And the hosts of the 2011 Oscars are

We’ll have to wait until January 25th before the nominees are revealed, but the recipients of another kind of honour at the 83rd Academy Awards have already been announced: James Franco and Anne Hathaway are set to be hosting the ceremony on February 27th.

It’s been seen as a surprising choice for a number of reasons. For one thing, they’re actors: not stand-up comics like 1990s Oscar stalwarts Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, and not talk show hosts like the legendary Johnny Carson or the more recent Jon Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres.

For another thing, they’re not particularly famous actors. It’s true that in the past, presenters have included screen performers like Fred Astaire and Warren Beatty – but generally these figures were seen as the biggest stars of their day, and are screen icons now. The same can’t really be said for Franco and Hathaway, whose names aren’t especially familiar and whose faces are recognizable only from supporting roles and relatively successful romantic leads: the former is best known as best friend/arch nemesis Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man series, and the latter has been the heroine of The Devil Wears Prada and Bride Wars.

But whilst it might trigger some befuddlement, the decision might make sense when you take a closer look at their CVs. Franco has been one of the highlights in big comedies Pineapple Express and Date Night, and Hathaway has used her voice talents on multiple episodes of both The Simpsons and Family Guy. Not only do they dabble with the American comedy elite, but they’re beginning to feature regularly in Oscar-nominated hits, with significant parts in Milk and Brokeback Mountain.

It’s in this regard, however, that the appropriateness of the co-hosts has been significantly called into question. Both of them could be in competition on the night for Best Actor and Actress, as they’ve taken on acclaimed leads in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire follow-up 127 Hours, and the mature romance Love and Other Drugs.

The duo will find themselves following on from last year’s pairing of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, and may be getting advice from fellow actor Hugh Jackman, who took on the role alone in 2009. Indeed, all three of these figures were at the time stars of awards season releases Australia and It’s Complicated. If the Oscar success of those movies is anything to go on, then we can call rest assured that Franco and Hathaway will be leaving empty-handed.

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