Saturday, October 27, 2012

IS DANIEL DAY-LEWIS OUR GREATEST ACTOR?


Time magazine thinks so. They’ve just declared the British actor as the best there is currently on planet Earth. He’s a great actor, no doubt, and one who’s done a lot of amazing work, showing an incredible range that few have ever had. Hard to believe that the same actor who played so foppishly foolish in A ROOM WITH A VIEW could play so utterly terrifying in GANGS OF NEW YORK. Still, what’s even a more amazing accomplishment is that Day-Lewis has built such a reputation with a fairly small body of work, less than twenty films over 30 years. And in the last twenty years, he’s made only ten.

But they’re pretty damn good, most of them. Here are his last ten:

THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1992)
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (1993)
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER (1993)
THE CRUCIBLE (1996)
THE BOXER (1997)
GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002)
THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE (2005)
THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007)
NINE (2010)
LINCOLN (2012)
Daniel Day-Lewis in his upcoming role as our 16th President in LINCOLN
Critic and awards historian Tom O’Neil of Gold Derby online thinks that Day-Lewis is a lock to win Best Actor for his turn as the 16th President. (http://bit.ly/TNn52d) If that happens, Day-Lewis will become the only actor in the history of the Academy Awards to win three Best Actor Oscars. Jack Nicholson has three Oscars but two are for lead (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, AS GOOD AS IT GETS) and the third is for his supporting turn in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT. Walter Brennan has three supporting Oscars from the 1930’s, but those wins are due largely to the fact that the former stuntman earned the votes of a lot of crew members who were tickled to see him become a star.
Philip Seymour Hoffman in THE MASTER.

 But back to Day-Lewis and the mantle of greatness. Is he really the best? Better than say, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Viggo Mortenson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, or Guy Pearce? Is it even fair to judge something so subjective? Or for that matter, why is the greatness confined to film acting? Is that fair? What about theater? TV? How about actors who do all three with equal aplomb? Sir Ian McKellen, anyone?
Sir Ian McKellen in THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.

The truth is that Day-Lewis is great but Time magazine didn’t really cast their net all that wide. I think they’re going largely on Day-Lewis’ buzz worthy portrayal of LINCOLN, already getting the most Oscar chatter of any acting this year, even though the movie hasn’t opened nationwide yet and has only been screened by some critics. But still, even without all that talk about that performance, Day-Lewis would be up there. He completely immerses himself in his craft and gives thorough performances every time.
Tom Wilkinson in THE GHOST WRITER. 

But if you’re going to have a discussion about the best actors, shouldn’t that list include a lot of character actors? (Arguably, Day-Lewis is a character actor, albeit in lead roles.) If I pooled a list of the greatest actors working today it would be heavy with the likes of character actors like Tom Wilkinson, Alfred Molina, Gary Oldman and Geoffrey Rush. A strong case could be made for Wilkinson as the greatest. He can do leads (IN THE BEDROOM), supporting turns (MICHAEL CLAYTON), dramas (VALKYRIE), comedies (THE FULL MONTY), thrillers (ROCKnROLLA), and even one-scene roles that devastate (THE GHOST WRITER). I ask you, who else could play both Ben Franklin (JOHN ADAMS) and James Baker (RECOUNT) in the same calendar year? Who else can do accents and be just as memorable using his native English one?
John Lithgow in season 4 of DEXTER on Showtime.

True, Daniel Day-Lewis can do ruthless men, like he did in THERE WILL BE BLOOD, but he was pretty tepid as the lead in the musical NINE. John Lithgow has done ruthless (DEXTER) and musicals (DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS) and ruthless musicals (SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS). Shouldn’t he be up there? Of course he’s not a big movie star so he doesn’t get the cover of Time magazine.

Look, no matter who’s judging, Daniel Day-Lewis is an inspired choice. (And I am a big fan.) And any time something like Time’s declaration gets the nation talking about excellence in the arts, well, that’s terrific. Still, if we’re talking about the greatest actor working today, there is one actor who outshines Day-Lewis. That actor?

Meryl Streep.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A BIG YEAR FOR ALFRED HITCHCOCK


He’s considered the greatest director of all time. His name is synonymous with the words ‘suspense’ and ‘thriller’. His film VERTIGO was recently chosen as the greatest film of all time by Sight & Sound magazine. And now he’s got a starring role in front of the cameras…twice!

“Good evening. I’m Alfred Hitchcock.”
Original caricature of Alfred Hitchcock by Jeff York (copyright 2012)
It’s turning out to be quite the year for the master of suspense some 32 years after his death. He’s never really been out of the vernacular and it’s amazing that it’s taken this long for someone to put the larger-than-life character in front of the camera. Hitchcock’s life story is a fascinating one – a drama filled with pain, insecurity, sexual obsessions – it should have been immortalized on film decades ago. So why did it take Hollywood so long to showcase one of their greatest artists in his own biographical film?
Alfred Hitchcock with Anthony Perkins on the set of PSYCHO.


Perhaps the problem is that Hitchcock has become a bit of a caricature over the years, both in his instantly recognizable film style as well as his larger-than-life persona. (I know I’m not helping by doing my own illustration of him here.) Hitchcock’s style is obvious to any filmgoer: the propensity of overhead shots, swooping crane shots, the slow tracking shots, the subjective editing, the Bernard Herrmann scores, the actors staring directly into the camera…all trademarks of the Hitchcock cinematic oeuvre that has been borrowed liberally or parodied by everyone from Brian De Palma to Mel Brooks to Jonathan Demme to Quentin Tarantino. His predilection for blonde femme fatales has become so recognizable that the casting of a blonde villain (Hello, Sharon Stone!) has almost become an out-and-out punchline. And his rotund visage itself is as iconic as anything else in the movies. His silhouette became such a statement of who he was that it literally became his signature in the TV show credits of his anthology series ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and was even lampooned by the master himself in his final film FAMILY PLOT (1976).
Toby Jones and Sienna Miller as Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren in HBO's TV movie THE GIRL.

And Hitchcock became so well known too through his droll appearances on talk shows through the later decades of his life too that it might have intimidated actors or filmmakers trying to recreate him onscreen. His droll delivery, his catlike stare, toying with his interviewer or audience, it may have been too much to try to duplicate. Still, singular individuals like Nixon or Kennedy have had oodles of projects done about them, so why not Hitch? Maybe they couldn’t find enough good, fat actors in the day.
Tippi Hedren in MARNIE

Luckily, for film fans everywhere, this year will see not one, but two different film bios about Hitchcock, in as many months. The TV-movie THE GIRL just premiered on HBO. And in November the movie HITCHCOCK gets a theatrical release. THE GIRL is just so-so. While it does well recounting the grueling experiences that young ingĂ©nue Tippi Hedren had while working with Hitchcock on two movies, THE BIRDS (1963) and MARNIE (1964), it’s a dour slog with few laughs. You’d think that the story of how Hitchcock plucked Hedren from the world of modeling to be his leading lady on screen twice would be entertaining but it concentrates on his lurid sexual pursuit of her and thus the film is a downer. 

Donald Spato’s take on the dynamic between Hedren and Hitchcock in his 2008 book Spellbound by Beauty painted a disturbing portrait of harassment, and that’s all here in this adaptation, but Spato also sympathized with the lonely, fat man looking for sexual love. (Despite a loyal best friend in his wife Alma.) The teleplay doesn’t spend much time on that and veteran character actor Toby Jones struggles to find any nuance in his one-note villain role. Unfortunately, Jones also does an all-too accurate vocal imitation of Hitchcock that recalls too many Vegas mimics like Rich Little. It ends up caricaturing Hitchcock rather than deepening the real man. British actress Sienna Miller is far more affecting as Hedren but then the film is on her side and is told through her POV.
Anthony Hopkins in the teaser poster for HITCHCOCK.
What Anthony Hopkins does with his role in HITCHCOCK remains to be seen, but his performance in the trailer already looks more promising than that of Jones. Hopkins is not doing an out-and-out imitation of the director, but rather going for a certain essence of the man’s vocal style. Soft and sly in voice and manner, the clips suggest a wittier Hitchcock here. At a party scene where he’s attempting to raise money to film PSYCHO, Hitchcock tells potential benefactors, “Try the finger sandwiches. They’re made of real fingers.” (See for yourself with the exquisite trailer here: http://go.ign.com/SiEMKa)

This version promises more of the relationship between Hitchcock and his wife/best friend/confidante Alma (Helen Mirren). She helped him stay on course while working on PSYCHO and the film may be a love story as much as anything. If the posters are any indication of striking the proper tone for Hitch, we’re in for a treat. The teaser reveals Hitch holding a butcher knife that reads as his tie. And the full one-sheet vamps the original PSYCHO poster.
Even with my problems with THE GIRL, I’m glad to see Hitchcock getting his due more than once. While he was a very flawed man, he was also one of film’s greatest artists and anything that brings more attention to his body of work is aces in my book. I now await the theatrical release of HITCHCOCK on November 23rd. That will be a true Thanksgiving feast. Pass the knife.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

THE PROBLEM WITH OSCAR PREDICTIONS


Two words. Too soon.

What is the point of making Oscar predictions this early when so many movies have yet to open, or be seen by critics? Tom O’Neill is touting LES MISERABLES as the Best Picture frontrunner over at Gold Derby (goldderby.com). And yet he hasn’t seen it. No critic has.

O’Neill famously crowed long and loud that SWEENEY TODD would win Best Picture four years ago, along with a Best Actor and Best Actress prize for Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, respectively. He withdrew those early exclamations once he saw it. (The movie was good, but not great, and of those three big O’Neill declarations, only Depp’s nod came to pass.) Some films may seem like Oscar bait, based on cast, subject material or prestigious reputation, but you never know until they open.

Then there’s Roger Ebert who boldly declared this year that ARGO would win the top Oscar. He made that boast when he saw its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Again, at that moment he had yet to see many potential contenders like LINCOLN or LES MISERABLES or ZERO DARK THIRTY, so why the need to rush to such judgments? I’d expect Ebert to approach such declarations with a little more measure than say, the Amazing Kreskin.


Every critic wants to be heard in the industry. (Me too, with this blog.) But still, why make such boffo predictions when they’re based on so little so far? The competition hasn’t been seen. The variables that make for a nod haven’t been determined, like timing, box office, etc. And these opinions come off like that famous line about a**holes. You know, everyone’s got one.

The reason for much of this is due to Oscar prognosticating becoming such a huge cottage industry. It keeps people reading the town’s trades like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.  It keeps dozens, if not hundreds, of cinematic websites and blogs afloat. And everyone wants the big scoop, to say they said it first, and to drive the conversation. But the truth is until the critics weigh in with their awards most of it is just idle talk. Critics’ awards have a lot of sway, so perhaps folks like Ebert and O’Neill are really trying to influence their peers' voting. 

This year O’Neill has already declared the Best Actor race is over as no one can beat Daniel Day-Lewis’ towering performance as LINCOLN, a film due in December. He’s seen the film, true. But he hasn’t seen all the other films with other potential competition so why go out on that limb in the middle of October? O’Neill is an expert on awards trivia, so perhaps it would behoove him to remember that sure things like Lauren Bacall’s certain Best Supporting Actress victory for THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES never came to fruition.

I myself think that the sublime FRANKENWEENIE could win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Could, not will. The fact is, as great as it is, there are so many factors yet to be included in the argument - its competition, its box office, its trade ads, how it figures in the critics’ awards, etc. The fact that it isn’t making a ton of money could hurt its chances. If few see it, few can vote for it. So while I will declare it has a strong shot, I will not state unequivocally that it has the award in the bag.

And then you get whoppers of Oscar predictions that make little sense to me, and to most Oscar watchers. Over at the In Contention tab at Hitfix.com, Guy Lodge is predicting that Matthew McConaughey is a frontrunner for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in MAGIC MIKE. Really? What’s that based on? Box office? (Doubtful, it wasn’t a big hit.) A feeling that the actor is due? (Maybe, but McConaughey got better reviews this year for BERNIE and KILLER JOE.) Or is it bias? Ah, there’s the rub. For whatever reason, critic Lodge feels strong about McConaughey’s work and feels he should be a frontrunner, whether or not he actually is in most people’s minds.

Look, it’s fun to predict and argue such things. Water cooler conversation drives so much of our national discourse anyway, and Hollywood is no exception. Tinseltown lives on hype and buzz. But I think it would behoove those in the industry to be a little more speculative rather than so demonstrative.

One last gripe...

I think it's silly to push Anne Hathaway in the Best Actress category for her role as Catwoman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. It's a supporting role. And the only reason that the studio or her representation is doing so is to avoid having her compete against herself in the Supporting Actress category for her work in LES MISERABLES. 

This kind of silliness doesn't help the Oscar conversation either. 




Monday, October 8, 2012

THE 2012 ELECTION: MR. SPOCK DEBATES THE MUSIC MAN


The Establishing Shot is a blog about movies. They’re my passion. And sometimes politics can be as well. Especially during election season. And as I was watching the Presidential debate last week, those two passions of mine collided. I realized whom this race is really between. It’s between Mr. Spock and Professor Harold Hill.
Original caricature by Jeff York of President Obama as Mr. Spock (copyright 2012)
Mr. Spock, for those of you who don’t know, is the half human, half Vulcan science officer and 2nd in command to Captain Kirk in the STAR TREK franchise. And Professor Harold Hill is THE MUSIC MAN, the traveling salesman who sells the residents of River City on the idea that they need a boys’ band.

Well, you got trouble my friends…

Right here in River City, as the song goes. See, Harold Hill isn’t really a salesman; he’s a con man. He breezes into town, tells everyone what they want to hear, even if it’s a different story to each listener, and sells them a big idea without ever intending to deliver it. His big idea, in the Academy Award-winning movie musical, is that their sleepy burg needs to spend money on a band, with expensive instruments, uniforms and lessons. This, and only this, will keep the town’s youth from falling into the corruptive presence of a pool table in the community. He sells it. And they buy it hook, line and sinker.

Hill is always jovial, smiling and laughing, even when he’s being incredibly aggressive. And yet Hill never gives one lesson. He never gathers the band for one practice. And he ducks giving out any specifics on his methods or credentials. He ends up scamming the entire town out of their money and plans to leave them all high and dry.
Original caricature by Jeff York of Mitt Romney as 'The Music Man' Harold Hill (copyright 2012)
Sounds a lot like Romney to me, telling us that he’s got all the answers, even though he offers little proof either in his history or substantial policy details. If Romney thinks he’s going to seriously cut the deficit by cutting off Big Bird and PBS, then he might as well sell us a River City boys’ band, or a bridge in Brooklyn, for that matter.

Romney tells a good story, even if it isn't always accurate. (http://huff.to/RszYzuHe tells everyone what they want to hear, and changes the narrative from person to person, year-to-year, election to election. And if Hill skipping town with all the money while the town goes bust isn’t the Bain story, I don’t know analogous from synonymous. To my eyes, Romney and Hill are both driven by self-serving ambition, not any core beliefs in something bigger than themselves. 
Robert Preston plans to con the residents of  River City, Iowa in THE MUSIC MAN 

And Obama would probably think it’s a compliment for me to compare him to Spock, but it’s really not. Sure, they’re both brainiacs always ready with wonky facts and data. And yes, they’re composed and measured, cool heads always prevailing. But both are also aloof and have trouble connecting with people. And they both spend an exorbitant amount of energy trying to suppress their emotions to stay above the fray. Maybe that’s what drove Obama to give such a bloodless, docile performance at last Wednesday’s debate, but it didn’t make him look like a strong leader. I don’t know about you, but I want a Jim Kirk captaining our ship - a man who is smart as hell, but also has fire in his belly. You know, a leader who would give it back a little to those like Dr. McCoy or the Tea Party when their bigotry oozes out and they question a man’s nationality?
Leonard Nimoy as Spock in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN

There are only a few weeks left 'til the election, but I’d like to think it’s not too late to see both Obama's and Romney's ‘character’ rise more to the occasion. Obama needs to act more like Kirk, or perhaps Spock in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. There he displayed real heart, saves everyone, and inspires Kirk to exclaim, “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human.”

And perhaps there is time for Romney to give up the long con and come up with some real substantive offerings to get the citizenry humming again. That’s what Hill did at the end of his stay in River City. He decided to hear the bells on the hill, become principled, stick around and create a real band.

We should all be so lucky to have those kinds of happy endings. Movie or not.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

DOES MEL BROOKS DESERVE THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD?


The American Film Institute announced Friday that Mel Brooks would be their 41st recipient of their Life Achievement Award. The venerable institution praised Brooks as “America’s long-running king of comedy.” And Board of Trustees president Howard Stringer said, “He's a master of an art form that rarely gets the respect it deserves” and that’s why he’s being singled out. So, does Brooks deserve the honor, even the title “king of comedy”?
In this movie blogger’s opinion, no.


There is no question that Brooks has made some invaluable contributions to the art form. He wrote and directed the Oscar-winning THE PRODUCERS, a daring comedy about a desperate Broadway producer putting on a musical about Hitler, which still seems outrageous and radical. And he directed such legendary comedies as BLAZING SADDLES and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, two of the all-time best. But after that, his film credits are very uneven.

Sure, he’s produced some terrific works other than those comedies, like THE ELEPHANT MAN and MY FAVORITE YEAR, but not many true classics. I’d argue that Brooks is mostly being honored for the whole of his career, which includes amazing success in a broad range of mediums. He’s conquered TV, radio, records and Broadway. And the AFI press release confirmed that those credits are part of his heralding. (http://bit.ly/SKfKj8) But that’s wrong.
Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in THE PRODUCERS (1968)


Brooks should only be winning for his contributions to film. After all, the AFI isn’t called the American Broadway Institute, so his Broadway musical adaptation of THE PRODUCERS should not be a consideration. Nor should his Grammy-winning work with Carl Reiner on their 2000 YEAR OLD MAN skits. And what he did as a writer on the legendary Sid Caesar variety program YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS in the 1950’s should be of no consideration whatsoever. Nor should any TV producing credits.

To my mind, there is no other AFI winner who has had as many mediocre films on his resume as Brooks does. The likes of SPACEBALLS, DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT, MEN IN TIGHTS and LIFE STINKS were pretty bad films. And those were his last four directorial efforts. Yes, Brooks indeed helped pave the way for parody cinema, and you can see his influence in everything from the AIRPLANE and SCARY MOVIE spoofs to the Wayans brothers films, but is that something to be lauded? Even if he did it well with his Hitchcock riff HIGH ANXIETY or SILENT MOVIE, is that really groundbreaking film comedy? 
Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)


It’s especially egregious when you compare it to those comedians whom the AFI has overlooked. They could have honored Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx or Blake Edwards in their day, but they didn’t. They died before the AFI got around to naming them, which is a terrible shame. Apparently, Woody Allen has been offered the award many times but has refused it. (He’s not much for these sorts of things.) I guess Mel Brooks is the next best thing if you have failed to honor such truly exceptional film comics.

The AFI also has yet to honor such legends as Robert Redford, Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, Peter O’Toole, Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Caine, or composer John Williams. They’ve all had five to six decade film careers and are still doing exemplary work. The Redford oversight is particularly galling as he’s been a leading man for all those decades, has directed and produced Oscar-winning films, and is the father of the modern independent film movement based on his Sundance Film Festival. And yet the AFI has yet to call. (I wrote about these oversights here: http://bit.ly/SEzt8f)
Cleavon Little in BLAZING SADDLES (1974)


The fact is the AFI Life Achievement honor is a political one, voted on by that board of trustees and awarded to create talk value, as well as raise money for all the great works that the AFI contributes to, such as film restoration and their young filmmaker programs. That’s one of the reasons Brooks is being honored. He’s been a highly visible presence in Hollywood for decades, he’s philanthropic, and he’s much beloved by the entertainment community. But his onscreen resume should be front and center.  

And while I don’t believe Brooks is a terrible choice, the truth is he’s just an okay one. When it comes to films that are supposed to have stood the test of time, which is one of the AFI criteria for the honor, his record is spotty. Brooks famously quipped, “It’s good to be the king” in his uneven comedy THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD, PART ONE, but in this film critic’s opinion, his cinematic resume isn’t quite good enough. Certainly not enough to warrant the AFI’s highest honor.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

FIVE GREAT HORROR FILMS YOU'VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF (BUT MUST SEE!)


As the witching hour draws nigh, you may find yourself in the mood for some Halloween horror. And if you can’t get to all the new thrillers opening at your local Cineplex this October, I have some recommendations for you that can be enjoyed at home. They may not be classics like "The Exorcist" or "The Shining", but they're superb and worth scaring up this season.


THE DESCENT (2005)
THE DESCENT is a British horror film that frankly, is the scariest movie I’ve witnessed in the last 10 years. The story concerns a caving expedition that goes awry when one of its five explorers gets injured. As her friends try to get her out of the cave, they discover that they’re not alone. Mutant humans, who’ve lived there for centuries, are chasing them. What follows is an action-packed movie in the most claustrophobic of settings. It’s intense and clever and scary as hell.

THE NIGHT STALKER (1972)
This TV-movie about an intrepid tabloid reporter (Darren McGavin) covering the killing spree of a Las Vegas vampire spawned a TV show, a comic book series and a cult following that is still going strong. (I lauded this movie’s vampire in one of my earliest posts as the Chicago Examiner's horror movie critic: http://exm.nr/LIlegL) Clocking in at only 74 minutes, this tale is short but terrifying. Kolchak, the reporter, is brave and brazenly funny. He’s also as driven as the villainous vampire, and the title refers to them both.


THE EYE (2002)
This is one of the greatest Japanese horror movies ever. A beautiful blind woman gets an eye transplant and suddenly she starts experiencing otherworldly visions. At first she believes them to be shadows, but the images start revealing more and more to her. She discovers that they’re the ghosts of dead people. Why is she seeing such things? And does the previous owner’s eyes have something to do with it? Watch and find out, and see how many times you’ll be hiding your eyes from the haunts in this film.


THEATER OF BLOOD (1973)
Vincent Price’s name has been synonymous with horror for decades. (I wrote an appreciation of him here: http://bit.ly/T1sti0) And this bloody black comedy may contain his finest performance ever. He plays a Shakespearean actor who seeks revenge on his critics after being passed over for a coveted prize. He starts killing them off, one by one, according to murders contained in the Bard’s plays. Price straddles the line perfectly between being frightening and funny. And this film comes with a special fringe benefit to it too. Price met his wife Coral Browne while shooting, and the chemistry between them here is electric. How fitting too, since her critic character in this movie is electrocuted at a hair salon!


LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008)
This Swedish thriller is subtitled, but don’t let that discourage you from renting this brilliantly moody film about two lonely children who become friends. One is an odd and eccentric boy, bullied daily at school. The other is a girl who happens to be a vampire. But she’s not the only monster in this movie. The stark, cold winter setting is just as vicious, as are the young hero’s tormentors. It’s an eerie coming of age tale. Or in her case, ages and ages.

Now, if you must watch JAWS or ALIEN for the umpteenth time, by all means, go ahead. They're terrific. But I think you should expand your horror horizons with these five. Happy Halloween, boys and ghouls

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

10 REASONS SETH MACFARLANE IS A GREAT CHOICE TO HOST THE OSCARS

He can sing and dance.
Those skills worked spectacularly well for Hugh Jackman when he hosted. And it puts real show into show business’ biggest night when the host can do more than just crack jokes. MacFarlane should impress everyone with his multiple mad skills.


MacFarlane will tease Hollywood, albeit with affection.
He has a lot of love for the town that feeds him. And he’ll likely take the same tone that Neil Patrick Harris takes at the Tony Awards – a tone that treads the line perfectly between keen and mean.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Everyone knows MacFarlane does the voices of Stewie, Quagmire, Peter and Brian on “Family Guy” but wait until everyone sees all the celebrity impressions he can do. People will be on the floor.

He can be touching too.
Yes, “Ted” was a riotous and raunchy comedy hit this past summer, but it also had heart. I’ll bet MacFarlane will show some too come Oscar time, such as when a legend like Maggie Smith shows up. (She’ll likely be nominated for her supporting turn in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”)

The Academy is in the moment with this fresh, new choice.
Billy Crystal hosted last year. Hello, 1997. Clearly, the Academy was paying attention to what’s cool this year, what with MacFarlane’s auspicious film debut and his “SNL” premiere show hosting gig a few weeks back.

MacFarlane has leading man looks.  
And that smile. How infectious!

He’s written parody lyrics as good as anything Billy Crystal has penned.
Maybe he’ll even take a swipe at the Best Song category. It needs it!

MacFarlane is an amazing social critic.
And the Oscars are not too much of a sacred cow for a satirist of his caliber. That’s good, what with Oscar’s changing number of Best Picture nominees, roving calendars, overzealous prognosticators and excessive campaigning. Frankly, there’s a lot to spoof.

He’s got his own writers and the Oscars need it.
Please, no more Bruce Vilanch and his tin-eared, tin pan zingers. Some fresh snark is desperately needed here!

He’s new.
He’s not Whoopi, or Billy, or Steve, or anyone else who’s hosted multiple times before. And so the novelty factor should give him a lot of room to experiment and have fun. Let’s hope it’s as much fun for us. Remember, someone two years ago thought James Franco and Anne Hathaway would be good choices too. And we all know how that turned out!