It took a little more than ten years, but Chris Rock is officially returning to host the 88th Academy Awards on Feb. 28. Once again tasked with shaking up a slightly stale institution, Rock is entering these awards with more or less the same marching orders.
But some things have changed. The last time Rock had emceeing duties, it was called the Kodak Theatre as opposed to the Dolby Theatre, people were still complaining about President Bush, and Sean Penn really couldn’t take a joke.
(Okay, that last one is probably still the case.)
As referenced by the cranky Oscar winner above, Rock’s monologue targeted some of Hollywood’s less established stars and the studios that hire them. (“You want Tom Cruise and all you can get is Jude Law? Wait. You want Russell Crowe and all you can get is Colin Farrell? Wait.”) He also incorporated a taped segment into the show, where patrons of the Magic Johnson Theatres were asked if they’d heard of the year’s nominees.
Rock also remarked that the nominees included four black actors, sadly joking that the number was high for the awards, an issue that is likely to be discussed during his next show as host.
And like all Oscar hosts, Rock received some mixed reviews the next day from critics, who either thought his monologue was iffy — like EW’s Gillian Flynn — and some that thought it was exactly what the Oscars needed.
“Chris Rock naysayers, I will concede that his opening monologue stank. […] After that wobbly start, Rock turned out to be a springy, gleeful host for ABC’s glitch-filled, vaguely experimental Oscars. […] Our Oscar host injected his own cleverness into these meaningless Oscar blandishments. Introducing Gwyneth Paltrow as the first woman to breast-feed an Apple? Give the guy another shot next year.” —Gillian Flynn, Entertainment Weekly
“This was not the sort of gentle, in-crowd humor that had been provided in years past by Billy Crystal or Steve Martin, and members of the audience seemed shocked, with Oprah Winfrey staring, her mouth agape, at Mr. Rock’s bald, if funny, critique of the industry.” —Sharon Waxman and David M. Halbfinger, The New York Times
“After all the tumult surrounding his selection as host, Chris Rock didn’t live down to the hype, delivering a funny opening monologue complete with a few clever barbs directed at the Bush administration that didn’t draw blood.” —Brian Lowry, Variety
“Loud, snide and dismissive, he wasn’t just a disappointment; he ranks up there with the worst hosts ever — particularly when you factor in the expectations. When the show ran a salute to Johnny Carson’s years as host, the comparison was so painful, it made you think the Academy would have been better off just letting a computer-generated Carson host again.” —Robert Bianco, USA Today
“New Oscar host Chris Rock shone as he took to the biggest stage possible – rewarding the Academy for the risk they took in selecting him. Brought in as part of an effort by the Academy to freshen up the awards, Rock — who received a standing ovation before uttering a word — ordered the assembled A-listers to ‘sit your asses down.'” — Ben Sutherland, BBC News
“I never thought I’d see an Oscars get edgy enough for Chris Rock to host them. These weren’t them, really, but he was strong.” —Cintra Wilson, Salon
“Host Chris Rock, whose entrance was greeted with a standing ovation, wasted no time delivering the edgy type of comedy for which he’s famous, though he did come across as ready for primetime.” —Stephen M. Silverman, People