Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Quick Prediction on Seth MacFarlane as Oscars Host

With the Oscars mere days away, it is time to get all of your speculation in fine order and cast your vote for all of the categories (mine is here). A quick look at the nominees will assure you that this is a fascinating year for numerous reasons, whether it be a vast array of Best Picture selections, the prospect of any upsets are by and large not as embarrassing as they could be. Maybe Emmannuelle Riva (Amour) or Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) will beat Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) for Best Actress. The options are limitless. However, another grand speculation lies in the host. Will Seth MacFarlane be a host for the ages?

I'll admit that going into this, I am a little bit on the skeptical side of MacFarlane as a host. For starters, there is a very easy joke that can be made. He is famous for creating crude, obscene cartoon series Family Guy. He has been known to be loud and vivacious at times. He's also nominated for a Best Original Song for Ted's "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" (and yes, John Legend's "Who Did That to You?" remains ignored) and it almost seems inevitable that he will make fun of Best Animated Short nominee Maggie Simpson in: The Longest Daycare on the simple animated rivalry his show has with theirs. There's some inevitable punches that cannot be ignored.

Though at the same time, MacFarlane has shown an admiration for the old school. He's consistently doing broadway tunes and referencing old classics that shows a man with a wide array of interests. He's released an actual crooner's album, and on an episode of Saturday Night Live last year, he proved that he is good at being an honest song and dance man. The question is if he'll pull off the right mix.

All we really have is what little we have seen from him. The Oscars announcement was the first sign of things to come. Honestly, the issue here isn't that he won't do a good job. The problem is that maybe he is tweaking his humor too much to satisfy the audience. True, he cracked jokes about Donny Osmond and drug addicts, but he also had this aura of him that suggested that he is putting on an act. Like he is really going overkill with enthusiasm. 

This isn't so much an issue, as at the press meeting, he was able to consistently crack up the audience. True, it is arguable on how much needed to be said besides the nominees, but at least it was lively and showed a man who seemed passionate about the show. True, last year's host Billy Crystal wasn't dispassionate, but was often skewering to an older demographic and never quite hitting the right notes. At least with MacFarlane, the nominees aren't the only thing interesting going on.

Along with these promos:

I must really wonder what the ceremony is going to feature. With the numerous dance acts announced, this sounds like it is going to be a lively show. Since the linked article was written, there have been announcements that the Les Miserables and Chicago casts will be performing. I owe deep apology to initial slander of Skyfall denouncement, even if I feel that it is still potentially overdone. There's even a suggestion that Seth MacFarlane and Kristen Chenowith will be doing a can't miss closing number for the ceremony.

That's what's exciting. A song and dance man doing musical performances. He's even promised an old school opening monologue in the style of Bob Hope. This man is in love with the past, and while I doubt that it will be as shticky as Billy Crystal, it feels like he may be on the quest to leave a good impression simply by playing it differently than the past few hosts. Who knows, as many of the show's secrets are still under wraps. However, his simple desire to mix old concepts with his updated style sounds promising.

Though I wonder, do people care enough about Family Guy to give the creator a shot? True, MacFarlane's recognition transcends the animated medium, but his skills as a host for a big ceremony has been unproven. Even if he is charismatic in performing, what will the show's humor be like. If the Oscars announcement is any clue, it may be a little bit on the schmaltz side. 

How so? He delightfully ribs at people not knowing what the Oscars are in the above promos while also claiming that the older crowd has no idea who he is. These are simple jokes and in many ways inoffensive and throwaway. However, where can he go with the opening monologue. Will he roast audiences and poke fun at movies and their tropes? Will he go over the top in recognizing the fact that he's an Oscar nominee as he did during the announcement? I am sure he will be more humble than his promotional materials lead on, but I also feel like he'll mix class with wit in ways familiar to the Family Guy audience.

I am expecting there to be to some extent a plethora of lowbrow, easy jokes throughout the show on MacFarlane's expense. I predict there will be a Les Miserables musical parody somewhere in there. Possibly a risque joke about Zero Dark Thirty and torture. Even a pointlessly crude joke on the behalf of Amour being about death (possibly to the tune of "That's Amore"). I expect that he will hit the easy targets and make jokes that aren't exactly clever, but aren't wild enough to be offensive. He'll track the middle ground, entertain the masses, but never quite feel like more than a really solid host. The mystery now is if he can exceed expectations.

Do you think that he has what it takes to enter the pantheon of great Oscar hosts? Will he be loud and controversial like Chris Rock? Will he be somewhat pandering like Billy Crystal? Will he just leave a good impression instead?

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