Let's just be honest -- Billy Crystal looked like a deer in headlights last night. I grew up loving his medleys and his opening monologue, and couldn't wait to hear what smart ass comment he'd make on the fly next, but last night he phoned it in. It was as if he was preserved in time like Austin Powers, thawed out for the 84th Annual Academy Awards, and recycled past bits without trying at all to show off something fresh and new.
Crystal used to be sharp. His wit used to crack the crowd up in the audience and at home. Last night, I feel he took it easy on himself, figuring his "aura" of hosting in years past were enough to get the crowd on his side. But, Crystal's humor today isn't as funny as it was in, say, 1990. It was obvious last night. I don't remember the audience at anytime laughing uncontrollably like they use to. They didn't, and neither did I. I'm preaching to the choir, but the Academy Awards needs to choose an Oscar host with some balls -- someone who is willing to take risks instead of always playing it safe.
Crystal limped right out of the gate with his "safe" opening montage, which used to be a slam dunk. It was a whole bit of whether or not he should host again -- it was all so very, um, self-involved. And it felt forced and was terribly unfunny. His smooch with George Clooney was done clearly for "shocks" and cheap laughs but it would've been shocking and funnier in the 1980s to see two grown men kiss -- not now. I can go on... Crystal as TinTin? Really? He looked like Glenn Close in Albert Knobbs. Sammy Davis, Jr. impression? Happy 1984 everybody! Justin Bieber cameo? Crystal is the new Avis -- he way tries hard. It felt fitting that for the first of his couple jokes last night, the camera guys panned to Tony Bennett and older stars in the audience. This was a telecast for the Cocoon generation, and in that regard, Crystal didn't disappoint. How funny it was for Crystal to point out we whippersnappers can watch movies on our phones now!
Miracle Max's signature medley also felt off for the first time. I still remember his funny songs he used to sing about movies like Unforgiven and The Silence of the Lambs, but again, this isn't 1990 or 1991 anymore. if you heard any of those songs today, you'd remember them differently. They were funny then, but stale now. That didn't stop Crystal from doing the same schtick anyway. And oh how clever of him to point out we now have nine nominees instead of five when he last hosted! Wow!
Funny zingers Crystal used to let fly were also missing last night. Remember all those Jack Palance jokes that killed back in the day? He was so quick-witted back then, but he was off last night. I mean, did he really make a Beverly Hills "black" joke? Get Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler to do a "Really?" segment on that piece alone. Back in the day, I used to look forward to hearing what he'd say next. Last night, every time he popped up, I winced. His jokes were corny. His delivery was awkward. I mean didn't it seem every time he made a joke, he'd laugh nervously at it? Did he also know he had no control over the audience like he once had? Did he overestimate his appeal?
Enough with the safe choices, Academy. I get that Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy pooped the bed on this year's telecast, and that you needed a sure thing to host it, but I don't want to see Crystal host again -- ever. It would've been best if he had just went off on the highs from his first eight times. You know there was a reason in 1990 Crystal was brought in. It was because the tie had passed by former Oscar hosting legends. Johnny Carson or Bob Hope clearly couldn't comment on films like Lambs. It was a generational thing, and I think the Academy understood that.
Crystal mothballs asides, I actually enjoyed the show last night. I liked The Office-esque interviews with the stars sharing their favorite movie memories (I'm with you Reese Witherspoon -- Overboard is a great movie), Christopher Guest's focus group bit, and again, felt everything moved along very nicely. I even liked the Cirque du Soleil bit, which on paper, shouldn't have worked.
I just didn't care for the host anymore. We, as an audience, have grown up and grown out of his schtick. Watching Chris Rock kill it as a presenter for Best Animated Film made me realize just how good he was as Oscar host. He should come back and host. If the Academy doesn't want him because he tells the truth too much (man, that Jude Law joke was on-point when he hosted), I suggest they go with a trio of comedians: Seth Rogen, who was hilarious as Indie Spirit Awards host along with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, who stole the show in white tuxes and cymbals. At this point, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Conan O'Brien, Sacha Baron Cohen, Paul Rudd and/or Jason Segal would bring the Academy into the 2010s.
Sorry Billy... I hope this was your last. Your first eight gigs were like When Harry Met Sally... Last night's was more like My Giant or Forget Paris.
Follow Jon Chattman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asidesmusic