Image Credit: Bob Charlotte/PR Photos (2)Well, that was unexpected: The Academy made a surprisingly bold gamble with its announcement today that James Franco and Anne Hathaway will be co-hosting this year’s Oscars — particularly for a group not often known for being especially surprising, bold, or gamble-y about much of anything. In the latest effort in its perennial campaign to goose up ratings for the Oscar telecast, the Academy is clearly banking on Franco and Hathaway (should we start calling them Francaway for short?) to draw in the kind of younger viewers who have largely spurned the Oscars in recent years. Not to be ageist about this, but last year’s hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, are 64 and 51, respectively, while Franco is 32 and Hathaway is 28 — a good deal younger than even Jon Stewart or Chris Rock were when they hosted the Oscars in recent years.

Some are already grumbling that the Academy’s pick smacks a bit of generational pandering and sets the stage for a show that’s more like the MTV Video Music Awards than the Oscars as we’ve traditionally known them. Then again, virtually everyone complains endlessly about the Oscars as we’ve traditionally known them, so let’s wait and see. (It’s not like we’re talking about Steve-O and Snooki here.) In addition to their acclaimed acting careers, both Hathaway and Franco have charisma to spare and a knack for comedy (and Hathaway showed off her musical skills as well when she gamely pitched in with a song-and-dance number when Hugh Jackman hosted in 2008), so it’ll be interesting, to say the least, to see what they bring to the party. Between Franco’s recent performance-art stint on General Hospital and Hathaway’s much-discussed sex scenes in Love & Other Drugs, they’ve got plenty of comedic fodder to work with in their recent past. One particularly intriguing question: How will Franco and Hathaway handle the potentially awkward situation of one or both of them being up for awards themselves, since Franco is a veritable shoo-in for a Best Actor nomination for 127 Hours, while Hathaway has been discussed as a long-shot Best Actress nominee for Love & Other Drugs?

What do you think? Does the Academy’s choice of Hathaway and Franco seem inspired or overly calculated to you? Will you be more likely to tune in to this year’s show because of them, or less? Vote in our poll and then sound off in the comments below.

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