Hathaway and Franco: The Kids Were All Right

Am I the only one who thought this year's Oscar hosts, Anne Hathaway and James Franco, were a breath of fresh air compared to Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in 2010?

Most critics have eviscerated the two.

The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman said, "Theirs was a dull attempt to either be safe or prove that anybody can host the Oscars." The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley wrote, "The prolonged effort to pander to younger viewers was downright painful."

I don't fall into the coveted younger demographic, and I still found the show an improvement over last year. Hathaway, in particular, rose to the occasion. She was charming, adorable, enthusiastic and versatile. What more could anyone want from a host?

Sure, Hathaway and Franco didn't take full advantage of the chemistry between them that was on full display in their pre-show promos and joint interviews, but it doesn't mean they weren't capable hosts.

Franco, in all of his squinty-eyed glory, was refreshing in his simplicity. He was himself and never pretended to be anything else. With Franco, what you see is what you get, and I'm sure the producers knew this when they hired him. Franco has two personas: the grinning Jack O' Lantern or the aloof, loner stoner. The latter Franco was on most prominent display Sunday night.

Hathaway was the perfect foil for Franco's cool introvert. She was downright giddy and looked like she was having the time of her life every time she was onstage. Is there anything Hathaway can't do? She's gorgeous, she sings, she dances, she acts, and all the while she manages to somehow stay likable and down to earth. I'm hard-pressed to recall a recent host who's out-hosted Hathaway on the likability and enthusiasm front.

Baldwin and Martin, and some of the other comedian hosts the last few years, have given off a "been there, done that" vibe, almost as if they were bored by the proceedings. Hathaway, by contrast, radiated infectious exuberance and joy rather than the comedians' detached attitude of polite disdain.

I found myself eager to see what she would do or say -- or wear -- next. Her many costume changes and her obvious delight in them was a fun distraction in a night of otherwise predictable winners. It's not the hosts' fault everyone who was expected to win won.

The dearth of surprise upsets is probably the primary reason ratings were down. If the outcome is preordained and there isn't a blockbuster in the mix like a Titanic or Lord of the Rings, a lot of people aren't interested.

I don't know anyone who tunes in solely based on the host. For the purists who insist a comedian at the helm of movies' biggest night is a smarter choice than actual movie stars, I have the perfect solution. My suggestion for next year -- bring Hathaway back -- but have Billy Crystal as her co-host.