audience.” Stewart also earned his keep by maintaining a playful, irreverent tone throughout the night, whether it was jesting about Cate Blanchett’s versatility or watching “Lawrence of Arabia” on an iPhone screen. Should he welcome the headaches associated with the gig, it’s hard to think of a current comedic talent better suited to such a thankless task.
Ellen DeGeneres did not sing a song about seeing actresses’ boobs on screen, which, after last year’s Seth MacFarlane skit, represents some sort of progress. Everything else about her opening monologue, however, screamed of a desire to dial the show back to safer terrain — playfully bantering with the nominees and joking about Hollywood foibles, as if Bob Hope or Johnny Carson was in the driver’s seat. Stripped of any pyrotechnics — no song-and-dance number, no film montage — the opening actually worked reasonably well, mostly because it placed the focus on the movies and the stars, which pays off when someone delivers a heartfelt acceptance speech, like best supporting actor winner Jared Leto.
Clearly, producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark wanted to create an atmosphere that would conjure warmth and celebrate cinema, and their supper-club approach — starting with Hugh Jackman’s musical tribute to the nominees — resembled a clever if rather gaudy Vegas revue. Jackman not only yanked Anne Hathaway out of the audience for a duet but worked the first few rows like Bill Murray’s old smarmy lounge singer bit. Later, he crooned the entertaining Baz Luhrmann-engineered “Musicals are Back” along with Beyonce Knowles — seriously, let’s make her a mandatory presence at every major awards — and Queen Latifah niftily accompanied the necrology package. Yet what this achieved, primarily, was to buttress perceptions that this was an Oscar ceremony partially yearning to be the Tonys.
Staging the Oscars is already a delicate high-wire act, and the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, fueled by a lack of diversity among the highest-profile nominees, added a formidable degree of difficulty. Meeting the high expectations the build-up engendered, Chris Rock brilliantly threaded the needle with his opening monologue. After addressing the elephant in the room, however, the producers and host went back to that issue a few times too many (and less sharply), in a telecast that yielded periodic highlights but couldn’t overcome the Academy Awards’ habit of feeling mostly inert.
Following the rightfully mocked experiment with youthful hosts in the previous years, the 84th Academy Awards pivoted entirely in the opposite direction, into the comforting arms of Billy Crystal. Billy Crystal has hosted the Oscars nine times, second only to Bob Hope. Not every gig has been great, but you have to give the man props for coming back time after time.The result could hardly be called exciting, but after the pre-telecast fireworks Academy mavens were perhaps slightly relieved to be a little bit boring. If that was an unspoken goal — other than some unscripted moments displaying genuine emotion — they got their wish. Crystal and producer Brian Grazer were safe, familiar choices for the Oscars after Brett Ratner verbally torpedoed his stewardship of the ceremony and Eddie Murphy subsequently withdrew as host. The film montage featured some clever edits — the juxtaposition of scenes from “The Help” and “Bridesmaids,” for example — but it was hard to escape a nagging feeling the night would be filled with deja vu.
Jimmy Kimmel fulfilled his destiny as a late night host by hosting the show in 2017. He was generally well-received with playful gags like letting tourists into the theater. But some gags weren't as beloved, like taking on a tumultuous election year by tweeting at the president during the show.
Hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin made like an old-style vaudeville act, presiding over a show that plowed through the awards with workmanlike efficiency and didn’t seem to mind being a little boring. Baldwin and Martin’s opening (after a moderately clever song-and-dance number by the wonderfully talented Neil Patrick Harris) felt suited to a Vegas nightclub — and not necessarily in a bad way. The duo simply singled out and riffed upon stars in the audience, from “That damn Helen Mirren” (“Dame,” Baldwin corrected) to Zac Efron and Taylor Lautner, who were warned, “Take a look at us, guys: This is you in five years.”
While it’s no surprise that the buoyancy of Neil Patrick Harris’ Oscar opening couldn’t last, seldom has an Academy Awards presentation broken down so transparently over one significant shortcoming – namely, the writing. While a number of factors, including a preponderance of little-seen nominees and the predictable nature of the winners outside the best-movie category, were beyond the producers’ control, too much clunky scripted material flummoxed even Harris’ impish, good-natured charms.
Ellen DeGeneres did not sing a song about seeing actresses’ boobs on screen, which, after Seth MacFarlane's skit the previous year, represents some sort of progress. Everything else about her opening monologue, however, screamed of a desire to dial the show back to safer terrain — playfully bantering with the nominees and joking about Hollywood foibles, as if Bob Hope or Johnny Carson was in the driver’s seat. Stripped of any pyrotechnics — no song-and-dance number, no film montage — the opening actually worked reasonably well, mostly because it placed the focus on the movies and the stars, which pays off when someone delivers a heartfelt acceptance speech, like best supporting actor winner Jared Leto.
Seth MacFarlane might have a reputation for juvenile humor, but he also possesses an obvious love for old-style variety. His first flurry of jokes felt about as edgy as a standard Jay Leno monologue, but with an industry bent: Ben Affleck being overlooked in the director bids, Meryl Streep’s frequent nominations, the tumultuous Chris Brown-Rihanna relationship, etc. He also called out Harvey Weinstein's predatory behaviour after reading the five actresses in the Supporting Actress category, saying: “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.” Somewhat cleverly, the “Star Trek” shtick allowed MacFarlane to sneak in silly stuff (a song about actress nudity, “We Saw Your Boobs”; and making out with Sally Field while he was costumed as “The Flying Nun”) while acknowledging it might be too goofy for the room. He also appeared utterly relaxed, frequently ad-libbing about how lines went over, seemingly mindful of how many groans he could elicit.
The youth movement in this year’s choice of Oscar hosts didn’t alter the show’s dynamics, from the opening insert-actors-in-montage sequence (hello, Billy Crystal) to the stiff, awkward banter between James Franco and Anne Hathaway throughout. After the opening, Hathaway assured Franco he is “very appealing to a younger demographic as well,” a wry acknowledgement of the calculation that informed their selection as hosts. “It’s the young and hip Oscars!” Hathaway gushed after (Melissa) Leo’s expletive. But no, it really wasn’t. Hathaway brought more energy and poise to the table than her co-host, who — underscoring that the producers didn’t know what to do with him — made a fleeting appearance in Marilyn Monroe drag.
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