MTV's Oscar-Winning Idea

The VMAs are going host-free. After the Franco-Hathaway fiasco, perhaps the Academy Awards should do the same.

Brett Ratner might want to carefully watch the Video Music Awards Sunday – and not just for the promise of the inevitable Kanye West- or Madonna-like stunt that helps draw the rest of us.

The annual MTV spectacle, generating publicity days before the first moon-man trophy is handed out, will go on without a host this year. Which got us thinking: "Rush Hour" director Ratner, recently enlisted to breathe life back into Academy Awards, should consider a host-free Oscars.

Some wags might say this year’s James Franco-Anne Hathaway misfire was essentially a host-free affair. We wouldn't be as cruel, but would note the duo's lackluster performance underscored the tough balancing act in pulling off Hollywood's biggest night of the year.

The lack of a host might actually play to Ratner's strengths as a popcorn moviemaker – particularly when the producers clearly want to attract a younger, more mass audience following a string of shows where the big winners weren’t necessarily big box office hits ("Slumdog Millionaire," "The Hurt Locker," "The King's Speech").

An Academy Awards broadcast that's heavy on movie montages and filmed comedic bits featuring actors from flicks both popular and Oscar-worthy might appeal more to the clips-loving YouTube generation than the usual musical numbers. A viral video generated by the show would prove a stronger advertisement for 2013 and a longer lasting, more positive collective memory than, say, Franco dressing as Marilyn Monroe.

The lack of a host also could speed up the show, getting us from award to award faster, and giving the presenters a chance to deliver the evening's memorable quips (presuming there's a good teaming writing their material backstage).

A host-free Oscars isn't unprecedented, but it's been nearly a quarter-century since the last instance, pre-dating much of the viewer demographic the Academy Awards needs to thrive in the years to come. The most successful host in recent memory, Billy Crystal, has hinted he’s open to returning. We have no doubt he’d do a fine job, but going with a safe choice will do little to push the show ahead.

We're not against a host, but believe that Ratner and Co. would best serve the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science – and, more importantly the audience – by shaking things up. As we’ve noted, we wouldn't mind seeing a fearless irreverent type like Ricky Gervais, who gleefully insulted everyone at the Golden Globes, take his act to an even bigger stage.

We’re guessing that’s as likely as the return of the Franco-Hathaway team. If Oscar won’t go bold, it might as well go barebones. Ratner has the opportunity to make Hollywood's ultimate director's cut.


Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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