The big question from Oscar night: What happened to James Franco? (with video!)
Given his sidesplitting appearances on Saturday Night Live, it's not the question I expected to be asking moments after one of the worst Oscarcasts in recent memory mercifully concluded.
But besides the predictable winners, the general lack of distinctive speeches, the performance bits which seemed inspired by particularly good hallucinogens and general awkwardness of Oscar night, one question loomed large.
What happened to James Franco?
His Oscar co-host Anne Hathaway was at least trying, delivering every tired bon mot and ill-conceived joke with as much energy and authenticity she could manage. But Franco started the night with a grumpy frown on his face, refusing to look at his co-host as if they'd had some kind of knock down fight just before the show started (Franco has since Tweeted backstage video of Hathaway giving him a hand massage, so I guess that's not true.)
Didn't help that producers came up with opening bits like having the two shout out to their mother (Hathaway) and grandmother (Franco) in the audience. Grandma got off the best line, crowing about meeting Marky Mark, just before 94-year-old Kirk Douglas stole more of the show by pretending to read the best supporting actress Oscar several times before launching into a new monologue (for my money, the Oscar should have gone to all five nominees, who were shown laughing when they were probably screaming inside GET ON WITH IT!)
Later, producers had Billy Crystal deliver a touching tribute to longtime Oscar host Bob Hope. Unfortunately, that paired the awards' best contemporary host with the show's best host in history, creating an amazing 10-minute argument for why Hathaway and Franco should never have been let near the job in the first place (expect to see a flurry of press stories in days to come demanding Crystal make a return appearance).
So much for a youth oriented Oscars. Franco and Hathaway may have gotten youngsters to tune in for the first 10 minutes, but it was fogeys like Douglas and Crystal who reminded us when the Oscars was actually, occasionally entertaining.
But I'm here to place the blame mostly on Franco's thin shoulders. Squinting at cue cards like they were written in Sanskrit, the perpetually in college actor tumbled over his lines like he spent too much time studying for a chem final to learn the dialog. In the past, I've always felt those who accuse him of doing too much were being a bit tight-assed; now, I see their point. Perhaps he should have spent less time Tweeting pictures from backstage.
The best review may have come from legendary film critic Roger Ebert, who hasn't let his illnesses stop him from being a righteous force on Twitter, posting this message: "The worst Oscarcast I've seen, and I go back awhile. Some great winners, a nice distribution of awards, but the show? Dead. In. The. Water."
I still think Hugh Jackman, Neil Patrick Harris and Crystal himself prove that good comic actors and entertainers are better hosts than outsider comics who can mostly just make fun of people they don't know well.
But hiring two young talents because they look good on Saturday Night Live just isn't the way to cast the Oscars' hosting job.
Hopefully, through our pain, the Oscar producers have learned this important lesson.
Check Franco's photo with the Queen of All Media