By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 20, 2008
So now it is official. Nothing can stop the Oscars. Not terrorism, not war, not an ailing pope, neither Billy Crystal's flu nor David Letterman's jokes, nay, not even a writers strike can stand in the way of the Academy Awards. Come rain or hail or just really bad Santa Anas (God, the poor stylists), those gold statuettes can and will be bestowed on the lifted and tucked alike. And you're just the guy to do it.
You, Jon Stewart, you and your brave decision to return to the air without writers, to wear your strike unibrow proudly and unite with all your late-night peers in a rare hands-across-the-CG-enhanced-aisle stand. Change is in the air, can't you feel it? The unions are strong again, the writers no longer content to get sand kicked in their faces, George Clooney's up for only one award -- the universe has shifted, seemingly overnight.
We are on the cusp of a Brave New World and you are its frontman, the captain of a ship as solid and unsinkable as "Titanic" -- the movie, not the ocean liner -- and wouldn't it be nice if there was even one film up for an award this year that had half that audience? It would certainly take a lot of the pressure off you, Jon, make your job as MC of the biggest event that almost didn't happen a bit easier. That would be nice . . . considering you had just 10 days to write a script that will cover four hours. Of live television.
And it better be spectacular. I'll be frank with you, Jon; we're expecting a lot. There's so much to work with -- the strike, the election, the disaster that was the Golden Globes, the beagle winning the Westminster dog show -- and it's all right up your alley, all ripe for some high-def hilarity. And we're primed for it. Hollywood is giddy with relief, if for no other reason than Vanity Fair canceled its party. What with Morton's closed, now no one will have to schlep out to Century City.
Our stars have gone missing in recent months, something I'm sure you have noticed. With no famous faces at the Golden Globes or on the late-night couches, we have been reduced to buying OK! magazine and surfing the net for strike-related minis on YouTube. It hasn't been pretty and shame so often turns to anger.
So it is up to you, Jon, as host, to facilitate this reunion, to take us back into the happily celebrity-obsessed culture we once were before the picket lines.
You need to remind us why the gowns and the shoes and the thank-yous to all the studio execs -- who mere moments ago were being picketed! -- still matter.
Never mind that, aside from "Juno," virtually no one who is not regularly credentialed at Cannes and Sundance has seen any of the best picture nominees. Don't let that worry you; you've got three of the best-looking guys in the biz duking it out for the lead actor trophy. While any other male host might be intimidated -- seriously, you look great, Jon, and those lines and shadows are to be expected considering what you're up against. Ten days! I know you'll use it to your advantage, ratings-wise. Then you wouldn't have to worry about those dreary (but inevitable, Jon, inevitable) stories about the show's lagging numbers.
So on top of figuring out how to celebrate Hollywood while still skewering it -- that's why we love you, Jon, and I for one am eager to see how you will top the Judi Dench smear campaign ads from two years ago -- you also need to remind people that the screen in their living rooms can be used for something other than Wii tennis tournaments. It can be used to pull back the curtain on the most glamorous multibillion-dollar business going, to honor the men and women whose vision and talent continues to enthrall us despite the distraction of YouTube and reality TV.
Only you can capture and personify the deep, abiding and so often unhealthy relationship most of us have with Hollywood. How we love it but need to tear it down; how we long for it but so easily dismiss it; how we ache for new blood but still have an almost physical need to hear at least two Jack Nicholson jokes in every Oscar telecast.
Me, I know you can do it. I have every confidence. I thought you did a great job two years ago.
I know this year's telecast will be smart and timely, sharp and funny. It will renew our faith in Hollywood as something other than the center of a bitter fight over who gets what share of a pie most of us only glimpse, as through a nose-smudged window.
You, Jon Stewart, will bring the sparkle back, the magic, the brilliance.
And if you don't, you can always blame the writers. Yours always, Mary McNamara, Times Staff Writer
Copyright © 2013, The Los Angeles Times