The truth about Oscar telecasts is hosts only get so many opportunities to shine, and the opening is clearly the most significant of them. So having distinguished himself in the past with his tributes to the nominees, could Billy Crystal – looking tan, rested and ready – deliver back on the big stage? Frankly, his whole opening bit felt tired, and not just because the host had to labor to work in nine nominees this time around.
Crystal didn’t acknowledge the controversy that led to him being tapped as a belated replacement to host, but proceeded to build his musical number around his personal angst over whether he should return for a ninth time. That felt especially strained, since there was a sense Crystal had been sitting by the phone just waiting for the call.
The film montage featured some clever edits – the juxtaposition of scenes from “The Help” and “Bridesmaids” was especially good – but again, hard to escape a nagging feeling this is going to be a night filled with bouts of déjà vu. And nine movies, in song form, turned out to be several bridges too far.
If there are surprises to come, in other words, one suspects they’ll have to be derived from what the late Gil Cates called “the award show gods.” Then again, after the departure of the originally announced producer and host, Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy, the Academy no doubt felt a little predictability wasn’t such a bad thing, after all.