By Caryn James | James on Screens January 25, 2011 at 3:56AM
Here’s what I learned watching the Oscar nominations on TV this morning: James Franco could be the best host ever if he goes off message and abandons the hokey script the writers are bound to give him.
Like other nominees, Franco was interviewed on morning television, appearing on NBC’s Today show minutes after he was announced as a Best Actor nominee for 127 Hours.
He was in a conspicuously Yale-looking room (who can predict which of his many universities he’ll turn up at?) with dark wood walls and books behind him, and he started by saying, “I’m here in New Haven about to go to class.” Then he laughed and said the kind of thing I’ve always wanted a nominee standing by in full makeup to say: “It looks like I’m just rushing to class, but we had this whole setup here. I got my normal pre-class makeup on, some lights appeared here...” If only he could bring the same fresh breath of honesty, and break through the silly pretence on Oscar night – he could be the less lethal Ricky Gervais.
He also teased Meredith Vieira, who had just done a gushing interview with Colin Firth, the certain winner for The King's Speech, who was modestly standing by in London. (And Firth did seem modest; he’s that good an actor.) What I want most from the Oscar show is a surprise, and Franco is our best hope of getting that.
Over on ABC, though, the promos for the Oscars weren’t promising. Franco and co-host Anne Hathaway in gym clothes, wearing T-shirts that read “Oscar Host In-Training,” with the Rocky theme playing behind them? Uh-oh. The promo was meant to be funny as they prepare for any emergency. In another scene the shoulder strap of Hathaway’s dress falls, Franco covers her with a blanket, and tackles her to the ground yelling "Wardrobe malfunction!” Even great actors can’t ovecome material like that.