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The Oscars and the unseemly pursuit of an advertising demographic

Or, how James Franco ought to know better.

James Franco Oscars Portland

In this Sunday's NY Times, the film critic A.O. Scott writes about his memories of the Oscars when he was a child:

"I think I remember the hosts more than the awards themselves. Bob Hope and Johnny Carson were the neutral settings against which the glamour and craziness of the movies and their stars stood out. Those guys seemed to come from a planet of show business that was as exotic as anything I could imagine, and in hindsight they — and their most successful successors, Billy Crystal and the Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg — gave the ceremony a reassuring glow of consensus. The show could be boring, corny, vulgar, but always in an unpredictable mix.

I have to say I miss that. I suppose I respect the desire of the Oscars to be cool, relevant and sophisticated, but I also wonder why they have to try so hard. When I was a kid — and a rebellious teenager and an undergraduate poseur and a glamour-starved grad student — I never expected the Oscars to cater to my needs and tastes, and that made them much more fun to watch. Now I am constantly aware of their eagerness to please, with younger hosts, a sleeker format, fewer songs, whatever, and I find it kind of sad."

Last night watching the Oscars, I noticed my 17 year old daughter drift away to her laptop very quickly, and I had the same feeling of sadness. I soldiered on through it. The cheap attempts at being "cool" by mentioning social media or Facebook as often as possible were backfiring. When Justin Timberlake, in an attempt to capture the recent cultural meme, said "I am Banksy," his remark fell flat with the Oscars audience and left me curling my toes. Franco and Hathaway did a good enough dog and pony show, with Franco robotically reading his lines through stoner eyes and a huge grin, looking like he was wondering what the hell he was doing there while Hathaway surely convinced the Oscars producers that she ought to be asked back every year for being a fine sport and playing along with the farce.

Every year now the producers of the Oscars and the Grammys fall into the same trap - Problem: viewership is down, that means advertising dollars won't be at a premium. Solution: "We must be losing young people, let's dumb this thing down. We can fight that damned Internet! Get me Franco and Hathaway! And thank God for The Social Network."

As A.O. Scott says, I find it rather sad.

[Update: At least James Franco has a grasp of Twitter reach..]

[Update: Young audience still eludes Oscars]

They want it to better represent who they are..

Something to consider