Young Hathaway, Franco fail to create magic on show

Feb. 28: It was an Oscar night tricked out as a meeting of Old Hollywood and New, a melding of old-school network tradition and Internet age connectivity. Inevitably, with a movie like The Social Network one of the night’s favourites, there was bound to be an aggressive infusion of social media name dropping. But at times, the prolonged effort to pander to younger viewers was downright painful.

The producers cast the young stars James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts, then kept the writing old and hoary — no aren’t-we-hip nudge was left untouched. Franco came onstage at the opening reading messages on his cellphone.

While introducing a change in the set, Justin Timberlake smirked, “I’m sure they make an app for that,” and whipped out his phone as if to make it happen. Even when Franco came out in drag as Marilyn Monroe, he mugged, “I just got a text from Charlie Sheen.”

Hathaway was better off alone than at Franco’s side. A little like the attempt to graft Generation Y technology to old-fangled Hollywood panache, their stage personae clashed: Mr Cooler Than Thou meets Miss Eager to Please never really synched. It was a strategic attempt at demographic synergy, but the act just did not work out.

A frail Kirk Douglas, whose speech was slurry from a stroke, was brought onstage to present the award for best supporting actress. He did his best. The winner, Melissa Leo, had a personal worst, letting fly on an obscenity that was barely blurred by censors and that suggests that the foulmouthed mother she played in The Fighter wasn’t such an acting stretch.

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