And it ended under 4 hours

Leo's F-bomb & Hathaway's awesomeness make for an amusing Oscar telecast

Leo's F-bomb & Hathaway's awesomeness make for an amusing Oscar telecast

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James Franco and Anne Hathaway were entertaining. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
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Mlla Kunis, right, who presented with Justin Timberlake, in an Elie Saab gown, showed the most cleavage Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
News_Oscars_trophies_By MARK RALSTON
Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP
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News_Justin Timberlake_Mila Kunis_Feb 2011
News_Oscars_trophies_By MARK RALSTON

OK, maybe it’s because I am so totally awestruck by the awesomeness that is Anne Hathaway. (After hearing her warble the tongue-in-cheek tweak of Hugh Jackman, I want her cast in a musical – immediately. Didn’t somebody say something about her starring in a Judy Garland biopic?)

Or maybe it’s because I interpreted James Franco’s “What, me worry?” insouciance as her co-host as some kind of cannabis-fueled performance art. (How else can you explain his apparently forgetting the title of the Best Picture winner about 17 seconds after the crew from The King’s Speech left the stage?)

Or maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with the (relative) brevity of the overall program, which usually plods along a half-hour or so longer.

Whatever the reason, I found myself mostly amused and lightly entertained Sunday evening during the ABC telecast of 83rd annual Academy Awards. Hathaway and Franco came off as good sports having a great time, whether they were magically inserted into clips from Oscar-nominated films – a familiar Oscarcast gimmick, to be sure, but funny nonetheless – or mocking their own presumptive appeal as viewer bait for “a younger demographic.”

And, really, if you didn’t laugh when Morgan Freeman described them as “the naked girl from Love and Other Drugs and the guy from General Hospital,” maybe you just weren’t in an Oscarcast kind of mood to begin with.

To be sure, there were few real surprises among the actual winners in the various Oscar categories. Indeed, the people who prepared the montage of Best Picture nominees more or less acknowledged the inevitability of a King’s Speech win by editing the clips to a telltale soundtrack: Colin Firth’s dramatic delivery of, well, King George VI’s speech. It was almost as though the producers were telling the zillions of viewers: “Yeah, you know who’s gonna win, we know who’s gonna win, but what the hell, let’s have some fun.”

On the other hand, there was a welcome dearth of irredeemably embarrassing moments. Indeed, the closest this year’s Oscarcast came to cringe-worthiness was Kirk Douglas’ game but halting struggle to not sound too much like the similarly stroke-impeded Dick Clark while cracking wise during his delivery of the Best Supporting Actress award.

At first, I felt extremely uncomfortable while noting the all-too-obvious frailty of this Old Hollywood icon. As it turned out, however, the guy proved he still has great timing: His playful vamping while keeping the five nominees (and the audience) in suspense had the makings of a classic running gag. In fact, I was genuinely surprised that only one subsequent presenter, Justin Timberlake, had the cheek to draw things out with his own, “You know…”

And speaking of Best Supporting Actresses: If you saw Melissa Leo in The Fighter – hell, if you saw her during her several seasons on TV’s Homicide: Life on the Street – were you at all surprised that this brassy, sassy and extremely talented lady made Oscar history by being the first winner to drop the F-Bomb (duly blipped by ABC censors, of course) during an acceptance speech? As they might have put it in the Oscar-underachieving Social Network: LOL.

Also worth noting:

ACING THE AUDITION: After her smoothly self-assured and sweetly snarky intro of the Best Actor nominees, Sandra Bullock immediately established her credentials for hosting next year’s Oscarcast. Make it so, please.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT: Future historians may note that The Wolfman (winner of the Best Make-Up prize) and Citizen Kane have something in common. Seriously. Each film claimed precisely the same number of Oscars: One.

BEST CLEAVAGE: Mila Kunis.

BEST ATTEMPT AT A HOOK-UP: When Kirk Douglas completed Melissa Leo on her glam look, she replied: “Hey, you’re pretty good-looking yourself. What are you doing later on?” (And no, that’s not when she dropped the F-Bomb.)

LATE BLOOMER: David Seidler, writer of The King’s Speech, won many new friends – and, maybe, inspired more than a few procrastinators – by announcing in his acceptance speech that he is the oldest person ever to receive the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. (He was born, by the way, in 1937.) “I hope that record is broken quickly,” he said. “And often.”

SMILE WHEN YOU SAY THAT: Remember when Robert Downey Jr. got a bit huffy at the Golden Globes when Ricky Gervais made a joking reference to Downey’s checkered past as a hard-partying repeat offender? Well, Downey seemed to take it a lot better – and provided a bit of “fact-checking” – when his Sherlock Holmes co-star and fellow award presenter Jude Law made an even more detailed crack about his bad old days as a substance abuser. Maybe Downey’s developed a sturdier sense of humor. Maybe he should share co-hosting chores with Sandra Bullock next year.

SMILE WHEN YOU SAY THAT, PART II: At the very start of his utterly charming and engagingly self-effacing acceptance speech after being handed the Best Actor prize for The King’s Speech, Colin Firth dryly quipped: “I have a feeling my career has just peaked.”

My first reaction: He’s being entirely too modest. My second reaction: Well, if he really does go ahead with plans to star in that Gambit remake…