If it's the middle of October and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hasn't announced either a show producer or host for the upcoming ceremony people are going to start whispering. In fact, a very small group of people -- some of them Academy members -- are going to get a wee bit nervous. Add to the mix a new AMPAS president, Tom Sherak, a new 10 nominee Best Picture field and the expectation of topping a universally heralded show the year before and, well, the gossip mills are churning from the 213 to the 310 area codes.
Unlike previous years, Sherak has made it clear this time around he wants the Academy to announce both the producer and the host at the same time. This has lead to some strange politics across the board. With upcoming projects keeping them busy last year's producing team of Larry Mark and Bill Condon had no plans of returning, so there has been numerous campaigning by those who want to produce the show and those Sherak and the Academy are trying to convince to consider. It all came to a strange head late last week when someone leaked to Deadline Hollywood Daily that 2009's popular host Hugh Jackman was being advised not to repeat for the most ludicrous of reasons. Word is the Academy was interested in Jackman returning, but it wouldn't be official until the new producer weighed in (Geez, sure seems like someone wanted to get word out Jackman would have declined just in case he wasn't offered, doesn't it?).
Meanwhile, classy industry commentator Anne Thompson tracked down Academy Executive Director Bruce Davis who didn't reveal much except to say that Steve Martin is on the short list to host, just as he was last year. Yep, iJackman wasn't the first choice to host in 2009 -- not by a long shot -- but it certainly worked out in the end.
What Davis didn't mention is that another name that keeps popping up is none other than 8-time host Billy Crystal. Word is he wants to return for a ninth go at it having been absent the past five shows. Moreover, he's got an "in" (not that he needs it) having starred in Sherak's "America's Sweethearts" when the AMPAS prez was at the new defunct Revolution Studios. How this will all pan out is definitely still up in the air, but don't be shocked if Crystal is allowed to emcee once more. And that's certainly an experienced hand that would make the membership and ABC rest easier at night in the weeks leading up to the show.
On the other hand, this pundit would prefer some new blood take the reigns of the Kodak Theater this year. In that spirit here's a case for some usual suspects, unlikely contenders and fresh faces to host Hollywood's big night.
- He's great and all, but how many more times can he do that opening number where it doesn't seem like deja vu? Isn't it sort of like Michael Jordan un-retiring to play for the Wizards? All you do is diminish your legacy.
- Been asked to return on more than one occasion, but after careful consideration has turned it down every time. Maybe teaming up with someone else to alleviate the pressure of the show would change his mind?
- We love our Whoops, but you don't go from hosting the Oscars to The View back to the Oscars.
- He has his fans (this pundit included), and is great for an election year, but in these rough economic and political times he might be too much of a reminder of the reality outside the confines of the Kodak that night.
- Seems like either his time is over or he's past the gig at this stage of his career now. He was funny, but does anyone pine for his return? Not really.
- Adored across town, but she won't be back until she's no longer co-hosting "American Idol." And if you have to ask why...
- This would be the perfect time for the new king of late night to redeem himself as host, but ABC probably wouldn't be thrilled and let's be honest, Oprah (and Uma) would really need to sign off.
- Someone has convinced either Mr. Jackman or the powers that be that he shouldn't host two years in a row, but he'll be back at some point.
Robert Downey, Jr.
- Would probably do it, but he's too busy to commit to the pre-show prep.
Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau
- They would be fantastic, but Favreau's a little busy editing "Iron Man 2."
- Would do a hilarious job, but make it a complete and living hell for everyone involved. Not gonna happen.
- It's just too soon since he took over "The Tonight Show." In five to 10 years? Maybe.
- She'd be great either solo or as a co-host, but until "30 Rock" ends, there's no way she can make the time.
- Of everyone on this list, Ferrell needs this the most. After a very week two years at the box office (and don't try to say "Step Brothers" was a blockbuster, it was a modest hit based on the cost), Ferrell needs something to energize his standing in the industry and the public at large. He's shown he can do live events with his Tony-nominated Broadway one-man show and his years on "Saturday Night Live." Just as important, both men and women like him, he's edgy and family friendly at the same time, but most importantly, audiences would really have no idea what to expect which leads to actual anticipation. Plus, he should be free...
- He's not a song and dance man like Jackman, but 007 is arguably funnier that the Aussie and could bring even more class to a night that stakes it reputation on it. Even better, he won't be busy shooting the next James Bond movie.
- She's witty, smart, is well-liked and a "real" movie star (it's true haters). The question isn't whether Aniston would say yes, it's whether the Academy would have the guts to ask her (And no, they wouldn't be worried about offending Mr. and Mrs. Pitt, their are pains it the butt as it is.)
Ryan Reynolds and/or Sandra Bullock
- First off, it may not happen this year or within the next decade, but you can be guaranteed that Ryan Reynolds will host the show at some point in his career. Unless he turns into the Tom Hanks of his generation (which seems unlikely), that's his career trajectory. Reynolds also has "Green Lantern" in the wings, but there is still no start date on that potential blockbuster, possibly freeing him up. On the other hand, it's probably Disney's biggest dream for "The Proposal" duo of Bullock and Reynolds to co-host cause that sequel is on its way, but it is admittedly too far fetched for 2010. Bullock, however, is in the same mold as Aniston and could absolutely shine as a solo act. Either way, both actors should not be dismissed as potential hosts.
- Let's be honest, the two-time Oscar winner has never been a "movie star" per se, but when he's not playing a serial killer the public generally finds Spacey quite charming thanks to his numerous appearances on the talk show circuit. Like Jackman, he has a theatrical background to give the show some pop, but he won't broaden the TV audience like Mr. Wolverine did. Moreover, whether he'd even take the time off from his gig running London's Old Vic theatre remains to be seen.
Who do you think should host this year's Oscars? Do you want Billy back or is it time to move on? Share your thoughts below.