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Category: Billy Crystal

Did Billy Crystal get a fair shake at the 2012 Oscars?

June 13, 2012 |  3:59 pm



The reviews weren’t exactly kind to Billy Crystal after he hosted the Oscars  for the ninth time this past February.

 The Hollywood Reporter called the telecast a “safe, unfunny, retro-disaster.” A Variety critic wrote that “the whole introductory sequence [including a Crystal-sung medley about nominated movies] felt like a pallid sequel, a ghost of Oscars past.” The Times’ Mary McNamara noted that the Oscars “wound up seeming much more bittersweet and, yes, boring, than retro-cool.”

But a key writer on the show said Crystal didn’t get a fair shake.

“It was frustrating because for the 10 years that Billy was away, every review for every host came with ‘Bring back Billy. Where’s Billy? Where’s the opening song and movie?’” said Dave Boone, a writer on the 2012 (and many previous) Oscars and head writer for the Tony Awards on Sunday. “It’s a tough situation, and it’s tougher on the host.”

Boone added, “You’re always going to find people who the next day say, ‘Same old, same old.’ But those are the same people who were writing for 10 years to bring him back.”

The medley was a particular bone of contention for some critics. Crystal turned it into a trademark when he hosted in the 1990s and early 2000s, but some reviewers felt it harked back to a comedy that has gone out of fashion.

But Boone said the decision to include it -- after much internal debate -- was a direct response to fan interest.

“Billy would be in Gelson’s and people would come up to him and say, ‘I hope you do the medley,'” Boone said. “So we felt we owed it to the people who wanted to see it.”

 The motion picture academy likely won’t choose the 2013 producer and host until later this summer, after a new president is elected. It’s unclear what direction it will  go in — ratings were up in 2012, if slightly, over the previous year.

Boone said he hoped to be collaborating with Crystal on the telecast next year but also believes there's a creative reason to take time off. “You get to the point where you try to capture lightning in a bottle if you try to do things the same each year," he said.


Oscars 2012: The show celebrates its past

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Billy Crystal with Oscar statues. Credit: Getty Images

Israel's Shimon Peres reflects on Hollywood's global influence

March 9, 2012 |  3:15 pm

Shimon Peres at DreamWorks

Israeli President Shimon Peres told a movie and television industry audience at the DreamWorks Animation studio lot in Glendale on Friday that Hollywood often wields more influence across the globe than world leaders do.

"The children believe the actors more than politicians," Peres said to a crowd that included Billy Crystal, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross, CBS chief Les Moonves and Sony Pictures Chief Executive Michael Lynton, among other Hollywood executives.

After Katzenberg introduced the Israeli leader as "a real hero," Peres spoke for less than 10 minutes, urging "close cooperation between Hollywood and Israel" and reminding the audience that "among the founders of Hollywood there were many Jewish people."

Peres' visit to Los Angeles caps a weeklong U.S. tour for the Israeli president that included a private meeting with President Obama and an address at the Israel Political Affairs Committee's annual policy conference in Washington, a conversation with Charlie Rose before an audience in New York City and a stop at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.

Continue reading »

Oscars 2012: How would you overhaul the show? [poll]

February 28, 2012 | 11:26 am

Oscars 2012: Click for more photos

The ratings for Sunday’s 84th Academy Awards were up slightly from a year ago — more than 39 million people tuned in, compared with 2011’s audience of nearly 38 million. But very few people seemed that excited about the ceremony itself, and the Oscars were seen by fewer people than this year’s Grammys.

Many critics trashed host Billy Crystal, some detractors blamed the soulless acceptance speeches, while a handful of commentators found fault with the movies themselves. Only one best picture nominee, “The Help,” is a legitimate box-office hit, and “The Artist” may turn out to be the second lowest-grossing best picture winner (beating only “The Hurt Locker”) in the last 35 years.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says it enjoys little leeway in overhauling the broadcast. Like a three-hour football game in which the ball is in play only for a dozen minutes, there’s just 30 minutes or so in the Oscar show for anything original — all the other time is taken up by the presentation of the trophies. And the academy consistently has refused to consider moving awards such as sound mixing and art direction into a non-televised ceremony.

Some academy officials believe the show ain’t broke. "This is the best show we've ever had. Nothing has come close to this," the Wall Street Journal quoted Hawk Koch -- a candidate to be the academy's next president -- as telling Oscar producer Brian Grazer.

If you disagree, check out our poll. Assume you have unlimited power to renovate the Oscars. What would you do to make it more exciting?


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

'The Artist' is big winner at Academy Awards

Oscars 2012: What was Billy Crystal's lamest joke? [Poll]

Photo: Billy Crystal hosting the 84th Academy Awards. Credit: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press.

Oscars 2012: What was Billy Crystal's lamest joke? [Poll]

February 27, 2012 |  9:45 am


Billy CrystalThe reviews of pinch-hit Oscar host Billy Crystal, who replaced Eddie Murphy when he bolted with producer Brett Ratner, were mixed. Detractors said a little Borscht Belt schtick went a long way, while supporters thought Crystal brought some sharp wit to the proceedings.

As The Times' Greg Braxton reported, the evening had its share of uncomfortable moments and instances of what appeared to be cultural insensitivity. And Crystal quickly came under fire in social media for a couple of his bits.

Among them:

Crystal appeared in blackface as Sammy Davis Jr. during the show’s opening film montage. Crystal as Davis Jr. — a throwback to his days on “Saturday Night Live” — parodied Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris" with Justin Bieber.

Crystal joked shortly after Octavia Spencer's supporting actress win for “The Help” that he loved the film so much he came out of the theater wanting to hug the first black woman he saw. “Which, from Beverly Hills," he quipped, "is about a 45-minute drive.”

PHOTOS: Red carpet arrivals | Quotes | Winners | Best & Worst

Whatever your view, there were any number of Crystal jokes that landed with a thud. What was his biggest miss? Vote in our poll:


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

'The Artist' is big winner at Academy Awards

Angelina Jolie's right leg and other odd Oscar moments

Photo: Billy Crystal hosting the 84th annual Academy Awards. Credit: Associated Press / Mark J. Terrill.

Oscars 2012: Comics on why Billy Crystal rocks the Academy Awards

February 9, 2012 |  1:13 pm

Billy Crystal at the 2004 Oscars
With Billy Crystal set to host this year’s Academy Awards, a sense of dread over the show's prospects has been lifted: With eight previous telecasts under his belt, Crystal is considered to be the consummate Oscar host.

Of course, as fellow comic Paul Rodriguez notes, familiarity is a good thing in awards host jobs: “Everybody in the business is watching,” he says. “It’s the Super Bowl of show business. He’s safe.”

It’s also necessary, says comic Tom Papa, to be able to have experience with a difficult audience, as comics often do: “As the night goes on, four out of five people in that audience are losers, and disappointed. Halfway through that show you have a very tough crowd to make laugh.”

PHOTOS: Billy Crystal at the Oscars

And you have to be fast on your feet. “It’s not like you can take ad lib classes," adds Patton Oswalt, costar of “Young Adult” and host of three ceremonies himself this awards season. "Someone can’t train for the Oscars. You’d better have been doing the training for decades before you ever get there, or it’s going to be bad.” See the full story on what else the comedians have to say about Crystal.

Throughout his previous appearances, Crystal has proved to be fast on the draw, able to pick up on unexpected failures (technological and human) and completely willing to look ridiculous in pursuit of the laugh. Whether being wheeled out on a dolly as Hannibal Lecter, having a conversation with Yoda or letting us know what’s really on Judi Dench’s mind mid-show, Crystal makes the whole hosting gig look easy. Given his track record -- view some highlights below -- this year should be no different.

Billy as Hannibal Lecter (1992): After being wheeled onstage wearing the face guard from “The Silence of the Lambs,” Crystal heads straight for that night’s eventual lead actor winner, Anthony Hopkins (who played the cannibalistic Lecter) and says, “I’m having some of the academy over for dinner. Care to join me?”

Billy in the Movies (1997): Classic example of Crystal as a character in several of the films being celebrated, plus a little song and dance.

Billy the Psychic (2000): Billy lets the audience in on “What the Stars are Thinking.”


PHOTOS: Billy Crystal at the Oscars

With Billy Crystal hosting, have the Oscars given up on youth?

— Randee Dawn

Photo: Host Billy Crystal at the 2004 Oscar ceremonies. Credit: Gary Hershorn / Reuters.

Oscars: Billy Crystal stars in Funny or Die-produced trailer

January 5, 2012 |  7:14 pm

Oscars: Billy Crystal stars in Funny or Die-produced trailer

Where in the world is Billy Crystal? In an Oscar trailer, of course. And somewhere in Mongolia, fictionally speaking.

Although last year’s TV spots for the Oscars telecast featured soon-to-be-panned James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts in training for the ceremony, this year is just the opposite, with experience as the focus of the show's promotion. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is highlighting Crystal's return in a trailer produced with Funny or Die, the comedy website that has provided such viral video moments as Will Ferrell encountering his 2-year-old landlord.

Playing out like an overly dramatic preview for an adventure movie, the trailer, titled "Off the Grid,"  features a search for Crystal led by Josh Duhamel and Megan Fox. (Is it a sign that the Oscars haven't given up on their endeavor to reel in young viewers?) A booming voice announces, "They were charged with tracking down a legend."

"We wanted to try something a little bit different this year instead of a traditional, clip-based piece," academy chief marketing officer Christina Kounelias said in a statement. "The trailer has a fun twist that conveys how excited everyone is to have Billy back."

In addition to starring Duhamel, Fox and Mr. Oscar Host himself, the trailer for the 2012 Oscars features cameo performances by William Fichtner, Vinnie Jones and past Academy Awards co-host Robin Williams.

Starting Friday, the trailer will run in more than 2,000 theaters. The 84th annual Academy Awards, which will be Crystal's ninth time hosting, take place Feb. 26. Watch the trailer below.


Billy Crystal to host 2012 Oscars

Oscars not lacking for excitement

With Billy Crystal hosting, have the Oscars given up on youth?

-- Emily Rome

Photo: Billy Crystal mimics the Oscar statues after it was announced that he would host the 2004 Academy Awards. Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

Week in review: Academy Awards implosion [video]

November 11, 2011 |  5:29 pm


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been in crisis management mode this week with the ousting of Brett Ratner, who had been set to produce the 2012 Oscar telecast with Don Mischer, and the subsequent departure of Ratner's handpicked host, Eddie Murphy. The academy leadership quickly replaced the duo with a much more conventional pairing: producer Brian Grazer and veteran host Billy Crystal.

The Times' Nicole Sperling and Steve Zeitchik discuss this week's turmoil at the academy and comment on what the new guard means for an organization that continually has tried to appeal to a younger demographic, only to see its attempts backfire.



Oscars not lacking for excitement

Billy Crystal steps in to host the 2012 Oscars show

Brett Ratner quits Oscars after using anti-gay slur

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Billy Crystal poses with the the iconic Oscar statues Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

With Billy Crystal hosting, have the Oscars given up on youth?

November 11, 2011 |  9:42 am

Billy Crystal

For a television event bent on attracting younger viewers, the Oscars' naming of 63-year-old Billy Crystal as its host seems like the strangest of moves. Crystal was last seen in a hit film in 1999, a year when 25-years-olds would have been in the full flower of puberty and were unlikely be to watching that hit, "Analyze That" (though their grandparents surely loved it).

Yes, Crystal generates a lot of goodwill for his impressive Oscar tenure. But that tenure began in 1989 -- a fuzzy pre-Bill Clinton era for most who fall into any kind of choice Madison Avenue demographic.

Yet all the hand-wringing over Crystal's appeal suggests a different question: What if the Oscars chose the actor not in spite of his age but because of it? The common belief is that Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wants to freshen up the show to reel in young viewers. But the truth of it is that the Oscars have already tried a youth movement, and it hasn't worked.

Back in 2006 and 2008, it tapped Jon Stewart, a paragon of campus comedy, to host the show. The move flopped: His 2006 reviewers were middling. And while they were better in 2008, the show drew the worst ratings (31.7 million total viewers) of the modern era. Whoever came because of Stewart was more than offset by those who tuned out.

Last year, the academy went with the youngest co-hosts in history in James Franco and Anne Hathaway (the latter of whom, incidentally, was 6 years old when Crystal hosted his first Oscars). The move backfired -- ratings were tepid, their reviews were icebaths and the show gained attention mainly because Franco and writer Bruce Vilanch spent the next five months sniping at each other.

This year, of course, the Oscars hired Brett Ratner, who with the "Rush Hour" and "X-Men" franchises made movies the kids did come out to see. But It backfired in an even bigger way when Ratner went on Howard Stern to talk about his sexual habits. Sometimes when you go young, you wind up with juvenile.

So here we are with Crystal, along with producer Brian Grazer, who's had many hit films, the bulk of them in the 1980s and 1990s, too (his 2011 movies: "The Dilemma," "Cowboys & Aliens," "Restless," "Tower Heist" and "J. Edgar").

If there's a comfort level for the academy in choosing two veteran hands such as that, there's also a comfort-food element in it for us: We see them and we know what we're getting.

Maybe most significantly for the academy, Crystal's Oscars telecasts were some of the highest-rated the ceremony have ever known -- his 1998 show, in fact, attracted the most viewers in history, a whopping 57 million (admittedly aided by "Titanic"). And most of the people who watched and liked him then are still around now.

Crystal also proved his enduring stage appeal with his Bob Hope tribute at this year's Oscars, and, more comprehensively, with his 2005 Tony winner "700 Sundays," a show about his late father that was moving and funny, if also a little too willing to pound the nostalgia ivories. ("Remember records?" he asked the audience, which evidently did.)

Crystal also clearly really wanted the gig, something that can't be said of Eddie Murphy and others who've been named host in recent years.

The performer will bring his own appeal, his own sensibility, his own writers. The youth movement has by and large not worked. The academy knows this, and decided, apparently, that it wanted numbers more than buzz. There's always the possibility that younger people tune in to see what the fuss is about, or even make Crystal a kind of mascot, Betty White-style, though that seems unlikely.

The higher-ups in the academy seem to have decided it wouldn't chase young viewers, at least not this year, and go instead with those who made it the event it's become. In political terms, it's decided to consolidate the base instead of pursuing the disaffected. And for all the easy shots you can take, can you blame them? That move might not make for groundbreaking candidates or policy. But it's won more than a few elections.


Billy Crystal named host of 2012 Oscars

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Nine people the Oscars could turn to in their hour on need?

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Billy Crystal at the 2000 Oscars. Credit: Gary Hershorn / Reuters.

Billy Crystal to host 2012 Oscars

November 10, 2011 |  2:15 pm

This post has been corrected; please see bottom for details.

Billy Crystal tweeted Thursday, in what some construed as a joke, "Am doing the Oscars so the young woman in the pharmacy will stop asking my name when I pick up my prescriptions. Looking forward to the show." Now, two sources familiar with the 2012 Oscars telecast who were not authorized to talk publicly confirmed that  Crystal would host, replacing the recently departed Eddie Murphy.

A spokeswoman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and  Sciences did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

At age 63, Crystal would be the oldest solo host of the show since Bob Hope in 1978.

Crystal, who has hosted some of Oscars' most successful modern telecasts, had been a popular public choice since Murphy departed Wednesday. The chorus first began when Crystal appeared on the 2011 show presenting a tribute to Hope.

During an August appearance at the Aero theater in Santa Monica, Crystal admitted that he got "itchy" after last winter's cameo on the Oscars and that he'd be ready to talk about a return to the global stage of the gala.

 "It got to be too much after a while and the sameness in my life," he said. "That's why I pulled back. And then when I thought I might want to do it again, they were on to other people. It's always fun. It's really hard, but maybe one or two more times? I don't know. They know where I am."

Crystal, at the Santa Monica event, elaborated on the stress and pleasures of the one-of-a-kind Oscars gig.

"I so appreciate that you like when we do it," he said. "And I had a good time doing them. I did eight of them. And it takes a long time. I sort of stopped doing it -- I would do it in patches -- and then fortunately, I was doing other things that I wanted to do. [It takes a long time] in order to do the things we did -- and [those things] change the way a host was working on the show. We started doing the medley with Mark [Shaiman], and then those got really funny. Then we entered the films, you know, cutting into the nominated movies, and that started taking a really long time. I was working four or five months just on the Oscars."

The 84th Academy Awards will be broadcast live by ABC on Feb. 26 from the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood.

{For the Record, Nov. 10, 2:37 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said Billy Crystal would be the oldest Oscars host since 1978. He would be the oldest solo host since that year; co-hosting the 2010 show with Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin was 64.]


Brian Grazer to produce the Oscars

Brett Ratner's gay slur: Can the academy really be surprised?

Academy president: 'I was appalled' hearing Ratner on Howard Stern

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Billy Crystal mimics the Oscar statues at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after it was announced that he would host the 76th Academy Awards. Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images.

Eddie Murphy's Oscar host replacement ideas aplenty on Twitter

November 9, 2011 |  2:37 pm

Neil Patrick Harris, Billy Crystal and Ricky Gervais hosting award shows

Twitter topic of the day: Who should host the 2012 Oscars? Eddie Murphy is out of the Oscar hosting gig after Brett Ratner’s resignation from producing the telecast, and the Internet has stepped in with a slew of ideas for a new host.

The names tossed around perhaps more than any others are Oscar hosting veteran Billy Crystal and “How I Met Your Mother” star Neil Patrick Harris, who has hosted both the Tonys and Emmys. No word yet from either actor about whether they’d take on the job (though Harris did talk about anti-campaigning to host last week). Robin Williams has already told Moviefone that he’s not interested. Two-time controversial Golden Globe Awards host Ricky Gervais tweeted, “Can't believe all shouts for me to host Oscars. Really appreciate it but I don't think it's my kinda gig. Although that's the fun sometimes.”

Celebrities, journalists and other Twitter users have supplied a slew of 140-characters-or-less suggestions for the Academy — serious and joking alike.

"Does this mean Puss In Boots is hosting the Oscars?" — Damon Lindelof

"We're six hours away from the announcement that Billy Crystal is coming back." — Damon Lindelof

"Our Pick: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler!" — Michael Ausiello, TVLine

"Now Eddie Murphy quits as Oscar host. Should Billy Crystal be waiting by the phone?" — Dave Karger, Entertainment Weekly

"Wait - NPH! Neil Patrick Harris is a perfect Oscar host: funny, relevant, sings, dances. He should get 1st dibs." — @HonuDan

"Now that Brett Ratner & Eddie Murphy are gone, Lars Von Trier should direct the Oscars, Mel GIbson to produce & Michael Richards to present." — Matt Lucas

"BREAKING: Dan Aykroyd to replace Eddie Murphy for Oscar host as part of a bet by two callous millionaires." — @douggpound

"My choices for next year's Oscar host: Billy Crystal, The Muppets, Ron Swanson" — @dav_mcg

"Eddie Murphy stands down as Oscar host? Someone, quick, light the Neil Patrick Harris signal! — Andrew Shaw, Lostinthemultiplex.com

"Wanted: Ricky Gervias for Oscar host!!" — Stephanie Ditta, Reuters

"Eddie Murphy quits as Oscar host. Whew! I still say bring on Oprah" — Caryn James, indieWIRE

"I guess a James Franco campaign isn't likely to work, huh?" — @WarmingGlow

"Can't believe Eddie Murphy now resigned as Oscar Host! They should get Hugh Jackman or Ellen again... they rule!!" — @KristinaBehr

"#Oscar host suggestions: Jason Segel, Kristen Wiig, Seth Meyers, Paul Rudd... What do we think?" — @2trina8

"I would like to take this moment to announce my candidacy to produce, host, and do the catering for the Oscars." — Adam B. Vary, Entertainment Weekly

"You don't need an Oscar host. The first winner presents 2nd award. That winner presents 3rd award. And so on, till the end. No commercials." — Garry Shandling


Eddie Murphy out as host of the Oscars

Brett Ratner resigns as Oscar producer after gay slur

With Eddie Murphy out of the Oscars, who should host?

— Emily Rome

Photos, from left: Neil Patrick Harris hosting the 2009 Emmy Awards (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times), Billy Crystal hosting the 2004 Oscars (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times), Ricky Gervais hosting the 2011 Golden Globes (Paul Drinkwater / NBC).


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