The changing of the Oscar telecast guard that took place these last few days is enough to give anyone whiplash. During a Q&A following a screening of his movie Tower Heist, director Brett Ratner, who was set to co-produce (with Don Mischer) this winter’s Oscar telecast, used a gay slur when answering a question about his rehearsal process.
It was, perhaps, an innocuous remark, but one that had far-reaching consequences – enough that Ratner resigned from the role. Shortly thereafter, host (and Tower Heist cast member) Eddie Murphy also stepped down as planned Oscar host. Brian Grazer (who is, ironically, a Tower Heistproducer) stepped forward as Ratner’s replacement, and Billy Crystal announced (via tweet) that he would host the Oscars for his ninth overall time.
I won’t comment on the derogatory term used by Ratner or whether he should or should not have been pressured to resign, though I do think there were other political maneuverings going on behind the scenes before this scandal began. But I am saddened at the thought that I won’t be able to see Murphy play host anymore. Few know how to play to a mixed crowd better than the star of Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America. Though he’s never hosted the big show before, Murphy did give a jaw-dropping extended monologue before presenting Best Picture 23 years ago. And I was curious to see if he would mention hisDreamgirls nomination five years ago (he famously stormed out after losing to relative upset Alan Arkin).
But if Murphy’s exit is our loss as an audience, then Crystal’s entrance is certainly our gain. He is, hands down, the greatest emcee the telecast has ever had. Ever. And it’s clear after his appearance midway through last year’s abomination of a telecast (co-hosted to disaster – as I predicted- by James Franco and Anne Hathaway), he wants back in.
I hope Crystal reverts back to some of his signature Oscar moves, like his Best Picture medley, introducing each nominee to the tune of a well-known song. My favorites include singing about Beauty and the Beast to the opening song for “The Patty Duke Show” (“But they’re paintings/ just wonderful paintings from Disney’s mob/ They look like us/ They talk like us/ Sometimes they even walk like us/ It could make you sob/ ‘Cuz us actors…are out of a job!”). And with as many as 10 potential Best Picture nominees, think of the possibilities!
Crystal also knows how to improvise better than anyone. Think of how he turned City Slickers co-star Jack Palance’s one-armed push-ups into a running gag. And he looks like he really cares. Watch him beam as best friends and Comic Relief cohorts Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams won their Supporting statuettes. He knows that Oscar night is for fans and nominees alike, and caters to that sweet spot where nerves and excitement merge.
So yes, I am sad about the circumstances leading up to Murphy’s exit. But given his replacement, it’s clear that this year’s Academy Awards telecast will finally be one worth watching. It’s Crystal clear.
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