The 2012 Oscars were a vast improvement over the 2011 Oscars for one reason. No, not because there were more surprises–they were just as predictable. Not because of star power either–the stars were out both years. The reason why this year’s Oscar telecast was the best it’s been in years–Billy Crystal.
Crystal might not be the Oscar host the Academy wants, but he is the host they need. You might think him to be too “old school” or too “borscht belt” but you need a Master of Ceremonies that has experience running an event with this much glitz and glamour. You need someone at ease in his role and not afraid to seem foolish. You need someone who rolls with the punches a live show throws at them, joking all the way. And you need someone who can make a three and a half hour show fly by in such a way that the audience says “They’re at Best Picture already?” instead of “When are they ever going to get to Best Picture”. You need someone who can make the ceremony fun and exciting, not seem like the Bataan Death March of awards shows.
You get all this and more with Crystal. Granted, his night wasn’t perfect (His “you’re in his eye sight” line when Christian Bale came out would have been funnier if his Terminator: Salvation set dust-up wasn’t four years and five movies ago) and he relied on old gags like “What are the celebrities thinking.” (because, well, they worked), but for the first time in years you had the sense that the Oscar host actually wanted to be there and was having fun while on stage. And this sense of joy translated to the presenters and winners as well.
There weren’t many surprises this year. Meryl Streep might have seemed like one, but her Oscar win was not unforseen. Woody Allen winning Best Original Screenplay came close to being a true upset, but even still it was widely acclaimed as Allen’s best work in years and not a complete surprise.
Now what stands out in my memory as the Best and Worst moments from last night’s telecast:
- The acceptance speeches from the acting winners: All showed genuine emotion and seemed natural and heartfelt. Touching.
- Christopher Guest & Company mocking the focus group: A little bit of insider editorial comment on the value of test screenings and a reminder why these people’s movies even at their worst are entertaining.
- The way Zack Galifianakis introduced himself: As someone with a long, hard to pronounce last name, I could truly appreciate this bit, even if no one else could.
- Jim Rash’s instantaneous mocking of Angelina Jolie: If you’re going to pose awkwardly to show off your gams to the world, leave it to the Community cast member and ex-Groundling to call you on it.
- Cutting off Octavia Spencer’s speech: Spencer’s speech was heartfelt and emotional. I was captivated and rapt. It was a great Oscar moment. And they rush her off the stage. The powers-that-be should know that while they do need to keep the proceedings moving, they should allow great moments like this one to just happen.
- “Hugo!” “No, Hugo!”: Why don’t you both go so we can get to the next award. Academy? This is the one you should have cut off.
- Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph’s introduction to Best Live Action Short: I hope this doesn’t sound prudish or misogynistic, and my anti-Kristen Wiig bias might be showing, but a penis joke? Really? Stay classy ladies.