Ready for the ninth round?
Billy Crystal’s back at the podium, trying to erase memories of last year’s bipolar telecast of the Academy Awards. (Although maybe he can fit into James Franco’s dress.) Chris Rock, a 2005 alum, dubbed Crystal the “greatest Oscar host of all time.” Others in the Twitterverse have been less charitable, with snide wags wondering if “Footloose” will win best picture.
[See more: Billy Crystal’s Oscar highlights]
Crystal gets to be the knight in shining armor — OK, maybe more like the uncle in a warm Snuggie — since Eddie Murphy stepped out. Of course, there are still regrets over what could have been with Murphy presiding. “Eddie Murphy had the potential to be the greatest Oscar host of all time,” says Tom O’Neil, editor of GoldDerby. “He was perfectly cast: the ultimately Hollywood insider, a film industry veteran with comedic skills, and he knows how to work a room. That’s why standup comics like Billy Crystal do well: If things go wrong in a live environment, they can turn it into gold. The problem with Eddie is his attitude, of course. He’s not a warm fuzzy guy.”
But Crystal, who will be halfway through Bob Hope’s 18-show record, does have the warm fuzzies. He has also brought some of Oscar’s finest moments — whatever you say about Crystal, he knows how to make an entrance. Here’s a roundup, with tips from USA Today, the Record, ABC News, Digital Spy, and others.
“Where’s that big terrible number that usually opens the Oscars?” (1990): Who hasn’t died a little inside after witnessing the Oscars in full cheese production mode? Crystal played the savior in his very first gig in 1990, when the show returned to the solo-host format after the 1989 implosion, with acts that included a singing Rob Lowe and what the Associated Press called “an unauthorized Snow White impersonator.” Crystal was one of the few to get a thumbs-up, and he had already proved himself as a Grammy awards host. Some critics thought the show still dragged, but he got thumbs-up for his monologue and the medley.
[ Related: More memorable Academy Award moments at Oscar.com ]
“I’m having some of the academy over to dinner. Care to join me?” (1992): “Silence of the Lambs” would make Oscar history that night, so Crystal set the mood by being wheeled in on a dolly and wearing the Hannibal Lecter mask. With creepy sepulchral choir music playing in the background, he walked to the seats and extended a dinner invitation to Anthony Hopkins.
“I’m Spartacus” (1993): Before the Chuck Norris generator, Crystal got a chance to riff off best-supporting-actor winner Jack Palance’s one-handed pushup acceptance with reports that he bungee-jumped off the Hollywood sign, met up with the orbiting space shuttle, won Sexiest Man Alive, and would be hosting the following year. Right on cue about 12 months later, the “City Slickers” co-star — now 74 — towed Crystal onstage on a giant statuette. Palance, maybe even cuter than Beechnut.
“What are the stars thinking about during the show” (2000). The host looked into his Crystal ball Spoilers: “Oh, this thong is killing me” (Judi Dench) “I see white people” (Ving Rhames). “You know what? I’m still the coolest guy in the room” (Jack Nicholson).
Mash-up and so much Moore (2004): Reprising his 1997 and 2002 montages, Crystal didn’t just insinuate himself into the biggest blockbusters and best pics in 2004, from “Pirates of the Caribbean” to “Lord of the Rings.” He managed to pull a nude scene with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, pulled in Bill Murray in a same-sex union (“There you are, get out of bed! We’re legal in Massachusetts! We got to call the caterer and the rabbi and your mother …”), and crushed documentarian Michael Moore.
“Where was I?” (2011): A relieved audience gave a standing ovation as Crystal came out for a cameo, in a salute to Bob Hope. The moment displayed less his comedic timing (although he did do that), but his sentimental reverence for the industry.