Oscar hosts come in two flavors.
There are filmdom insiders — Hugh Jackman, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, etc. — and filmdom outsiders such as David Letterman, Chris Rock and Jon Stewart.
Outsiders tend to favor a scorched-earth approach.
Remember Rock’s “Who is Jude Law” Oscar gag? “You want Tom Cruise and all you can get is Jude Law? Wait! . . . Why is he in every movie I have seen, the last four years? Even the movies he’s not acting in, if you look at the credits, he made cupcakes or something,” which got presenter Sean Penn hopping mad?
This year’s host, Seth MacFarlane, is a member of the outsiders, although, yes, he directed, co-produced, co-wrote and co-starred in “Ted” — the highest-grossing, original R-rated comedy film of all time.
Mostly, MacFarlane’s known as the guy TV critics love to hate — the brains behind Fox’s animated “Family Guy,” the much-derided magnet for young-guy viewers, the elusive unicorns of the television industry.
Looking to put his stamp on the Oscar-hosting tradition, MacFarlane decided not to wait for the actual ceremony to begin scorching the earth. In January, MacFarlane became the first Academy Awards host to help unveil the nominees since Charlton Heston, more than 40 years ago.
“These are five people who are the very best at sitting in a chair and watching other people make a movie,” MacFarlane snipped after the best-director noms were announced.
“These are adapted screenplays, so that means that the writers basically copied stuff from Microsoft Word and pasted it into Final Draft,” he cracked when the names of the movies nominated for best adapted screenplay were read.
MacFarlane no doubt was inspired by Jimmy Kimmel’s performance at the Emmy nominations unveiling last July — Kimmel having stepped in gallantly to participate in the predawn ceremony, in his jammies, when “Parks & Rec’s” Nick Offerman bailed at the 11th hour, and turned the moment into gold:
“The Emmys should be spelled ‘M-E,’ ’cause that’s what this is all about,” Kimmel quipped at the nom-name reading.
“I think they all stink. I don’t like any of them,” he said of his fellow nominees, after it was announced his show had received its first nomination for best late-night talk show.
“Only old people get up this early, I guess,” he snarked when Betty White’s nomination for outstanding reality show host was greeted with loud cheers in the TV academy theater where the unveiling was held.
The Reporters Who Cover Trophy Shows lapped it up.
“If Thursday’s announcement of the Emmy Awards nominations is any indication, TV fans will be laughing out loud when the show, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, airs live Sept. 23 . . . because Kimmel . . . was a hoot,” People magazine raved. There was loads more where that came from.
MacFarlane aped Kimmel during the Oscar noms-naming — but died on stage.
“Seth MacFarlane Shows Hollywood Just How Big of a Jerk He’ll Be at the Oscars,” stormed the Atlantic Wire in a headline when it was over.
“In the less than 10 minutes it took to announce the nominees, MacFarlane managed to insult his co-presenter, belittle the achievements of several nominees and make a Hitler joke,” sniffed Slate, which appears not to know that MacFarlane makes Hitler jokes like other people breathe.
(This particular Hitler gag: “I read ‘Amour’ was co-produced in Austria and Germany . . . the last time Austria got together [with Germany] and co-produced something it was Hitler, but this is much better.”)
“David Letterman, you can probably stop making jokes about how much the movie industry disliked your host gig; a new winner in that category may reveal itself on Oscar night,” Entertainment Weekly critic Ken Tucker forecast, forgetting that the title had already been stolen in 2011 when James Franco did not so much host as deconstruct “the hostiness of hosting” — Entertainment Weekly-speak for “decided he was too hip to host, much less attend rehearsals.”
On paper, MacFarlane seemed a perfect choice to host this year’s song-and-dance heavy Oscar show, when he was announced back in October.
While MacFarlane has admitted he’s no dancer, he can sing — in 2011 he recorded an album of swing-jazz tunes called “Music is Better Than Words.” And he’s already demonstrated his hosting skills at Comedy Central roasts of David Hasselhoff, Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen. MacFarlane’s the only host to be asked back again in the history of the franchise.
“His performing skills blend perfectly with our ideas for making the show entertaining and fresh,” said this year’s producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — the song-and-dance-loving producers of such flicks as “Flashdance” and “Chicago,” TV adaptations of Broadway musicals “Gypsy,” “Annie” and “The Music Man,” and producers of NBC’s let’s-make-a-musical drama series “Smash.”