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February 21, 2006

Jon Stewart: The Oscar Host on Screen

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Playing by Heart
Willard Carroll - 1998
Miramax Home Video Region 1 DVD

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Death to Smoochy
Danny DeVito - 2002
Warner Brothers Region 1 DVD

Ever since I saw one of his specials on HBO, I've wanted Eddie Izzard to host the Academy Awards. Not only was he truly funny during the course of his show, he actually looks better in a dress than Whoopi Goldberg. For some reason, the producers feel they need a "name" to host the award show, while I have always assumed that the show itself was the reason you watched.

Having both credentials as a screen actor and a stand-up comic, the Academy chose to give Jon Stewart a chance to host the Oscar show this year. I'll probably miss Chris Rock, but I'm willing to give Stewart a chance based on my occassional viewing of The Daily Show. Stewart is insightful and makes me laugh at times. I figured that prior to seeing him host the awards show, I would take a look back at a couple of the films he acted in, just to make sure I hadn't missed anything.

I first reviewed Stewart's filmography. I forgot that he was in Big Daddy, a film a caught one night on cable. (Am I the only one who thinks the basic premise was barrowed from Nick Hornby's About a Boy?). The films I did see were not better, and Stewart, enjoyable as he can be cracking wise on the state of the U.S.A., is not very memorable as an actor. In Playing by Heart, Stewart has the task of holding his own against Gillian Anderson. The film is even more of a chore to watch with overly theatrical dialogue that gets in the way of enjoying Angelina Jolie, Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands. Anderson portrays a stage director with movie posters throughout her house. Playing by Heart was pretty much over for me when I found myself gazing wistfully at the poster for Peyton Place, a much more watchable film.

The critical consensus that Death to Smoochy is unfunny is correct. DeVito has proven himself with black comedy primarily with War of the Roses. There are a few interesting connections to note: Smoochy was written by Adam Resnick, a staff writer for former Oscar host David Letterman, and writer of Cabin Boy. DeVito directed Billy Crystal in Throw Momma from the Train. Stewart and Chris Rock appeared in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. While Vincent Schiaveli blows away Stewart in his few minutes of screen time, hopefully Stewart will have a few zingers for the Academy Awards.

In doing research, I noticed that in his only film appearance, Johnny Carson appeared as himself in the forgotten Sixties musical Looking for Love. In these times when we will be inundated with Brokeback Mountain jokes, it's awkward to look back at a time when, without irony, there could be a film with a character named Gaye Swinger.

Posted by peter at February 21, 2006 06:30 PM