Oscars Bet on Fresh Host, Big Performances

Sunday's Academy Awards serves up Seth MacFarlane as first-time host and musical turns from icons Barbra Streisand, Adele and Shirley Bassey.

85th Academy Awards - Oscars Countdown
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

The pressure is most definitely on for Seth MacFarlane come Sunday's Oscar ceremony.

The "Family Guy" and "Ted" creator will make his debut as host of the 85th Annual Academy Awards, a thankless task according to many, including MacFarlane. “It’s a really bad match,” he told CNN. “I’m the wrong guy to do this.”

Whether MacFarlane was joking when he uttered the above is part of the provocative comedian's allure, and the keep-em-guessing, in-your-face, is-he-or-isn't-he-serious edge may just work in his favor on the night.

While he cracked wise during the nominations telecast in January (his scathing repertoire included a Hitler joke and description of screenwriters as lazy), MacFarlane recognizes that the Oscar audience - both those in attendance and the millions watching at home - is a unique beast. "It's a different crowd," he told E! News, adding, "It's a very talented crowd, but it's also a very thin-skinned crowd."

Blending traditional showmanship with edgier humor may be the key to his success during the ceremony. Possessing a strong singing voice he is never shy of showcasing ("Family Guy" musical numbers abound throughout the series), and with a list of performers that includes Barbra Streisand, Adele, Jennifer Hudson, Nora Jones, Shirley Bassey and the cast of "Les Miserables," MacFarlane looks to have the showmanship angle covered.

How his acerbic quips, raunchy one-liners and barbed comebacks land remains to be seen.

Where MacFarlane has already succeeded is giving the Oscars a fresh(er) face in the lead up to Sunday's ceremony. Something sorely needed as the end of a long awards season approaches, one which ultimately produced few surprises in regards to cinematic winners and losers.

Ben Affleck's shut out of the best director category (along with "Zero Dark Thirty's" Kathryn Bigelow) added spice to the nominations reveal, but the subsequent showering of awards on Affleck's CIA thriller "Argo" has dispelled any mystery over whether the film has the power to beat "Lincoln" for best picture.

Oscars 2013: Full List of Nominees

Given the rarity for a film to win best picture without also holding a directing nomination - the last time it occured was in 1989 when "Driving Miss Daisy" took the top honor while the directing award went to Oliver Stone for "Born on the Fourth of July" - it was "Lincoln," holding a leading 12 nominations including picture and one for director Steven Spielberg, that looked to be the film to beat early in the season run-up.

"Lincoln's" shadow was soon diminished due to "Argo" dominating the top categories at the Golden Globes and ceremonies held by the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America.

"There's this groundswell of support for 'Argo' that took a lot of people by surprise, and it's making me think that the omission of Ben Affleck in the best-director category was the best thing that ever happened to that movie," Dave Karger, chief correspondent for Fandango.com, told the AP.

Joining "Argo" and "Lincoln" in the best picture race are "Amour," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Django Unchained," "Les Miserables," "Life of Pi," "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Zero Dark Thirty."

 Students Replace Models as Oscar Trophy Carriers

Any upsets on the night could be thanks to "Silver Linings Playbook," the family-based dramedy dealing with mental illness which has gone on to be an audience-, and possibly Academy-pleaser. The film also garnered Oscar nominations for David O. Russell (directing), Bradley Cooper (actor) Robert De Niro (supporting actor) and Jackie Weaver (supporting actress). The film has recently gained momentum due to heavy studio campaigning and positive audience response.

Russell and "Life of Pi's" Ang Lee will compete with Spielberg, Michael Haneke ("Amour") and Benh Zeitlin ("Beasts of the Southern Wild") for the directing award.

In the acting categories, Daniel Day Lewis is expected to earn his third Oscar for his titular performance in "Lincoln," while Jennifer Lawrence (hot off a SAG win for her role in "Silver Linings Playbook") looks to battle it out for best actress with "Zero Dark Thirty’s“ Jessica Chastain (who nabbed the Golden Globe in the same category).

The best actress contingent also includes the youngest and oldest nominees in the award's history with "Amour's" Emmanuelle Riva, who is 85, and 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" named alongside Lawrence, Chastain and Naomi Watts (for "The Impossible").

Other Oscar favorites include Anne Hathaway as supporting actress for "Les Miserables," Tommy Lee Jones as supporting actor for "Lincoln."

Oscar Fashion Faux Pas of the Past

Host MacFarlane is also a nominee for his tune "Everybody Needs a Best Friend," which will compete against Adele's "Skyfall" in the original song category.

Keeping the show to the allocated three hours will also be a task for MacFarlane as he transitions the audience between award reveals, performances and the usual roster of segments that includes in memoriam, official Academy speeches and accounting personnel walk-ons.

Aiding him in his duties is a deep roster of presenters. Seven-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner Jane Fonda will be on hand, as will Jennifer Aniston, Michael Douglas, Jessica Chastain, Queen Latifa, Daniel Radcliffe, John Travolta, Ben Affleck, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, Melissa McCarthy, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Kristen Stewart, Channing Tatum, Charlize Theron and "Avengers" cast members Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner.

Other segments aimed at ensuring audiences remain tuned in throughout the evening include a celebration of the James Bond franchise - which marked five decades on screen with the release of "Skyfall" - and an appearance by Mark Wahlberg and the animated bear from "Ted,"  voiced by Seth MacFarlane.

Like the host didn't have enough to do already.

The 85th Annual Academy Awards will broadcast live on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 24.

Contact Us