Seth Rogen weighs in on James Franco’s Oscar hosting stint

Seth Rogen is not interested in hosting the Oscars. Unless and until they “hire some better writers” that is.

The actor made the lighthearted remark during a recent interview with Short List. He”d been asked about his interest in hosting the Oscarcast given his relationship with last year”s co-host James Franco. He made a laughing, affable reply that actually raised some salient (particularly in the face of this year”s shake-ups) points.

“I think when you agree to do something like that, you put a certain amount of faith in the institution, hoping that they”ll take care of you, and I feel like they didn”t [take care of him]…Why hire James Franco and then give him Billy Crystal”s monologue? It was like, ‘Oh, we”ll hire these young hosts and then we”ll just do the same shit we do every fucking year.” Which to me was really odd. I think they just approached it wrong. They didn”t think it through, and they were way underprepared. I think they hung him out to dry.”

Now, I”ll be honest, whether the material was appropriate or not, Franco”s delivery left something to be desired. And I like him quite a bit as an actor. Anne Hathaway seemed a touch at sea, and perhaps misused, but was making a legitimate effort to engage with the task she was given. He was presented with an odd set of circumstances that were not ideally suited to his strengths, and it didn”t entirely pan out. No one can knock it out of the park every time.

Where I think that Rogen has it right is in the idea that the organization seems far more concerned with saving face than protecting and standing behind the talent that they bring aboard. If an Oscarcast is a success then they reap the accolades, if it is not well received, it is the hosts’ doing, or the producers. I would also agree that they seem to be floundering some as they work to keep in step with the times.

It was surreal, in an uncomfortable way, to watch the awkward attempts to introduce social networking platforms into the proceedings. It was like witnessing a person who does not speak the language attempt a freestyle rap — or like watching me attempt a freestyle rap. There”s nowhere safe to cast your eyes in that scenario. Additionally, and as we well could have predicted, it was clearly a mistake to have someone double as a nominee and host.

There has been a sense that the Academy was hedging its bets last year, one step toward a new generation of entertainers and one step toward tradition. Balance as a goal makes sense, but what actually occurred was the sort of first date that makes you wish you were getting your teeth cleaned instead. A clear mismatch. The material was stale, the host untried and abandoned without clear guidance. This year they simply seemed to bet on the wrong horse. Though, why they thought Brett Ratner would be anyone other than Brett Ratner we will never know.

In truth, in all likelihood they imagined “Tower Heist” was going to be a box office success. It wasn”t. So the public good will that they imagined Ratner would be enjoying, paired with a renewed interest in the talents of Eddie Murphy, did not manifest. In a sense, the PR disaster provided the AMPAS with an excuse to skirt around another misstep. The back to basics response really does feel like the best move they could have made given the time constraints and need for swift action.

However, had they possessed the imagination and foresight months ago, “Muppet Oscars” really may have offered the harmony of fresh, current and classic the Academy has been seeking. The Muppets are not cutting edge in a way that would undermine the gravitas of the event (we don”t need another MTV movies awards – we have Spike for that) and yet they would infuse a sense of play that would energize the evening.

If this were the year of the youthful host, rather than last, another “Freaks and Geeks” alum would have been the correct choice. Jason Segel is more of the Billy Crystal of our day than either Hathaway or Franco. A Segel/Muppets Oscarcast may have been the ideal answer, albeit a bit of a commercial for the film.

So, in “taking the pulse” the Academy may want to look for hosts that are young, well liked, and also writers, so that they can take a bit more ownership of the material rather than throwing talent at a wall and hoping for a Jackson Pollock.

For year-round entertainment news and commentary follow @JRothC on Twitter.

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