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Enough with Billy Crystal’s fluff songs

Billy Crystal had one his less successful turns Academy Awards stage Sunday. | KevWinter~Getty Images

Billy Crystal had one of his less successful turns on the Academy Awards stage on Sunday. | Kevin Winter~Getty Images

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Updated: March 28, 2012 8:14AM

Watching Billy Crystal host the Oscars made me do the impossible: Wish James Franco was back.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. But the veteran emcee — only Bob Hope has hosted more Oscars — left his A game at home Sunday. At least Crystal’s mediocre monologue was consistent with a mediocre 84th installment of Hollywood’s biggest awards ceremony.

That’s not to say the evening lacked any laughs. Things got off to a promising start during Crystal’s video montage where he injected himself into clips of the nine nominees for best picture. George Clooney planting one on a bedridden Crystal a la “The Descendants” worked well. So did Justin Bieber’s appearance.

“I’m here to get you the 18- to 24-year-old demographic,” Bieber said, poking fun at the Academy’s perennial quest to attract young viewers.

But things began to unravel when Crystal followed up with a long, boring and barely audible singing number, not to mention one too many jokes about Christopher Plummer’s advanced age.

Not helping matters was the fact that Crystal was one pair of eyeglasses away from convincing the people of North Korea that their dearly departed leader is not only alive, he’s hosting the Oscars.

More than once I wanted to flip over to Showtime for the “House of Lies” marathon, especially when the Oscars turned into a PSA. Enough with the reminders of how great it is to go to the cineplex. If people are tuning into the Oscars, they’re probably somewhat into movies.

Here are the evening’s hits and misses:


† Cirque du Soleil’s always entertaining performance. It had nothing to do with the Oscars, of course. Maybe that’s why I liked it.

† Chris Rock presenting best animated feature film. In a room full of people who think they’re doing the Lord’s will, Rock gave them a dose of reality when he blasted actors for saying that animation is hard work. “No. UPS is hard work,” Rock said. “Strippin’ wood is hard work.” Animation, Rock explained, is when you stand in a booth, repeat lines and walk away with $1 million. He gets my vote for Oscar host. And president.

† Crystal guessing what actors in the audience are thinking. Brad Pitt: “This better not go too late. I have six parent-teacher conferences in the morning.” For Nick Nolte: Five seconds of nothing but “blahhhrahhblehhhlahhh.”

† Wearing a black dress cut up to her chin, presenter Angelina Jolie showed some leg and was so distracted by her own beauty, she flubbed her lines. That was a miss. The hit came when a subsequent winner for adapted screenplay (“The Descendants”) took to the stage and mimicked Jolie’s awkward pose. I liked that, but I bet Jennifer Aniston liked it more.

† “Bridesmaids” Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph talking about short and long films as a euphemism for men parts, and Melissa McCarthy pulling a small bottle of vodka from her cleavage to take a swig when someone said “Scorsese” (a follow-up to a drinking game the ladies started at the SAG Awards earlier this year).


† The acceptance speech by the frat boys who took the stage when “Undefeated” won as best documentary feature. One of them had to be bleeped. The piano started playing but they kept yakking, even after their mike was turned off. Should have taken a cue from the Best Picture winner and Shut. Up.

† The microphone mishaps were inexcusable. I must have missed half a dozen tepid jokes thanks to the buzzing feedback that plagued a good portion of the show. But I should cut them some slack. It’s not like they had anyone there who knows anything about sound.

† Way to attract those younger viewers, Oscars: Do a black-and-white shtick about a focus group for the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.” What? No footage from the Great Depression lying around?

† Worst joke of the night goes to the two guys who won the sound editing award with their “Hugo”/no “Hugo” gag. There wasn’t an actor in the theater good enough to pretend that was funny. The winning duo proceeded to make things worse by using the word “indefatigable.” But they made a nice recovery and ended on a high note when one of them thanked “everybody who’s here tonight and everybody who isn’t. And everybody who’s ever been born and may be born … if I’ve forgotten anybody then you probably know who you are.”

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