Bruin James Franco co-hosts the Oscars without mishap, but loses the Best Actor award to Colin Firth for “The King’s Speech,” which also gets crowned with Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture

At least UCLA’s James Franco didn’t have a Letterman “Uma/Oprah” moment.  The UCLA grad/Oscar-nominated Actor co-hosted the 83rd Academy Awards with Anne Hathaway on Sunday night, and the show went off with nary a hitch.  Unlike when the usually very funny David Letterman hosted, and unlike when the equally funny Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globes earlier this year, Franco didn’t offer up any jokes that bombed, and didn’t offend anyone, including the people who hired him.  So yes, Franco might even get a return engagement.

HOWEVER… while most people agree that the hosts did a fine job, there was still a hearty longing for Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, Johnny Carson, or even Bob Hope.  The show opened with a humorous montage featuring Franco and Hathaway going on an “Inception”-inspired trip through some of the nominated films.  Last year’s host Alec Baldwin was also in it, as was Morgan Freeman.  It was amusing, without trying too hard, but it didn’t mean that a topical comedy monologue would have been superfluous.  Many people (including myself) missed having a comedian make fun of the stars, and the event itself.

I used to love the way that Crystal could really think on his feet, and improvise dialogue in response to things that occurred during the course of the show.  While Hathaway’s numerous costume changes were entertaining, and sometimes almost breathtaking, it just doesn’t “replace” the need for running commentary.  Again:  Franco and Hathaway didn’t really do anything wrong — It’s just that they aren’t trained social satirists, so the show felt like it was missing something.

What the broadcast WASN’T missing was predictabliity.  There was no Marisa Tomei moment this year.  All the acting awards were seemingly pre-ordained by the Golden Globes and SAG awards, with Melissa Leo, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, and Colin Firth all winning AGAIN.  The Director award was predicted by the DGA Award, which also went to Tom Hooper, and Best Picture went to the odd’s-on favorite, Hooper’s “The King’s Speech.”  And the most predictable moment of the night was the award for Best Animated Feature, which of course went to “Toy Story 3,” which was the only one of the three nominees that was also one of the ten Best Picture nominees.

Don’t get me wrong:  I am NOT saying that any of the Winners weren’t deserving — just that it was a little anti-climactic.  But the Oscars HAVE to come after the lesser award shows, and if those earlier shows “get it right,” there’s nothing the Academy can do to make the Oscars more suspenseful or exciting.  This year’s office Oscar Pools definitely came down to the awards for movies that no one saw, like documentaries and shorts, a scenario which during last night’s broadcast, they actually pointed out could happen.

In addition to “Speech” ruling the night and “Fighter” winning both Supporting trophies,  “Inception” also won four little gold men, for Cinematography, Visual Effects,  Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing; “Social Network” got Writing (adapted) and Musical Score; and “Alice in Wonderland” got Costumes and Art Direction.  The “Alice” awards are the only ones that I didn’t expect.

The best thing about the whole show was Kirk Douglas, who presented Melissa Leo’s award.  He showed great spirit for a stroke survivor, and even a sense of humor, although it was a tad cruel.  When he opened the envelope, he hesitated, and started to talk about something else, forcing the nominees to wait a little longer,  prolonging their agony.  It was kinda funny, unless you were one of the four that didn’t win.  And then when Leo accepted her award, she accidentally blurted out the F word, which was bleeped by the censors.

The second best thing about the show was that none of the winners overstayed their welcomes during their acceptance speeches.  They all made it short and sweet, with very few mock-humble, obnoxious comments.  And there was no Michael Moore moment, as no one felt the need to get DIVISIVELY political.  One Doc guy lamented that none of the Wall St. bandits went to jail, but everyone agrees that that is a shame, so the comment was well-received, and didn’t seem out of line. The funniest guy was Randy Newman, who won for his “Toy Story 3” song.  He was honestly humble, because he had lost about 18 times, and was able to laugh about it.

 Thanks to the brevity of the speeches, the show went over its allotted time by only about 5 minutes — Not bad for the Oscars.  All in all, it was an enjoyable show, without any of the usual, uncomfortable sequences.  Even the “In Memoriam” section was better than usual, because there was no audible applause for the bigger names, which sometimes in past shows seemed insulting to the lesser-known departed, who get no reaction at all.  For once, it appeared that the audience “held their applause,” as is best.

So congrats to Bruin Grad James Franco, for holding his own on a LIVE show in front of a Billion people, and congrats to all the winners.  This year (for once), I saw about 90% of all the nominated films, and I don’t disagree with the voting results.  That fact, along with the classy acceptances, made the evening a success, so help me Cuba Gooding, jr.