February 21, 2020

The Oscars Look to Billy Crystal and the Glory Days

posted on: Wednesday February 29, 2012

Jorge Lucas ’12/A&E Staff

The top prizes at Sunday’s Oscar ceremony were claimed by French dark horse The Artist, including Best Picture, Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius, and Best Actor for Jean Dujardin. Most of the technical awards, like Visual Effects and Sound, Cinematography, and Art Direction went to the night’s other favorite, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.

While the Best Actress gong sounded predictably for Meryl Streep, the Supporting Role categories were more surprising. Octavia Spencer gave a heartfelt and teary acceptance speech when she received the Oscar for her first major film role in The Help. At 82, Christopher Plummer became the oldest actor to receive an Academy Award when he won for playing a cancer-stricken, homosexual father in Beginners.

Rango was a more-than-worthy alternative for Best Animated Feature after The Adventures of Tintin got snubbed (I’ll never get over that injustice), while The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo won only one award for Film Editing. Two popular Best Picture nominees were assuaged with writing awards: The Descendants (Adapted Screenplay) and Midnight in Paris (Original Screenplay).

Though we may never know what Eddie Murphy’s vision of the Oscars looked like, the Academy could have done a lot worse than asking Billy Crystal to rescue the award show after Murphy stepped down as host. Although the Academy has gotten a lot of flak for being dominated by old, white men with conservative views, somehow Billy Crystal managed to come in as an old, white host and still feel fresh and edgy.

Of course, Crystal has done this eight other times with great success, so he stuck to what works. The opening short film was as inspired as always, with Crystal inserting himself in the year’s biggest films in imaginative and hilarious ways. And although his requisite showtune number about the nominees felt a little forced, Crystal’s strength, as usual, shone through in his direct, biting humor.

After Academy President Tom Sherak’s speech, Crystal deadpanned sarcastically, “Thanks, Tom, for whipping the crowd into a frenzy.” In possibly his best bit, Crystal tried to read the minds of certain celebrities in the audience. For Brad Pitt, he said, “This better not go too late; I have six parent-teacher conferences in the morning.” When the camera focused on Nick Nolte, Crystal growled unintelligibly.

In a relatively lackluster year in American film, it seemed appropriate that the Oscars should be stormed by two films recalling Hollywood’s glory days, The Artist and Hugo. Perhaps in an attempt to increase movie theater attendance, the ceremony’s theme was retrospective on old Hollywood and cinema-going; Cirque du Soleil performed an act about the film-watching experience, and actors talked about the first films they ever saw in confession-booth-style interviews. The former brought time-filling spectacle, and the latter tried to bring humanity to the industry, but came off a little affected. Though the show still came in at just under four hours, it seemed a greater effort was made to expedite the process without losing the fun. Billy Crystal helped to lighten up a year of dark, personal films with familiar gags, but hopefully next year’s host can bring something truly original. The offer still stands, Eddie!

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