Talkback: After Billy Crystal's Tepid Turn, Who Would Make the Ultimate Oscar Host?
Some folks out there may have enjoyed Billy Crystal's ninth outing as host of the Academy Awards last night, but his turn was as tepid as James Franco's 2011 "performance" was bizarre. Crystal's Oscars-themed song and dance routine? Dated. The weak banter and soft barbs at Hollywood's gathered illuminati? Snoozeville. Given that the previously and frequently great Crystal was upstaged by the night's random moments (Angelina Jolie's leg, J. Lo's boob, those Cirque du Soleil acrobats) and young, actually funny presenters (the Bridesmaids crew and Emma Stone) it's time to start anew and refresh what's already known as the fussiest night in the film calendar. In other words: Who would make the ultimate, charismatic, hilarious, non-sucky Oscar host?
Let's start by taking anyone who already hosted the Oscars off the board, for freshness' sake; that includes 2005 host Chris Rock, who provided last night's telecast with a much-needed jolt of real talk hilarity as he presented Best Animated Feature. Or, say, Ellen Degeneres, Emmy-nominated for her 2006 turn, who was nonetheless all over the tube Oscar night in those movie-themed JC Penney ads.
The tradition of hiring comedians to host is a longstanding one that paid off in spades in the days of Bob Hope (who hosted a record 18 shows). But these days even the most daring, subversive stand-ups (read: the funny ones) run up against the stifling sense of decorum perpetuated by the older-skewing Academy; it seems you either get an "edgier" host who dares to push the envelope and draw in the coveted younger demographic -- Bieber alone can't cut it, even if the ill-advised blackface gets press -- or you hire a safe host who won't go too far and bore everyone to death. In fairness to Crystal, he was saddled with an awfully boring script. The few sparks of life only came in the odd ad-lib or when he roasted celebs in the audience, but even that devolved into easy mean jokes. (Leave Nick Nolte alone!)
Another past Oscar trend was to cast a slew of famous actors to host the night -- charismatic personalities who split hosting duties and draw in diverse viewers. In 1974 it was the eclectic mix of John Huston, Burt Reynolds, David Niven, Diana Ross; a year later the Academy tapped Sammy Davis Jr, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Shirley MacLaine. Why not get the modern day equivalent of an A-lister superteam to host? I'm not talking Anne Hathaway and James Franco, but George Clooney! Robert Downey Jr.! Sandra Bullock! Cute little Emma Stone, for goodness sake!
Then again, maybe there are celebrities out there who could reinvigorate the Oscars solo: Oprah, for one? The talk show titan was batted around last year as a potential Oscar host before then-telecast co-producer Brett Ratner hired Eddie Murphy (who would also probably be great, if he were to come back). I'd watch an entire telecast hosted by Zach Galifianakis, even if it was a three-hour parade of weirdness on par with his and Will Ferrell's crash cymbals gag. If the Academy's older membership and demographic knew who the hell he was, Louis C.K. would be fantastically entertaining. And then there's Sacha Baron Cohen...
I'll turn it over to you, Movieliners -- who would make the perfect audience-grabbing, attention-holding non-snoozeworthy Oscar host... and would the Academy ever bite?