Billy Crystal provides a ‘nice, safe Oscars,’ says a Toronto film critic. But is it enough?

Billy Crystal provides a ‘nice, safe Oscars,’ says a Toronto film critic. But is it enough?
by: Sheri Block

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Handing the Oscar reins to two young Hollywood stars was a risk that didn’t pay off last year so this time, the Academy is staying the course and bringing back long time hosting veteran, Billy Crystal.

“Crystal is such a known commodity that people aren’t wondering how it’s going to go because they know what they’re going to get. It’s a nice, safe kind of Oscars,” says Adam Nayman, a Toronto film critic with “The Grid” and “Cinema Scope.”

Knowing exactly what they’re going to get may be comforting for the Academy, but is it enough to attract viewers?

While Nayman isn’t a fan of the comedian’s old-school shtick, he says it’s exactly what the Academy is looking for.

“Billy Crystal has no edge. That’s not necessarily a criticism . . . The show had plenty of edge last year and it sucked. It was low rated because while people like Anne Hathaway and James Franco are obviously well-known actors and successful, I don’t think they appealed to that big mainstream viewing audience.”

Eddie Murphy was the Academy’s original choice for the 2012 Oscars but after producer Brett Ratner made an anti-gay slur and was fired, Murphy quit.

The Academy then called in 63-year-old Crystal, who has hosted the awards eight previous times beginning in 1990. He has hosted some of the most successful Oscar telecasts in history over the years, including the highest-rated show ever in 1998 when “Titanic” swept the awards.

Nayman says it’s telling that in a year where the two big Oscar contenders, “The Artist” and “Hugo,” pay homage to early filmmaking that the show itself is nostalgic for an older host in the vein of beloved hosts Bob Hope (who holds the record for hosting the Oscars at 19 times) and Johnny Carson.

“Crystal’s the kind of guy who can be a little naughty or a little dirty but it’s always in a way that (won’t offend) the target demographic of slightly older American viewers. Billy Crystal will never do the equivalent of M.I.A. putting the middle finger up at the Super Bowl halftime show,” says Nayman.

“I’m sure he will come out and say something like, ‘Only in a year where a silent movie and a movie like ‘Hugo’ are nominated for best picture would you have a relic like me host the show. The jokes write themselves.”

But Crystal, who hosted his last Oscars in 2004, just might have some modern tricks up his sleeve after all. After announcing he’d host the show via Twitter, he took to the social media site on Thursday to continue the buzz.

“#Oscars are a few days away,” he wrote. “Tonight I might tweet winner of best supporting actor. Really, who can stop me?”

Crystal is aware though that some of the younger viewers may not even know who he is. 

“Hopefully, they’ll watch the show and they'll say, ‘He’s really funny.’ That’s important to me,” Crystal told Entertainment Weekly.

Etalk host Ben Mulroney, who is currently gearing up to cover the red carpet live Sunday night, hopes Crystal is as good as he remembers him.

“And I sure hope the people watching at home appreciate how good he is. I hope he’s not seen as ‘yesterday’s man,’” says Mulroney.

“I want him to succeed. I think he’s got all the tools to succeed. I would hate to read the next day that people didn’t get him, or that he was too old . . . He’s the consummate host.”

Regardless of whether Crystal is able to bring in viewers, Nayman says the Academy will find a way to spin it in their favour.

“If the ceremony does well then it’s a sign that . . . this old-style Hollywood insider show biz thing is a good idea and if it doesn’t work they’ll say, ‘no, no, no’ we need to re-invent again and be forward thinking.”



About SheriSheri Block has been covering entertainment for since 2008. In addition to covering Will and Kate’s Royal Wedding in London, Sheri’s highlights have included going on tour with “Canadian Idol,” being a stand-in on “Canada’s Next Top Model” and meeting Colin Farrell at the Toronto International Film Festival.Follow her on Twitter!


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