Monthly Archives: November 2011

Well, Hello Billy! It’s so nice to have you back where you belong!

Well, Hello Billy!  It’s so nice to have you back where you belong!

Yesterday, in the wake of Eddie Murphy’s egress from Oscar hosting duties, I was all ready to give the Academy an FYC of several people that I thought would be suitable to step in as MC for the 84th Annual Academy Awards.  I cobbled together a list that included Ricky Gervais, Steve Martin, Jack Black, NPH, and even Anne Hathaway (I’ll get to her in a minute).

One of the celebrities at the top of my list was Billy Crystal, and to my delight and pleasure, he stepped in within 24 hours for a ninth turn as host of the event.  I am delighted.  He has previously hosted the show in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2000, and 2004, and always to great success.  He hosted four years in a row between 1990 and 1993 and wisely dropped out a year before he would have to joke about Schindler’s List.  When he ditched his hosted duties in 1994 – leading to snore-inducing hosts that included Whoopi Goldberg and David Letterman – he was greeted with thunderous applause when he returned in 1997.  His first words upon his return: “So, where was I?”

Billy has the stature (he works in the film industry), and the personality.  He has the presence of a host from a by-gone era like Bob Hope and Johnny Carson, there’s a manner in which he contains himself that keeps things moving and isn’t riddled with nastiness.  His act may throw a ribald joke here and there but he keeps it at a level that is, at least, a PG.  Other acts have attempted to bring their own brand of humor that came off as a little self-indulgent.  Billy knows how to work the room.

Plus, Billy is a trooper.  Most memorably, he fielded a gaff that took place at the Oscars in 1992, when the Academy decided to pay tribute to comedy pioneer Hal Roach who was 100 years-old at the time.  The academy decided to let him give his remarks from his seat back in the 32nd row.  However, he had no microphone and so the home audience never got to hear what he had to say.  Billy immediately responded “I think that’s fitting because Mr. Roach started in silent films.”  Nice catch.

The academy’s recent hosts over the last 10 years or so have been a gallery of one failed attempt after another to liven up a deadly dull show.  The worst have been those in the arena of the academy’s attempt to attract younger viewers: Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, and worst James Franco, hosting with Anne Hathaway.  Hathaway had the chops and did a good job, but Franco was visibly nervous and many of his attempts at humor fell flat.  I think by suggesting Eddie Murphy, the producers of the show realize that finding a true comedian who has worked in the film industry is a wise idea.  Now, with Murphy gone, they realized also where their best moments in recent Oscar history have come from.  Crystal is a perfect fit for the Oscars and I look forward to having him back in the spotlight once again.

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Posted by on 11/11/2011 in Blog


Why do we love the movies?

Three weeks from today, I will turn 40 years old, and so begins what is (I hope) the glorious second act of my life.  Thirty-five years of those four decades, I’ve spent going to the movies.  I love the movies, they are my passion.  Always have been, always will be.  I am working toward becoming a film critic.  In my lifetime, I think I have seen close to 10,000 movies, beginning with Walt Disney’s The Rescuers in 1977.

Movies are the most approachable of all the mass arts and most emotionally engaging.  Art, music, theater, literature, those all have their merits, but movies encompass elements of all those arts, sometimes at the same time.  We can get a visual, an auditory and an emotional pull from a movie that we can’t get from another medium.  They work on our brains like nothing else.  Plus, they bring about community like nothing else.  There’s something magical about seeing a movie in a space with as many people as possible.

From my vantage point, the movies are a picture window onto a world that never existed.  They present a visual time-stamp of attitudes and ideas of a time long gone, never to be retrieved.  You can complain about the racism of Birth of a Nation with its positive portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan, but what you cannot deny is how invaluable it is historically.  Right or wrong, It speaks to attitudes and feelings that a lot of moviegoers had at the time.

Movies do that, they record for all time the moments in history.  There, on the screen, is a visual record of a moment captured in time for future generations to see.  The other night, when I was looking at It’s a Wonderful Life, I began to reflect that I was looking at a moment captured by the camera in 1946, only a few years before my parents were even born.  That movie, that glorious American classic, captures forever a time, a mood, an attitude about America that has passed us by.

All movies, in a way, do that.  Like a moving photograph they capture people and events that are long gone.  Watch an old newsreel sometime, maybe from the 30s or 40s and you will see people passing in and out of the frame who were alive then, now most likely dead, captured forever within the tiny scope of the camera’s lens.  You can recreate the Hindenburg with special effects, and you can tell your grandchildren stories about it, but we have it on film for all the world to see, a terrible event captured on film that took place generations before many of us were even born.

Movies have been around now for well over 100 years, and they’ve been my constant companion for nearly all of the conscious time that I have been on this planet.  Now, as I totter boldly into my life’s second act, I always know that my friend will be there waiting.


Posted by on 11/01/2011 in Blog