Report Card: Grading the last 10 Academy Awards hosts

Posted by · 3:47 pm · August 2nd, 2013

Well, AMPAS brass decided to end the speculation mercifully early this year, announcing Ellen DeGeneres as the host of next year’s Academy Awards ceremony — her second stab at one of showbiz’s trickiest gigs, having first done the job to amiable effect back in 2007. And predictably enough, the news has met with a mixed response: for everyone who’s happy to see DeGeneres return with her warm, non-confrontational approach, there’s another (like our own Greg Ellwood) who thinks it’s too conservative a choice.

Today’s range of responses simply underlines what we already know, however: that hosting the Oscars is a pretty thankless task, in which it’s virtually impossible to please everybody. Play it too safe, and the viewers at home think you’re boring; play it too risqué, and the crowd in the room turns against you.

While the Academy was once happy to let a comfy comedian like Bob Hope take the reins year after year (and Hope, in turn, was happy to do so), times have changed, ratings have dropped and Oscar producers have got increasingly restless in their quest for the right host. This century, they’ve taken a diverse range of approaches, from the edgy, impolite comedy of Chris Rock to the old-school showbiz sparkle of Hugh Jackman to the reliable Borscht Belt schtick of nine-time host Billy Crystal.

The only thing these hosts — and several others, including Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Martin and last year’s left-field choice of Seth MacFarlane — have in common is that none of them met with universal approval. (I’d say “disapproval” as well, but I’ve yet to hear anyone call for an Anne Hathaway/James Franco encore.)

But how do they all measure up with the benefit of hindsight? With the appointment of DeGeneres, Kris and I thought this a good moment to review the 10 hosts (well, eight individuals and two duos) who have done the job this century, looking back on their strengths and weaknesses, and assigning them a grade for their efforts.

It’s a highly subjective process, of course — so we’re eager to hear your own feedback on this issue. Click through the gallery below, rating them as you go if you wish, and tell us how you think they stack up in the comments below and/or by voting in our poll.

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