The Rundown: It’s Pretty Insane That There’s Still No Oscars Host!

01.25.19 4 weeks ago 3 Comments

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The Rundown is a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. The number of items will vary, as will the subject matter. It will not always make a ton of sense. Some items might not even be about entertainment, to be honest. The important thing is that it’s Friday and we are here to have some fun.

ITEM NUMBER ONE — The (still) hostless Oscars

I wonder if this hasn’t fully sunk in for some of us. The whole situation has been developing over months in various stages and it might have lulled us into a sense of normalcy. Let’s look at the steps involved:

  • The Oscars had trouble finding a host
  • Kevin Hart agreed to host the Oscars
  • That whole thing happened
  • The Oscars had trouble finding a host
  • Kevin Hart had a chance to get the gig back, provided his appearance on Ellen went well and the public was satisfied by his level of contrition
  • That whole thing happened
  • The Oscars had trouble finding a host
  • The nominations were announced

CUT TO: Today, January 25, less than one month before the ceremony. Still no host. Still no rumblings of candidates. The last any of us heard was something along the lines of “uhhhh we’ll have the celebrities who are already gonna be there do it, like as a team?,” and while I have long supported the idea of a Voltron of movie stars hosting a fancy event, this is not what I had in mind. Unless it is. If a giant robot steps out from behind the curtain with limbs made of A-list stars — Clooney, Bradley Cooper,, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael B. Jordan — and Meryl Streep manning the controls from the head, know that I am squealing.

Is this sinking in yet? The Oscars, the biggest awards show of the awards season, watched by millions around the world, can’t convince anyone to show up and host. I’m sure they’ve tried. I’m sure they’re still trying. But we’re getting so close to the go-date that I doubt anyone named even right now — as you’re reading this — would have the time to put together the kind of show they want. It would be one thing if the Oscars made the decision on their own, like “Eh, we can save $1 million by not having a host. Let’s scrap it next year.” No, they want a host, desperately, and no one will bite.

I can see why, too. I wouldn’t take the gig, either in a scenario where I’m famous enough to be offered the job or in a Wonka-style, Star Is Born situation where I’m plucked from obscurity and pushed out there as the camera rolls. Hosting a big show like the Oscars has quickly become a thankless job.

Let’s say you take the gig. Cool. First, everyone is going to scour your social media and past statements — dating back decades — for anything that sniffs of controversy. If you survive that (or apologize convincingly enough), then you actually have to do the show, and you’re basically limiting yourself there to a B/B+ performance at best because all the fun jokes need their sharper edges sanded off and the groaners land extra hard in a crowd not exactly primed for guffaws. And when that joke misses, God bless. Social media and next day columns will roast you straight to hell. There is no winning. There is only surviving. You’re lucky if you get out of there with an “Ehhh, that was fine.” No thanks. I’ll stay home and watch from my bed.

That’s not to say a hostless show will be bad. It will probably be okay! Once the show starts, all you really, truly need the host for is the monologue and you can replace that with a musical number. A PA announcer can introduce the presenters. We can do without most of the bits. (We really can.) I’m sure something can be cobbled together. The only real big-deal consequence of going hostless is that it becomes harder to market the show. You can’t put a face on a billboard, you can’t roll out commercials where the host banters with a trophy, etc. But that’s a problem for the business side. We do not care about them.

The issue going forward is whether this is a one-off or the start of a trend. We’ve seen some pretty good hosting performance lately, from Poehler/Fey and Samberg/Oh at the Globes to Mulaney/Kroll at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Especially that last one. Here, look:

My suspicion is that these smaller, looser shows will be fine because there’s less of a focus on them and the hosts have more leeway. There’s too many eyes on the Oscars and we’re now vetting potential hosts with the rigor usually seen for presidential candidates. I don’t know why anyone would optionally sign up for that. But I also don’t know why anyone would want to be an NFL referee — another thankless job that will leave you thoroughly torched online in the event of a misstep — and there are dozens of those guys. Maybe that’s the solution. Let an NFL referee host the Oscars. These celebrities, they’re not ready for the darkness. NFL referees were born into it, molded by it. It’s the only logical solution.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Stop lying to the people, Oscar nominees!

There are three great lies that celebrities tell during awards season. The first is “I’m just happy to be nominated.” This one is minor because it’s partially true (even just the nomination is a cool bit of recognition, and it means you get to attend the ceremony like a real movie star), but still, if you think most of these people wouldn’t stab the others with a steak knife in the bathroom after the monologue if they thought it would improve their chances of winning, buddy, I’ve got about a dozen terrible movie pitches to sell to you for six figures each.

The second lie is “Oh my God, I didn’t even prepare a speech!” Ahhh shut up. A little modesty is nice, even when it’s fake, but this is laying it on entirely too thick. Of course you prepared a speech. Even if you didn’t write it down, you still ran through the bullet points in your head. Wanna know how I know? Because I have most of my Oscar acceptance speech mapped out in my head, despite the fact that I am not nominated nor have I ever been involved in a project that could get nominated. I am shockingly ready to win an Oscar. I could do it right now, no problem.

But the third lie is why we’re here today. It’s the old “Oh, I was asleep or busy during the nominations and I didn’t even see them and I found out via a quirky circumstance!” We had some real doozies in this category this year. Here’s Lady Gaga in the New York Times:

“I’ve been trying to get some sleep because I’m on showbiz time,” Gaga told me this afternoon in a phone call. She is in Los Angeles for a few days before her Las Vegas residency resumes, and instead of waking up at just past five in the morning when the nominations were read, Gaga simply slept in.

“I woke up around 8:30 and I didn’t know anything about it,” she said. The first call she placed was to her manager, who broke the good news to her, “and I just burst into tears.”

This requires you to believe that Gaga a) slept through presumably dozens of texts and calls; b) did not look at any of the texts littering her home screen before calling her manager, and most importantly; c) was not awake when it was happening.

Sorry Gaga, not buying this one. Next, we go to Glenn Close in the Los Angeles Times:

This sounds absolutely ridiculous, but I had my family over for dinner and I thought, last night as I was going to bed, “Oh my God, I think I’m getting a cold.” So I turned off my phone to get some sleep; [the nominations announcement] just wasn’t on my mind. I was woken up by my brother who had come across town — he was at the truck stop with his buddies — and got a key from my sister next door and walked into my bedroom and woke me up. [Laughs] I couldn’t believe it! Oh my God, it was so funny.

Nope! Glenn Close has been in Hollywood entirely too long to not know when the nominations are announced. And she just won the Golden Globe so it’s not like she can claim surprise about her name being called. Her manager and agent were probably in touch that very day. I refuse to believe this charming anecdote.

What do you have for me, Barry Jenkins?

I love this so much. Oh God. Really think about this one. There are two possibilities here:

  • Barry Jenkins is lying and made this up, all of it, right down to forcing an underlying to handwrite these notes so he could back up the story with visual evidence.
  • Barry Jenkins is telling the truth and he was so deeply involved in work that he missed 100 texts from his agent/manager/friends and no one he was working with glanced at their phone and was like “Oh shit, Barry. The nominations are in” and he actually did make an underling handwrite the news on three separate slips of paper and slide them under his door instead of just, like, finding him and telling him in person.

Barry Jenkins is a terrific director who makes wonderful films. I would never take one iota of that from him. But this is madness.

Finally, we got to Spike Lee, the Hollywood veteran who has every right to roll his eyes and harrumph the Academy and the whole process for ignoring him many times over many years. What’s your story, Spike?

“It’s not something I’ve done in a long time. It was new,” says Spike Lee with a laugh of getting up to watch the nominations. He was joined by his wife and kids (and dog Ginger) to watch the nominations. “We were all in the bed together and we were jumping up and down. It was a good day and my phone is blowing up.”

Well… damn. That’s adorable. Now I’m rooting for Spike Lee to win.

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