James Franco and Anne Hathaway: Why are they hosting the Oscars?

James Franco and Anne Hathaway are the youngest to have hosted the Oscars. The choice has people guessing: Why were Franco and Hathaway chosen to host the 83rd annual Academy Awards? And why two hosts?

Chris Carlson/AP
Actors James Franco (l.) and Anne Hathaway talk to the media at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 24. Mr. Franco and Ms. Hathaway are hosting the 83rd Academy Awards, which airs on Feb. 27.

James Franco and Anne Hathaway? Hmm. Young, attractive, and talented, yes. But trying to figure out why they were chosen to host the 83rdAnnual Academy Awards is like reading tea leaves. The inscrutable Academy strikes again.

When asked on ABC's Good Morning America why they thought they were chosen, Hathaway responded:

"Young and hip seemed to be the buzzwords that keep getting thrown around," she said. "I'm trying to figure out which one I am. I think you're hip and I'm young," she said, laughing to Franco.

Franco has been nominated for Best Actor for his role in "127 Hours."

It won’t be the first time that more than one person has hosted the venerable movie awards show. Why, just last year, we had Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. But you have to go all the way back to 1987 for a previous instance, when Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn, and Paul Hogan helmed the broadcast, which is second only to the Superbowl in TV audience size.

In earlier times, it was common for actors to share the hosting responsibilities. Sammy Davis, Jr., Bob Hope, Shirley MacLaine, and Frank Sinatra did the honors in 1975. Back in 1946, it was Bob Hope and James Stewart. Mr. Hope certainly had staying power.

Another host with longevity was Billy Crystal. Oh, for the golden years when the multi-talented actor, singer, and comedian did his funny, classy thing at the Oscars. His first broadcast was in 1990, and by 2004 he had hosted the Tinseltown ritual eight times.

Whether it was a silly song and dance or a witty montage spoof of the nominated films, the viewer (and the movie stars) felt safe in Mr. Crystal’s hands.

There would be some tweaking of his fellow celebrities, yes, but no low blows such as Jon Stewart intoning that Hollywood was "out of touch with mainstream America," or Chris Rock dismissing the Academy by saying that most people hadn’t seen the nominated films.

After flirting with disastrous hosts, in very recent years the grand ceremony has erred on the side of caution and eschewed edgy comedians in favor of insiders such as Mr. Martin and Mr. Baldwin. But these luminaries have much more clout than our fresh-faced new hosts.

The safest thing to say about an Academy that seems to be playing it very safe is that there is little danger that Mr. Franco or Ms. Hathaway will bite the hand that feeds them. Here’s hoping they also can bring some style, humor, and finesse to the proceedings.

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