It's become a time-honored Oscar opening bit: inserting the show's host into the year's Best Picture nominees. Only this time, it was hosts, plural, and for only the second time since 1986, they were not stand-up comedians whose forte is getting easy laughs.
After more than a month of speculation about how James Franco and Anne Hathaway would open Sunday night's 83rd annual Academy Awards ceremony, the tension was broken with a quick-cut montage of iconic images from this year's 10 Best Picture nominees, followed by Franco, 32, and Hathaway, 28, being digitally inserted into one of the year's most mind-twisting nominees, "Inception."
Check out photos of the 2011 Academy Awards show.
Star Leonardo DiCaprio attempted to explain how the whole dream-hopping worked to the couple, with Hathaway saying, "So, we're going to go into Alec Baldwin's dreams and get some hosting tips," as an incredulous Franco huffed, "You're buying this. ... I'm not going anywhere until you can prove you can take us into people's dreams."
As the streets of Paris exploded around them, Franco still wouldn't buy in, using his best tough-guy stance and pressing DiCaprio, "Gimme some proof ... one shred of proof, Leo ... we're waitin'." The pair then ended up on a plane with DiCaprio and Baldwin, with the "30 Rock" star and 2010 Oscar co-host slugging down a juice box of Ambien to calm his nerves, but passing out before giving Hathaway the secret to hosting the show.
They were next transported to a courtroom, where Hathaway took issue with Franco's use of a driedel as his talisman to check whether he was in a dream (if you haven't seen "Inception," then you were just slightly more confused than those of us who had). They ended up in a yelling match with "The Social Network" star Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, telling the socially awkward billionaire that his brusque dismissal of their request for help had just cost him a few Facebook friends. "And tell the Winklevosses to stop giving me the stink eye," Franco added.
The "Inception" elevator took them to the sweaty gym in "The Fighter," where Hathaway donned her best round the way Boston girl accent to chat up Mark Wahlberg's Micky Ward about who is a bigger junkbag. After knocking Franco out, she hopped on a horse to face off against "True Grit" star Jeff Bridges, with Franco snuggling up behind her in a bearskin coat and Hathaway sporting not one but two eye patches.
The search continued in "The King's Speech," where they worked period costumes. But those were nothing compared to the ones they squeezed into for the "Black Swan" bit, where Franco was shoehorned into a skintight white leotard and his co-host a Thanksgiving turkey-inspired getup. "The dance of the brown duck," Hathaway intoned as she spun wildly, shedding feathers and quacking her way through a routine that horrified star Natalie Portman.
They finally found Baldwin again, who played some mind games with them before they jumped into the DeLorean time machine from "Back to the Future" and jetted into the present, winding up on the stage in their awards-show finest. Franco, holding a cell phone to record his moment in the sun, wore a classic tuxedo, while Hathaway emerged in an elegant white floor-length gown with beaded accents.
"Oh my gosh, you're all real," she marveled. "This is actually happening!" Lowering the collective age of presenters by 55 years from last year, first-time hosts Franco and Hathaway — the latter the youngest host in history and one of the only women to ever have the honor — quickly dispensed with any questions about why they were tapped for the gig. "Anne, I must say you look so beautiful and so hip," said Franco in his signature smiling deadpan manner. "Thank you, James," she replied. "You look very appealing to a younger demographic as well."
Both had promised they would not follow in the footsteps of comedian Ricky Gervais, who did a bombing run at the Golden Globes, strafing most of Hollywood with his acerbic wit. Instead they ended up making fun of themselves. Franco said it was an exciting night for both hosts since they were both nominated, but Hathaway quickly reminded him that unlike his Best Actor nod for "127 Hours," she was not noticed for her work in the romantic dramedy "Love and Other Drugs."
"You know, it used to be you get naked, you get nominated," she complained. "Not anymore, not anymore." She then explained to Franco what an honor it is to be nominated and how if he won, everyone would refer to him as "Academy Award winner James Franco." He had to think about that. "What do you mean everyone?" he said, confused after asking if the little golden man came with a cash prize as well. "Like even my mom? That would be weird if my mom called me 'Academy Award winner James Franco.' I've known her a long time."
Hathaway's mom reminded her from the audience to stand up straight because, you know, three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg is in the house, while Franco's grandma was jacked to see "Marky Mark" Wahlberg in the crowd.
Both came off as relaxed and natural as they joked about the profusion of lesbians in this year's nominated films and quickly segued into the night's first award presentation by Tom Hanks for Best Art Direction.
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