MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

31 Weeks To Oscar: Ellen DeGeneres, Oscar Host

So… Ellen DeGeneres is back hosting the Oscars.

And let the yawning begin.

I liked DeGeneres as an Oscar host. She didn’t absolutely kill, but she didn’t die. She is a little tiny bit edgy, but knows her role in the evening. There won’t be a 15 minute musical number about Ellen opening the show, though I would be surprised if there isn’t a joke about McFarlane’s boob opening of last year.

But there are two stories coming out of this.

1. This is a completely vanilla choice. It is not another attempt to pander to a younger demographic, as McFarlane was (and though people keep talking about the ratings bump, it was so small that its significance is overstated). It is not a choice that will be a big story all fall. There are 3 or 4 others who could have been equally capable of doing the job and not causing a stir.

2. This was one last move made by Dawn Hudson and her team to undermine the power of the new Academy president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

When were show producers Zaden & Meron announced last year? August 23. This year, April 16.

When was host McFarlane announced last year? October 1. This year, the announcement was on August 2.

Why? Because current leadership, knowing that now-former Academy president Hawk Koch could not be re-elected, decided to make the producer decision without a sign-off from the new Academy president, as has been the norm. Last year, when Hawk Koch took over the presidency from Tom Sherak, the producer was announced August 4, six days after Koch took over. He could have, if he sought to do so, vetoed the choice before it was announced. And when Tom Sherak took over as president in 2009, the producers (Mechanic/Shankman) were announced August 23 and the hosts (Steve Martin & Alec Baldwin) were announced in November.

I am not suggesting that Cheryl Boone Isaacs is against Ellen DeDegenres hosting. And it is likely that the choice was presented to her on Tuesday night or even earlier.

But obviously, producers Meron & Zaden had this cooking for some time before the presidential election on Tuesday. And for the new president to say “no” to any host, especially one as pleasant and nonabrasive as this one, would be argued to be stopping things just for sport… especially with no alternative in place or perhaps even, in mind. A silent stand-off.

So… in end… I am cool with Ms D hosting. But I don’t think the move to safety was about the show much at all. I’d say it was a safe move from and for Academy insiders, who have made some choices in the last 18 months that have been unpopular with many members over 60, at a time when the president is no longer a rubber stamp.

I would love to see the administrative side of the Academy and the new president work together in a respectful way that will grow The Academy as an organization that supports film history and culture, as well as a brand, which pays for all their good deeds. Hiring Ellen DeGeneres is a fine thing. But the timing is not encouraging.

13 Responses to “31 Weeks To Oscar: Ellen DeGeneres, Oscar Host”

  1. Etguild2 says:

    DeGeneres is as close to four-quadrant as there is, but aside from Steve Martin (excepting his disastrous outing with Alec Baldwin) her 2007 gig was also the best this century.

    Speaking of female hosts, when are the Globes going to hire Chelsea Handler?

  2. cadavra says:

    It’s my understanding that they ran the choice of DeGeneres before CBI prior to the announcement and she was 100% behind it.

  3. Krakowed Poland says:

    I am sure the academy is relieved that you are cool with who hosts their show. I have no doubt they considered what non member windbags think before choosing.

  4. anghus says:

    Im already looking for the remote to change the channel, and the show’s six months away.

  5. David Poland says:

    That’s what they tweeted yesterday afternoon, Cad.

  6. David Poland says:

    I’m just happy that you care, Don.

  7. Daniella Isaacs says:

    I still think they should make Hugh Jackman the Bob Hope/Johnny Carson/Billy Crystal of our era and give him a semi-permanent gig. He was by far the best host of the last 15 years, and having a real movie star host gives it an Old Time Hollywood quality, rather than just a TV awards show vibe.

  8. anghus says:

    Ellen Degeneress hosting the Oscars is the equivalent of playing Tony Romo as your quarterback. It immediately tells you they have no interest in winning big, they just want to make sure they don’t do any worse than the year before. An uninspired choice that will deliver nothing unexpected.

    Safely played, Academy.

  9. cadavra says:

    AFAIC, Ellen gets a lifetime pass for her show-stopping “bugging the Taliban” comment at the 2001 Emmys.

  10. Etguild2 says:

    Ah I forgot about Jackman, yeah you’re probably right.

    The Academy has had a real rough four run stretch with hosts though, anghus. Fiascos in 2010 and 2011, a bailout production in 2012 that they were cornered into, and the borderline sexism of McFarlane this year for a mediocre demo return on investment.

    Ellen did do an AMAZING job hosting the 2001 Emmys IMO, and I certainly enjoyed her more than Jon Stewart in the years that buttressed her, even as a Daily Show fan…

  11. Hallick says:

    Will there ever be a time when sane minds relax and embrace the reality that the Academy Awards is never going to be the Super Bowl of entertainment no matter who the host is, no matter who the producers are, no matter which deck chair is closer to the railing or sitting farther back?

    And when so much energy is focused on who the host is going to be and what they’re going to do, anybody wanna guess where the energy isn’t being focused? The freaking movies that are supposedly the reason there’s even a show at all.

  12. leahnz says:

    “borderline sexism of McFarlane”

    borderline? the fratboy oscars. thank christ he got the ejector seat. it would be good to find a host that does it for a few years running tho, just eliminate all the wasted time and energy trying to pick someone new and focus on a well-conceived, tight show

  13. Hallick says:

    Maybe if they gave one host three years in a row instead of saying “I’ll see you on the beach!” and opening up the landing doors so fresh meat can get mowed down by snipers year after year after year this wouldn’t be such an overweighted decision in the first place.

    But then you’re talking about a production that keeps thinking it has the ability to be as popular as a billion dollar box office smash if only they could find the right master of ceremonies.

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“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima

“They’re still talking about the ‘cathedral of cinema,’ the ‘communal experience,’ blah blah. The experiences I’ve had recently in the theatre have not been good. There’s commercials, noise, cellphones. I was watching Colette at the Varsity, and halfway through red flashes came up at the bottom of the frame. A woman came out and said, ‘We’re going to have to reboot, so take fifteen minutes and come back.’ Then they rebooted it from the beginning, and she had to ask the audience to tell her how far to go. You tell me, is that a great experience? I generally don’t watch movies in a cinema at all. Netflix is the future. It’s the present. But the whole paradigm of a series, binge-watching, it’s quite different. My first reaction is that it’s more novelistic, because if you have an eight-hour season, you can get into complex, intricate things. You can let it breathe and the audience expectations are such that they will let you, where before they wouldn’t have the patience. I think only the surface has been touched with experimenting with that.”
~ David Cronenberg