Billy Crystal Offers Stale Schtick at the Oscars

Billy Crystal returned last night for the ninth time to host the Oscars. The ceremony was given a retro “Going to the movies” theme, and much of the comedian’s schtick seemed to match that sentiment. With a classless Jonah-Hill-has-a-weight-problem zinger, one too many Bar Mitzvah jokes, and a dreadful singing number, Crystal just seemed stale.

Overall, this year’s show had a strangely anxious tone to it. There were rambling montages that seemed to have little point other than to remind audiences that movies are awesome, along with celebrity testimonials explaining why movies are awesome. With filmgoers becoming more and more comfortable with downloading, legally and illegally, their favorites onto their iPhones, Hollywood’s fear of a music-industry-style collapse was palpable. Given that, Crystal’s presence was no doubt comforting to academy members.

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Of course, Crystal wasn’t originally supposed to host the Oscars. Eddie Murphy had been tapped by then-producer Brett Ratner. Then the director/producer resigned in November of last year for making homophobic remarks and for generally being Brett Ratner. It’s fun to speculate what a Murphy-led Oscars would be like. Though in his heyday the comedian was easily one of the funniest people around, he’s also proved to have some massive lapses in judgment and taste (see: “Norbit,” “Meet Dave,” “Imagine That,” etc. etc.). He’s also proved to be erratic; this is the guy who stormed out of the Oscars when he didn’t win best-supporting actor for “Dreamgirls,” after all. So an Oscar ceremony with Murphy at the helm could either have been hilarious or, more likely, garish and mean-spirited. Either way, Crystal was and Murphy would have been better compared to last year’s fiasco, which was led by Anne Hathaway, who grew more and more gratingly shrill as the night wore on, and James Franco, who simply checked out.

With this year’s Oscars wrapping just last night, there’s already discussion about who might helm the ceremony next year. Of the hosts during this awards season, LL Cool J, an admittedly unlikely choice for the Oscars, failed to impress at the Grammys, and Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes just felt played-out. Seth Rogen, on the other hand, was terrific at the Independent Spirit Awards. Funny, humble, and at ease in front of the mike, he would be a great Oscar MC.

See ‘Celebrate the Movies’ poster gallery >>

The Twitterverse is already calling for Emma Stone or Robert Downey Jr. to host or, alternatively, Angelina Jolie’s leg. Another possible choice is Sacha Baron Cohen. Dressed as a third-world potentate, he provided the best moment of the night before the ceremony even began, when he dumped an urn full of ashes down the front of Ryan Seacrest’s tux on the red carpet. Cohen’s gonzo antics will not, most likely, make the academy members feel comfortable, but then the public at large isn’t all that interested in the comfort of Harvey Weinstein. They want to be entertained, and Cohen as host would, no doubt, be great television.

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