Bruce Vilanch criticizes James Franco's Oscar-hosting, Franco feels betrayed: Whose side are you on?

Reactions to James Franco’s Oscar hosting gig were generally mixed, ranging from “Is he stoned?” to “Am I stoned?” to “Oh, I get it, he’s meta-hosting” to “Who’s that weird dude creeping on the nice girl from The Princess Diaries?” Eminent Oscar writer Bruce Vilanch vehemently denies that Franco was on any drug (besides extreme sleep deprivation), but he still has some stern critiques for Franco’s hosting. Vilanch tells Vulture, “He didn’t get there. I don’t think he realized how big a deal it is to do it until he was actually confronted with it… It’s outside of those guys’ comfort zones. The only people who know how to host those shows are people who get up onstage every night and say, ‘Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.’”

Franco tweeted a response, since removed from his Twitter account, saying “Bruce, he let me down” and featuring a graffiti’d photo of the host and the writer, with Vilanch saying: “James f—ed up the Oscars. Trust me, I know comedy. I mean, come on, I write for Bette Midler!” Oh no, an Oscar host is feuding with Bruce Vilanch! It’s like watching Mom and Dad fight, except Mom and Dad are actually funny!

Now, before we start taking sides, let’s try to establish a middle ground here. Vilanch makes a good point that the best Oscar hosts have been stand-up performers like Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, but that obscures the fact that many of the worst Oscar hosts have been stand-up performers like David Letterman and Whoopi Goldberg (and, let’s be fair, Billy Crystal post-1998.) Plenty of people dug Franco’s hosting job — EW’s Ken Tucker praised the co-hosts for “a combination of respect and integrity” — and personally, I think there was more energy in just one of Franco’s frequent Jim Halpert-esque camera-glances than in the million grasping jokes Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin tossed out at last year’s Oscars. (“And over here is the Inglourious Basterds section … and over here are the people who made the movie. Heyo!”)

Conversely, you can understand Vilanch’s complaints. According to the writer, the relentlessly-educated Franco “didn’t get to town till Thursday before the show on Sunday.” One can imagine that Vilanch and Franco probably didn’t have time to develop the writer-host chemistry of, say, Vilanch and Hollywood Squares BFF Goldberg. On a larger level, it does seem like this year’s Oscars proved that the whole notion of making the Oscars more “youthful” — ie, more Twitter-tastic — might be fundamentally flawed. (Also, that Bette Midler thing is a low blow, even if it is half-true.)

PopWatchers, whose side are you on in this Oscar family feud? Vilanch partisans, do you think the writer is not-so-subtly trying to tell the Academy to bring back Billy Crystal next year? Franco apologists, do you think this is just a matter of a serious writer-host generation gap? Should we just consider creating an Oscar Hostbot with the voice of Bob Hope?

Read more:
Who should host next year’s Oscars?
Oscar hosts: Did James Franco and Anne Hathaway do a good job?

Comments (74 total) Add your comment
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  • Karate Pants

    Bruce Vilanch hasn’t been culturally relevant since Hollywood Squares.

    • Jethro

      The Oscar ceremony broadcast has never intended to be hip or young, that’s why we have the golden globes and grammys, so all ages get a variety of awards. I have enjoyed watching award shows in the past, but I can never understand why awards are given out for singing, acting or the like. There aren’t televised ceremonies for secretaries, doctors, physical therapists, etc, why are these disciplines any different. That’s why we have people from the entertainment industry thinking they are better than everyone else.

      End all televised award shows so we don’t have to read malarchy like this!!

      • somet

        Why do they keep hiring Bruce? Every year the jokes are bad, so what do you do? Hire the same guy! Not to mention why would you want such an ugly spirit around you.

      • Laura

        Bruce is a funny guy! He’s had his comedy featured in things you wouldn’t even know… google him. However, I did think some of the jokes this year were stale and it certainly didn’t help that James Franco was the one delivering them! Most funny people (like Bette Midler) can deliver a sour punchline and STILL make it funny!

      • Marissa

        The Oscars have been TERRIBLE in the past 5 years, which is why they tried so hard to change things up. They got new set gimmicks, Mom-tweets, holograms, younger hosts…but if the person WRITING the show is the same, nothing will change! It will still suck!

        You could tell it was a very OLD and out of touch person writing. Sending James out in drag was such a tell (with out a funny punch line…the drag itself was the joke). I was expecting to see a man in a gorilla outfit come out next.

      • DRG

        The reason there are no televised award ceremonies for doctors, secretaries, physical therapists, etc. is become nobody would watch them. Our culture is obsessed with celebrities and televising these ceremonies fills the demand of the market — another thing our culture is obsessed with.

      • Ana170

        First of all, you don’t “have to” read about this. You chose to. Secondly, these awards were created to lend credibility to these different professions, which at one time were considered a step above prostitution. It has gotten out of control but that’s just as much the fault of fans as it is the celebrities.

    • chris c

      ha ha ha ha ha

    • jenny

      you’re right. his jokes are lame and it looks like his stint on Celebrity bootcamp was time wasted.

    • bruno

      bruce vilanch wasn’t even relevent ON hollywodd squares.
      dude, the entire oscar telecast was HORRIBLE. if i were james franco i’d have bowed out while hosting too. he was given nothing to do, the jokes they did have were incredibly lame, and bruce vilanch should please just go away already….like, far away.

  • Mr. Holloway

    Can I actually be on TEAM NEITHER?

    I actually don’t think Villanch’s criticism of Franco was THAT out of bounds. It’s no secret that Franco’s a busy dude, but I didn’t get an ‘intentionally aloof/detached’ vibe from him at the Oscars…it actually looked like he half-a$$ed it.

    On the other hand, where is it written that Bruce Villanch HAS to write for the Oscars? It’s not like Franco and Hathaway squandered solid gold material this year.

    • Sarah too

      Exactly.

  • TorontoTom

    The Oscars will SUCK until they get rid of Bruce Villanch. It doesn’t matter who’s hosting – if he’s writing, it’s going to SUCK. (Granted, Franco was pretty SUCKY too…) Why do they keep him year after year?!?

    • Steph

      Yeah- he seriously needs to go.

  • Al

    Franco needs to develop thicker skin. He went after Ricky Gervais before the Oscars and now this. He seems like a nice guy, but he bombed.

    • Ace

      You’re right; he is a bit on the sensitive side. I’m not sure it would be a flaw except that he doesn’t keep his hurt feelings to himself.

  • Christian

    Franco was bad because of the writing. It was terrible this year. Franco saw he was coming out in horrible drag halfway through the show and lost all hope.

  • Ace

    How did the Oscar PTB think that they could have a “young and hip” Oscars by changing the hosts but NOT the writer? Instead, hosts who really ARE young and relevant were forced to deliver lines that were just pretending to be those things. The results were painful for them and for us.

    • alan of montreal

      I so agree

  • Jon

    Vilanch has established himself as the most vile-looking human being on the planet. Considering he seems to be the one constant at the Oscars from year to year, maybe it’s time to get rid of him. His super-obvious setup/pause/punchline one-liners felt old a long time ago.

    • Marti

      You have described Vilanch’s formula and I totally agree.

    • bruno

      totally. they should start hiring some of the kimmel or chelsea lately or even steart/colbert staff writers and send bowl cut vilanch out to pasture.

  • Captain Canuck

    If you string together the common denominator of all the bad hostings you mentioned it would be Bruce Villanch. He should have stayed quiet. But trying to put the blame on James Franco was class-less. Villanch wrote the material claiming a different host would have delivered it better just shows you didn’t do your job properly of writing for the hosts you had. #TeamFranco.

  • JLC

    Until the producers realize that the four-hour variety show format is a thing of the past, both the writers and the hosts will continue to be frustrated. Cut the awards presented on the show down to the 10 or so people want to see, include the opening monologue and the “in memoriam” section, and get done in 2 hours. It’s way easier to write and perform a tight, focused show.

    • Ana170

      I don’t think the format is the real problem but rather content. Several years back Quincy Jones took over the production for one year and put on one of the more interesting telecasts ever. The show still ran long but it was actually interesting so most people didn’t mind as much.

  • Steph

    We had bad hosts this year, but let’s not forget we also had bad writing. It doesn’t matter who would have said the lines that were written for the show, it was have been just as bad. Example: Anne Hathway- she gave so much enthusiam, but nothing was funny.

    It all feel flat- blame everyone involved.

    • Amy

      Why is all the blame being placed on Franco’s shoulders? Anne Hathaway was extremely over-enthusiastic (it seemed uncouth to “woo” throughout the show). Compared to her, anyone would seem comatose.

  • grace

    The writing was so unsuited to Franco’s personality besides being corny and without subltlety, maturity or intelligence.

    • may i?

      what a concept. write for an individual’s personality. chuck loose bruce..and hire writers of this era at least.

  • Chaz

    Franco maybe could have been better rehearsed, but he wasn’t bad–certainly not like the Letterman and Goldberg low points mentioned. And the writing is always uneven.

  • Matt

    Nah. Baldwin and Martin last year were a million times better. Franco didn’t look like he was trying. Hathaway had some decent moments, but would have been better off on her own.

  • Anne

    Bruce Villanch has no right to complain about Franco, because seriously, he saddled Franco and Hathaway with HORRIBLE, REALLY UNFUNNY lines to say. Example: “I am six degrees of Kevin Bacon away from the next two presenters. Look it up on the internet.” I’m sorry, was there a joke in that line?? Referencing a meme from 10 years ago does not count as a joke.
    Another example of the banter he gave them:
    Franco: “It’s great that both of us are nominated this year.”
    Hathaway: “I wasn’t nominated.”
    Franco: “We’re grateful to the Academy…”
    Hathaway: “No really, I wasn’t nominated.”
    Franco: “Oh”
    Hathaway: “You know, it used to be that you get naked, you get nominated….”
    And then the banter ends. Franco wasn’t even given a zinger to respond to her last line. Seriously, I repeat, was there a joke in there???

    • Amera

      WORD!!!!!!! I cringed when it happened. James and Anne is not to be blame! Come on, the stuff they were given to deliver, sucks crap! Period.

    • Amera

      WORD!!!!!!!!! I cringed when it happened. James and Anne is not to be blame! Come on, the stuff they were given to deliver, sucks crap! Period.

  • Pete

    James Franco is not helping himself by showing the world what a petty, thin-skinned “adult” he is. He was an awful host–he needs to accept responsibility and move on. Keep tweeting F-bombs, James. Stay classy. And this is the guy who is supposed to be face of Disney’s Oz?

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