'Youthful' Oscars gives history lesson

2011-02-28 11:59
Los Angeles - Oscar organisers tried something unprecedented in the awards' 83-year history on Sunday - entrusting a young, attractive pair of Hollywood stars to host the film industry's highest honours.

And the two newly minted masters of ceremony, James Franco and Anne Hathaway, wasted no time acknowledging their youth, and the notion that their presence might help lure a generation of television viewers who have increasingly tuned out the Oscars in recent years.

"Anne," I must say, you look so beautiful and so hip," Franco, 32, himself a nominee as best actor, deadpanned as the two walked on stage to open the show.

"Oh, thank you, James," Hathaway, 28, the youngest host in Oscar history, replied, as she returned the compliment. "You look very appealing to a younger demographic as well."


The pair were only half-joking, as producers of the Academy Awards show went out of their way this year to incorporate technological elements and imagery designed to engage younger movie fans.

Early in the show, presenter Justin Timberlake, an actor-singer popular with the young-adult crowd, appeared to use a smart-phone computer "app" to illuminate a Shrek backdrop to introduce awards for animated films.

Two films wildly popular with young moviegoers this past year, Twilight sequel Eclipse and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, figured prominently in a pre-taped comic lip-syncing sequence.

But the show hardly turned its back on Hollywood of yesteryear. Kirk Douglas, 94, his speech badly slurred from a stroke 15 years ago, shuffled on stage with a cane to present the first acting award, the Oscar for best supporting actress, which went to Melissa Leo for The Fighter.

Douglas, himself, alluded to the Oscar generation gap in complimenting Hathaway on her looks.

"She's gorgeous," he said as the young actress blew him kisses. "Where were you when I was making pictures?"

Hollywood history

A short time later, the night's Oscar winner for best original screenplay, David Seidler, 73, for The King's Speech, proclaimed in his acceptance speech that he was the oldest person ever to claim that award.

The programme frequently conjured up images and music from Oscar-winning film blockbusters of yore, from Gone with the Wind to Star Wars and Titanic.

In one of night's biggest nods to Hollywood's older set, actor-comedian Billy Crystal, an eight-time Academy Awards host widely hailed as one of the best, made a surprise appearance to introduce a salute to the first televised Oscars in 1953, and its master of ceremonies, the late Bob Hope.

Hearkening back to an era that predated the birth of many of the stars who filled the Kodak Theatre on Sunday, Crystal said he was just five years old then.

A clip of that historic telecast showed Hope - who presided over more Oscars than anyone, 18 in all - opening the show that year with the now-famous line, "Welcome to the Academy Awards, or as it's known at my house, Passover."

Read more on:    oscars  |  james franco  |  anne hathaway  |  movies  |  celebrities

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