Oscars 2012: Billy Crystal makes nostalgic come-back
BILLY Crystal hosted the Oscars for the ninth time last night after an eight year absence.
If someone hosts Oscars nine times, there's probably a good reason. The genial comedian, who stepped in for Eddie Murphy, is second only in the all-time emcee list (it'll be hard for anyone to top Bob Hope's 19) and he has been doing since his first time as host in 1990.
The comedian, who has been voted second only to Bob Hope in the all-time list of favourite Oscar-presenters, took the awards ceremony back to a non-threatening, light-hearted tone.
The 63-year-old comedian did his best to keep the live broadcast moving with a mix of one-liners, song and the kind of comic set pieces that have enshrined him as one of the most beloved of Oscar emcees.
With a formal introduction by Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman, who set the tone for a traditional salute to the "magic of the movies," the show opened with one of Crystal's signature film montages, inserting the comedian into footage from the year's biggest pictures.
For the very first clip, from a scene in the silent-film homage "The Artist," Crystal was seen strapped into a chair while evil scientists send bolts of electricity into his head, and he shouts, in subtitled dialogue - "I won't host it, I won't host it, I tell ya."
Early reviews were mostly negative, with a number of critics panning the ABC broadcast and Crystal's performance as dull.
The Washington Post said Crystal "seemed to be overseeing a cruise ship dinner show designed to appeal to the over-50 travel club." The Hollywood Reporter's review ran under the headline: "Oscars Become Badly Paced Bore-fest." And Daily Variety's critic wrote that "Oscar unabashedly showed its age."
The New York Daily News, however, gave Crystal a thumbs-up, saying he "recaptured smartly the formula that worked for him in the past: quick-hit opening monologue, a song-and-dance number, then a sprinkling of jobs that had an edge but never drew blood."
Among the previous Oscars hosts generally considered to have shone are Hope, of course, whose self-deprecating humour - calling attention to his own lack of nominations - made him an Oscar favourite. He once quipped: Most memorable hosting quote: "Tonight we set aside petty differences, forget old feuds and start new ones."
Johnny Carson, king of the chat show, hosted the Academy Awards five times and was always at ease with celebrities. He came up with one of the Oscar's most memorable lines: "I see a lot of news faces, especially on the old faces."
In recent years, Whoopi Goldberg dazzled and Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin played off each other well and showed that a good pairing can work.
Among those considered to have flopped were David Letterman, who never returned to host after his one appearance in 1995, and Anne Hathaway and James Franco. That pair were supposed to engage a younger audience but were cloying and unengaging. Chevy Chase only ever did one solo gig and Jerry Lewis, when the 1959 wrapped up 20 minutes early, fell flat as he improvised and danced on stage to fill up the time.