By now you've probably heard about that cute pair who will be hosting the Oscars
-- James Franco and Anne Hathaway, he with his flirty eyes, she with her princess smile -- both pretty, lean, chirpy, young.
They've dominated the entertainment and morning news shows, the celebrity magazines, and the Oscar chatter. There is, of course, a reason for that. They are supposed to be creating a new image for the 83-year-old Academy Awards ceremony: youthful, flippant. cute, but elegant, too, and supremely attractive.
During this months-long Oscar season, which ends on Sunday night on ABC, one couldn't avoid the impression that Hollywood folks over the age of 50 will have to shuffle their way into the Kodak Theater. They wouldn't trod on the red carpet but would head through a back entrance and take their seats in the last few rows in the auditorium, out of camera range, while the young and un-Botoxed get all the attention on the front rows.
Youth obsession comes naturally to Hollywood, but this year it's been driven to new levels. None of it comes by accident. It's a well-drawn effort to lure young viewers to a show that has been trending older. The audience has grown sharply in the last two years, which is good, but the median age topped 50 years old for the first time ever last year.
That scares Hollywood, TV networks and advertisers (who this year paid $1.75 million per 30-second commercial airing on the show).
But it should be no surprise. As 78 million baby boomers
hit their 50s and 60s, a growing bulge of the movie audience is getting grayer. Older audiences are turning out for serious, grown-up fare like "The King's Speech
," "True Grit," "The Fighter" and "Black Swan
," all nominated for best picture.
Still, this season the youth theme has been pounded into the ground to the point that anyone over 50 need not apply to host the Academy Awards ever again.
To make sure that everyone knows and falls in love with Franco, 32, and Hathaway, 28 -- probably the youngest pair of Oscar hosts ever -- the promotion "Oscar Hosts Go to Boot Camp" shows Hathaway in a hoodie
and sneakers, doing deep breathing and tai chi. Franco wanders in, and says, "All right, Hathaway, you ready?'' She replies, "Let's do this, Franco." Please notice the macho-like use of surnames. Off come their hoodies, and they go through a series of exercises. Franco ends up tackling Hathaway, sort of sexy.
Follow that up with their appearance Friday on ABC's "Good Morning, America," when Franco, at his shy boyish best, confessed he had accepted the job of co-host just so he could ask Hathaway for a date. Cute. She is, of course, involved with some other guy, Franco lamented. Then she did him one better, revealing she wants to be a mommy in five years. It doesn't get better than this. ABC liked it so much they milked the video for all it's worth, rerunning it at the close of "ABC World News with Diane Sawyer."
The Franco-Hathaway combo is a far cry from the paunchy, middle-aged hosts of last year's show, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin
, who wore tuxedos and had combed over, sprayed hair. No hoodies for those gents.
Fact is, with the major Oscars already pretty much old news as critics predict and bookmakers give odds
on who will win the three biggies -- Natalie Portman, Colin Firth and The King's Speech are good bets -- practically the only suspense left this weekend is, how will the youngsters do? What will they wear?
By universal acclaim, Franco and Hathaway have already been declared winners, perfect, cute, adorable, talented, smart, hip...... So there's not even that mystery left -- only their clothes.
The youth drive doesn't stop with the hosts. It also includes presenters, like teenage pop phenom Justin Bieber, 16, sporting a new haircut.
This year six young actors are nominated for awards: Franco himself, who at 32 is the oldest of this young bunch, is nominated for best actor in "127 Hours."
The other five are: Jesse Eisenberg, 27, nominated for best actor in "The Social Network
," Portman, 29, nominated for best actress in "Black Swan
," Jennifer Lawrence, 20, nominated for best actress in "Winter's Bone," Michelle Williams, 30, nominated for best actress in "Blue Valentine," and Hailee Steinfeld
, 14, nominated for best supporting actress in "True Grit."
That's more nominees in their low 30s and younger than at most any other year in Oscar history.
One of them -- at least one of them -- is sure to walk home with an Oscar.
But all of them signify the arrival of a yet another generation of young stars -- sexy, snarky, smart and sassy, until they hit 40, that is.