Though I join Dan in his admiration for the Tina ‘n’ Amy double act, I have no interest in seeing them installed as permanent Oscar hosts. My fantasy-programming career path for that erstwhile “Weekend Update” anchor team involves their revamping Tonight to such a degree that they’d have neither the time nor the energy to prep jokes about George Clooney’s dates or Jack Nicholson’s shades, many of which are older than George Clooney’s dates. (The Fey & Poehler Tonight, based in New York, would go down in the round in Rockefeller Plaza, where some tourists would participate in free-form improv exercises and others would participate in occasional talent shows, Amateur Night at the Apollo style, with Brian Williams serving in a Sandman-like capacity.) No, my ideal Oscar host is former colleague Jimmy Fallon. It is obvious to me that the gig is his destiny.
But the academy makes him wait while it trifles with Seth MacFarlane. And why? To pander to young men between the ages of 18 and not-yet-old-enough-to-no-longer-be-amused-by-Stewie-Griffin. I am not convinced that they’ll tune in. Nor does it seem that the broadcast needs them. Stuart Elliott, the Timesman on the advertising beat, reports that ad rates are at their highest since 2008—as much as $1.8 million for a 30-second spot—in a piece that necessarily employs the old descriptor of the Oscars broadcast as “the Super Bowl for women.” I am not sure that the sonority of MacFarlane’s voice—truly a gift, as if his is the larynx of an Old Testament AOR DJ—is commanding enough to compensate for the puerility of all the things he will say with it. (That’s assuming he brings the rude satire that made him famous. I am halfway tempted to suppose he’ll tone it down—in which case, what’s the point?) I anticipate a minor train wreck—nothing on the legendary scale of Rob-Lovian hoofing, but something to make the nation’s entertainment press grateful for the academy’s ineptitude and the copy it provides.
You will have noticed that I tarry in discussing the actual awards being awards. This is because I will be watching this ceremony under protest, having been converted to the McConaughey-was-robbed position of those enchanted by Magic Mike. When the ceremony grinds around to the presentation of the Supporting Actor trophy, I will, in protest, turn off the set, bow toward the city of Tampa, and perform a 60-second bongo solo.
And then I’ll turn the show back on and watch the grass of it grow toward the presentation of the Best Picture prize. I like the case Dan makes for Lincoln, and I’d add that with Daniel Day-Lewis a log-cabin lock to win best actor, a look at Oscar history makes a Lincoln win seem possible. The King’s Speech, Gandhi, Patton—Great Man biopics grounded in big performances have a way of knocking ‘em dead. Which reminds me: I’ll take back everything negative I’ve ever said about MacFarlane—even my displeasure with an old upfronts joke about grinding the homeless into hamburger meat—if he goes all the way with his frathouse-shock antics and pulls out a Nerf gun to run a John Wilkes Booth prank.
Yet I’m putting my money on Argo, which is, as an expression of Hollywood’s idea of itself, perfect for the role of Best Picture. The text concerns the power of cinematic illusion to defeat America’s radical Middle Eastern enemies, and the tone catches the 1970s of the Golden Age, and thus the movie is rather like a USO Tour directed by Alan Pakula for the purposes of destroying the PLO. Plus, one of the producers will be bringing a really hot date, because his name is George Clooney. This is not to mention that all the many, many people who wish Ben Affleck great success as a filmmaker because they want to stop him from him acting in films other than the ones he makes because never again do we want another Gigli. That he was snubbed for a directing nomination is kind of nuts. Perhaps some voters were swayed by those old allegations that Ben and Matt got quite a bit of help writing Good Will Hunting. Argo refutes the concept. Ben Affleck is a first-rate Hollywood storyteller. How do you like those apples?