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Are We Actually Better Off Without An Oscar Host?

In the wake of the Oscars on Sunday, something has been on my mind. Namely, I’ve been pondering the whole host/lack of a host thing. In the lead up to the Academy Awards, I was definitely in the camp of thinking that a host was absolutely essential. Now, having seen a telecast without one, I’m rethinking that position. I haven’t switched entirely to the other camp, but I do think the Academy was right to go with no host over the wrong host. Had they been able to get Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson like they’d initially hoped, that would have been great. Kevin Hart was always a poor fit. When they had to start scrambling, this option sort of became inevitable anyway. Luckily, it managed to work.

This year, I didn’t miss having a host at all, which was surprising. The show flowed well, the presenters got to bring a little personality (when they were given the time) to the broadcast, and there weren’t any unnecessary bits to drag down the pacing. This smooth telecast was a good example of how a host isn’t always needed. Now, how much of that was due to necessity being the mother of invention? Would the show have looked like this and ran like this has a host been involved? Probably not, but we’ll never know for sure. Either way, the 91st Oscars showed a blueprint for how you can not even notice the lack of a host.

On the flip side, there have been years where a host was necessary and even important. Obviously, the year of La La Land and Moonlight, with the Best Picture screw up, having Jimmy Kimmel on hand was essential. Without him, chaos would have reigned supreme, or reigned even more supremely than it already did. Kimmel saved the day, in a very real way. Had something like that happened this year, who would have come out to calm things down and get things back on track? It’s a legitimate question to ponder, even if that sort of snafu will likely never happen again. If nothing else, it’s worth considering.

The thing is, a lot of times the host doesn’t do much for the show. The opening monologue is always fun, so that was somewhat missed. After that, at best they just keep the show moving along. At worst, they bring in a terrible bit that grinds things to a screeching halt. When was the last time a comedy routine halfway through the Academy Awards worked? They just don’t. Oscar should be a prestigious night. The fun that the presenters had this year was perfectly suitable. This doesn’t necessarily mean avoid having a host, but it does mean that perhaps AMPAS and the brain trust should re-think what a good host entails. That’s a lesson that the powers that be should really take to the bank here.

Going forward, I think there will be some years where the Academy Awards still have hosts and some years where they opt to go host-less. This year’s Oscar ceremony showed that it could be done. The telecast did not suffer one bit. Hopefully AMPAS doesn’t look at it and just decide that hosts aren’t needed, but that they need to not distract from the moment at hand. If that’s what happens in the future, then this actually may have been a good thing in the end. Overall, it turned out to be a big old nothing burger. In a year with so much controversy, at least one thing ended up not really being controversial at all…

Stay tuned to see if a host returns to future Oscar ceremonies!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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