February 28, 2011 / 3:05 AM / 9 years ago

Young Oscar hosts highlight Hollywood generation gap

* Awards show features first actor-actress Oscar co-hosts

* Producers seek to reconnect fans with Hollywood history

* Tension between young and old evident in telecast

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Oscar organizers tried something unprecedented in the awards’ 83-year history on Sunday — entrusting a young, attractive pair of Hollywood stars to host the film industry’s highest honors.

And the two newly minted masters of ceremony, James Franco and Anne Hathaway, wasted no time acknowledging their youth, and the notion that their presence might help lure a generation of television viewers who have increasingly tuned out the Oscars in recent years.

“Anne,” I must say, you look so beautiful and so hip,” Franco, 32, himself a nominee as best actor, deadpanned as the two walked on stage to open the show.

“Oh, thank you, James,” Hathaway, 28, the youngest host in Oscar history, replied, as she returned the compliment. “You look very appealing to a younger demographic as well.”

The pair were only half-joking, as producers of the Academy Awards show went out of their way this year to incorporate technological elements and imagery designed to engage younger movie fans.

Early in the show, presenter Justin Timberlake, an actor-singer popular with the young-adult crowd, appeared to use a smart-phone computer “app” to illuminate a “Shrek” backdrop to introduce awards for animated films.

But the show hardly turned its back on Hollywood of yesteryear. Kirk Douglas, 94, his speech badly slurred from a stroke 15 years ago, shuffled on stage with a cane to present the first acting award, the Oscar for best supporting actress, which went to Melissa Leo for “The Fighter.”

Douglas, himself, alluded to the Oscar generation gap in complimenting Hathaway on her looks.

“She’s gorgeous,” he said as the young actress blew him kisses. “Where were you when I was making pictures?”

A short time later, the night’s Oscar winner for best original screenplay, David Seidler, 73, for “The King’s Speech,” proclaimed in his acceptance speech that he was the oldest person ever to claim that award.

The program frequently conjured up images and music from Oscar-winning film blockbusters of yore, from “Gone with the Wind” to “Star Wars” and “Titanic.”

The tension between young and old was orchestrated by producers, who have said they sought to reconnect movie fans with Hollywood history while giving the show a contemporary feel that would attract viewers in the key 18- to- 49-year-old ratings demographic prized by advertisers.

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