Thumbs up for Hugh
The reviews for Hugh Jackman's hosting of the Oscars are in. And it looks like his career isn't over.
The fact that most of the reviews didn’t trash Hugh Jackman’s hosting of the Academy Awards means he has passed the test.
As a non-comedian and non-American it would have been easy to stick the knife.
But this year wasn’t a year for America to gloat. After all it was Bollywood that took over Hollywood, and only one major award went to the host nation thanks to Sean Penn.
Clearly, producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark wanted to create an atmosphere that would conjure warmth and celebrate cinema, and their supper-club approach — starting with Jackman’s musical tribute to the nominees — resembled a clever if rather gaudy Vegas revue. Jackman not only yanked Anne Hathaway out of the audience for a duet but worked the first few rows like Bill Murray’s old smarmy lounge singer bit.
Later, he crooned the entertaining Baz Luhrmann-engineered “Musicals are Back” along with Beyonce Knowles — seriously, let’s make her a mandatory presence at every major awards — and Queen Latifah niftily accompanied the necrology package. Yet what this achieved, primarily, was to buttress perceptions that this was an Oscar ceremony partially yearning to be the Tonys.
Hollywood Reporter said:
Jackman eschewed a traditional monologue for a lighthearted opening production medley paying playful homage to the year’s biggest films, which from what I understand played better in the room than on the tube — where it came off awkward and forced. But Jackman found his sea legs to preside with his typical sprightly charm, faring better around the midway point with a spirited “The Musical Is Back” number beside a vivacious Beyonce.
A viewer also couldn’t help but get caught up in the Bollywood-conquers-Hollywood electricity that enveloped the Kodak Theatre with “Slumdog Millionaire’s” wildly popular eight-victory explosion that came complete with an economic-downturn-friendly Horatio Alger backstory. It was also perhaps fitting that at a time when SAG finds its contract talks imperiled, a film that featured no nominated actors from its cast would pull off such a haul.
The NY Times said:
He sang, he danced, he sat on Frank Langella’s lap and he also presented the 81st annual Academy Awards. Hugh Jackman was a shrewd, even thrifty choice for a recession-era Oscar night — the hosting equivalent of a value meal.
But mostly the actor was chosen to be the first noncomedian Oscar host in more than 30 years for what he didn’t do: deride Hollywood. Mr. Jackman was high-spirited, not mean-spirited. He spoke with sass, but unlike more satirical predecessors like Chris Rock and Jon Stewart, there were no smirks; he came to the task with Broadway sizzle, not a stand-up routine.
The movie industry was in no mood for mockery, and perhaps in no condition for it. Every Oscar ceremony tries to reclaim old Hollywood glamour; this one tried to suit the times by reverting straight to old Depression-era glamour.
The LA Times was less glowing, saying:
But even as the combined talents of Tina Fey and Steve Martin made us laugh and Dustin Lance Black’s acceptance speech for winning original screenplay for “Milk” made us cry, along came that darn Jackman again with an apropos-of-nothing announcement that the success of “Mamma Mia!” meant the musical was back. Actually, Hugh, it means that people have a strange and abiding love for ABBA and Meryl Streep, but either way it was no excuse for you to launch into yet another bizarre dance number full of such chestnuts as “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” and “Somewhere.”
Now I’m sorry, but didn’t we decide, like as a nation, that Big Dance numbers were a blight on the Oscars telecast? Weren’t they, in fact, the first thing to go in the ’90s when the show swept past the four-hour mark and everyone decided that things had Gone Too Far? So someone explain to me please why we were forced to watch a chorus line tap-dance in sequins on a staircase when the actual nominated songs were cut down to a medley (prompting nominee Peter Gabriel to refuse to perform)?