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James Franco talks to Letterman: Give him an Oscar break, already

It plays much better than it reads: that's my take on James Franco's explanation of his Oscar-show performance to David Letterman in an advance clip from tonight's Letterman show. Even the under-line on MSNBC this morning made it sound as if Franco is intent on belittling Anne Hathaway. Actually, in the clip, when Franco says that standing next to the energetic Hathaway would make the Tasmanian Devil look stoned, he's likable -- he's trying to be funny, and he's actually succeeding.

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When he says that people sneer at the Oscar show beforehand and exaggerate its impact afterward, he's only stating the obvious. The most ridiculous postmortem on the Oscar show was Brett Easton Ellis' too-hip-to-live piece about the new celebrity culture in Newsweek. Ellis defended Franco -- but he did so by lumping him together with, among others, Charlie Sheen as stars who (in Ellis' view) rightly display contempt for the old Entertainment Empire. With friends like Ellis....

Franco is a versatile and often inspired actor. Let's focus on that.

And let's not forget that Hathaway, who pulled off her Oscar chores with exuberant charm as well as raw vitality, came in for some lumps of her own.

The New York Times spread the canard that Hathaway proved she had no chemistry with her leading men. What a ridiculous remark! Just months ago she and Jake Gyllenhaal generated steam heat in the otherwise lamentable "Love & Other Drugs." The Oscar-show producers should have teamed Hathaway with Gyllenhaal again -- here's a clip of that robust yet also subtle actor swapping droll pleasantries with Jon Stewart.

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