Neil Patrick Harris
At this point, the question doesn't seem to be if Harris will one day host the Oscars but when. His championship turn at the Emmys this year would have seemed like a slam dunk even if he hadn't followed last year's disastrous five-reality-hosts-without-a-script telecast. It came a mere three and a half months after his hosting debut at the Tonys, and he proved in both cases that he was equally adept at song-and-dance numbers as he was with off-the-cuff jokes about events that happened just minutes before. Even so, he was respectful to the ceremonies without taking things too seriously while successfully tailoring each show to a different audience. If Hugh Jackman could successfully make the awards-show transition from Broadway to the silver screen, so can NPH. Unless, of course, he's beaten out by Jeremy Piven or Jon Cryer.
In “The Invention Of Lying,” Gervais plays the only person capable of dishonesty in a world where everyone else can only speak the truth. A show with him as host would be an awful lot like the exact opposite of that. Gervais's hilarious tendency to cut through the faux-humble narcissism of award shows is precisely why he's unlikely to ever be handed the reins of what Hollywood considers its biggest night. It's also precisely why it would be awfully fun to watch. He's proven time and again on talk shows and previous award ceremonies that he's consistently, effortlessly, brutally funny, and he'd make sure that the audience would get a show, not simply one famous person getting an ego massage after another. Granted, it would probably end up as “The Ricky Gervais Show, with special guest star The Movie Industry,” but it'd also be more entertaining than some recent years' broadcasts.
Granted, Fey is (the successes of “Mean Girls” and “Baby Mama” notwithstanding) a master of television, not film. But so were previous hosts Ellen DeGeneres and Johnny Carson, who recognized that movies provide the subject matter, not the medium, of the ceremony; the Oscar telecast is, first and foremost, a presentation designed for television. Give Fey the reins and you'll have a sharp, funny, fast-paced show that will probably treat the writing categories with a little more love and maybe even have a built-in What-just-happened? moment whenever Tracy Morgan shows up. (As he seems to do.) Plus, it'd give her the opportunity to disparagingly call some group or other “nerds,” and that's always a bonus.
U.S. & World
Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese
If you're going to have an evening celebrating our love of the movies, why not make a tag team of Hollywood's two most notorious cinemaphiles and put them in charge? Both of them, individually and together, probably have more movie knowledge than everybody else in the auditorium combined. Each can also talk up a blue streak, meaning that the biggest potential problem wouldn't be finding something interesting for them to say but shutting them up long enough to hand out the gold. (Even more difficult: getting them to do it simultaneously.) But they're also the rare directors who can hold their own in front of the camera as well, and they love film right down to their core. Everybody watching would be sure to walk away having actually learned something real about the movies. When was the last time you could say that about any awards show?
Latifah has been quietly accumulating tons of Oscar cred over the past decade. In addition to her Best Supporting Actress nomination for “Chicago,” she's appeared on the Oscars six times, including each of the last four telecasts. She's clearly made herself an invaluable presence, and she even came out relatively unscathed when she was placed in the unenviable position of singing last year's Death Montage Song. That speaks to Latifah's warm likability, and her easy way with a laugh line as well as a song make her a strong choice for an all-around entertainer. All of it would be sure to come in handy if she were ever given the role of the ambassador tasked with inviting viewers at home into the world of Hollywood for the night.