Billy Crystal was supposed to "save the Oscars." Many commentators heaved a sigh of relief when it was announced that Crystal, an eight-time Oscar host, would be stepping in for Eddie Murphy at this year's telecast. (Murphy resigned as host last November after his friend and Oscar producer Brett Ratner was fired for making homophobic remarks.) Critics predicted that Crystal's classic style was just what the Oscars needed after 2011's painful attempt to pander to the youth demographic with 20-something hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco, an experiment widely known as the "worst Oscars ever." And viewers were indeed treated to Crystal's signature Oscar bits, including an opening montage in which he was digitally inserted into the year's nominated films and an introductory medley. Did the throwback performance work?
Not at all: "Somewhere, against all odds, James Franco is buying drinks for everybody," says Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter. Franco got the lion's share of blame for last year's hosting debacle, but his efforts are looking better relative to Crystal's "safe, unfunny, retro-disaster." Last year's risky venture crashed and burned, but at least there was curio behind the trainwreck. Crystal's performance was a boring, stale, predictable "lounge act that was entirely too chummy and self-satisfied."
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It's what we thought we wanted. We were wrong: You know that movie you insist is your favorite though you haven't seen it for years? asks Gregory Ellwood at HitFix. You finally watch it again and think, "It's good, but not as great as I remember." That's what happened Sunday night with Billy Crystal. Nostalgic critics and Oscar enthusiasts were clamoring to have the host return to the stage for the ninth time, and he obliged by revisiting his classic bits. But his jokes, when they landed at all, were risk-free and uninspired. Credit Crystal for re-stablizing the Oscars after last year's disaster, but "this should mark his warmly received finale."
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Actually, Crystal gave a savvy performance: Crystal didn't deliver the kind of modern, Gervais-esque hosting performance that "had millions of thumbs hovering over the Twitter buttons," says David Hinckley at New York's Daily News. But so what? Sticking to formula, he delivered amusing comfort food that "kept the show percolating, kept the focus on the movies, and served up a few laughs." Considering that Crystal fell into the gig after Brett Ratner was fired for uncouth remarks, his reliance on "a sprinkling of jokes that had an edge but never drew blood" was a wise move.
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