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Oscars 2013: Early reviews on host Seth MacFarlane are not kind

January 11, 2013|By John Horn
  • Seth MacFarlane, who will host the 85th Academy Awards, reads the nominations.
Seth MacFarlane, who will host the 85th Academy Awards, reads the nominations. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

If Seth MacFarlane was using Thursday’s Academy Awards nominations announcement as a test-run for his Oscar show hosting patter, he might consider changing directions. Fast. 

Early reviews of MacFarlane’s jokes were strongly negative, with many critics saying the “Ted” and “Family Guy” maker favored insults over insights and belittled entire swaths of the creative community.

Rather than MacFarlane’s coming across as amiable, the naysayers found him arrogant and nasty. Twitter reaction was equally harsh. (MacFarlane is the only Oscar host to read the nominations since Charlton Heston in 1972.)

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“Wow, after seeing Seth MacFarlane’s smug, condescending presentation of the Oscar nominations this morning with Emma Stone, I can’t wait for him to host the show itself — it may be one for the ages,” wrote Ken Tucker on the Entertainment Weekly website. “David Letterman, you can probably stop making jokes about how much the movie industry disliked your host gig; a new winner in that category may reveal itself on Oscar night.”

On The Atlantic Wire, Esther Zuckerman said many of MacFarlane’s jokes landed with a thud, including remarks he made about the women nominated for supporting actress and a joke about Hitler: "I read ‘Amour’ was co-produced in Austria and Germany, right? The last time Austria got together and co-produced something it was Hitler, but this is much better," was MacFarlane’s quip.

Said Zuckerman of MacFarlane’s tactics: “It may [anger] a ton of people. Which could make for good entertainment, a la Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes.”

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On New York magazine’s Vulture blog, Jesse David Fox wrote, “You could see MacFarlane struggling to figure out how to seem like the guy whose show had a baby putting horse semen on his cereal, but not actually offend the more conservative Oscar audience.”  Fox took special exception to MacFarlane’s attacks on screenwriters and directors as lazy.

“Diminishing an entire Hollywood profession doesn't work with the award show's earnestness, and it's also a pretty big boulder to throw at an event that exists to extol the genius of these very professions,” Fox said. “It's one thing for Steve Martin to make digs at Hollywood egos (Ha, ha, the crowd laughs, So true, even if not in my case). It's another to basically say, ‘You people are being rewarded for something that is not technically a skill.’”

Forrest Wickman on Slate echoed much of the criticism. “MacFarlane did not make a good first impression,” Wickman wrote. “In the less than 10 minutes it took to announce the nominees, MacFarlane managed to insult his co-presenter, belittle the achievements of several nominees, and make a Hitler joke....

“MacFarlane seemed incapable of making quips that weren’t at the expense of the honorees or others in the room. After reading the best director candidates, he cracked, ‘These are five people who are the very best at sitting in a chair and watching other people make a movie.’ After the nominees for best adapted screenplay: ‘These are adapted screenplays, so that means that the writers basically copied stuff from Microsoft Word and pasted it into Final Draft.’ … Edgy and biting can work at an awards show, but these one-liners were neither."

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