Oscars 2012 Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying
The verdict: largely negative. In fact, THR's Tim Goodman called the Billy Crystal-hosted telecast a "safe, unfunny, retro-disaster."
If you tuned in to Sunday's Oscars telecast, then there might be a good possibility you A) changed the channel B) fell asleep on the couch C) threw things at the screen or D) all of the above.
Here's betting that a good majority of America's top TV critics wished they could take a nap rather than monitor one of the most boring Academy Awards in years. (Our two cents.) Which is precisely what makes the review from The Hollywood Reporter's TV critic Tim Goodman such a scathingly delicious read.
Goodman, spot-on as ever, observed no improvement from 2011's edition, which was co-hosted by the inarguably mismatched duo of James Franco and Anne Hathaway. This year, Billy Crystal returned, with not-so-great results.
"The colossal hosting disaster from last year is now forgotten by the safe, unfunny, retro-disaster that was Crystal making jokes that he laughed at repeatedly and overseeing an Oscars telecast that was as poorly paced as any in recent memory," said Goodman.
He particularly loathed the endless stream of montages wherein actors from Reese Witherspoon to Brad Pitt waxed poetic about how the movies change lives.
"First off, stop dropping the anvil on us. Secondly, at some point the level of self-congratulation about how your work makes the life of The Little People more magical begins to feel condescending, arrogant and annoying," Goodman sniped, adding: "So how about three of those montages instead of, what, 33?"
At the same time, he praised the refreshing onstage interludes of Emma Stone, Christopher Plummer and "even Angelina Jolie sticking her leg out with authority helped distract from the feeling that the clock was melting." (Another highlight of the evening: Jolie's right leg got a Twitter account.)
Let's round up the rest, shall we?
Hank Stuever of The Washington Post said Crystal "seemed to be to be overseeing a cruise ship dinner show designed to appeal to the over-50 travel club. Early on, it hit the rocks and started to list. Almost everyone drowned."
Stuever enjoyed bits from the Bridesmaids stars, Cirque du Soleil and Christopher Guest's mockumentary team -- but, like Goodman, became irked at the montage overload and how the formula "felt like a long commercial." As for Crystal, "He pulled out a lot of ba-da-dum gags that at least (the very least) had the appeal of seeming familiar as comfy slippers," said Steuver, noting a "nursing home feeling."
In her review, New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley quipped: "The whole night looked like an AARP pep rally," with stale jokes referring to Crystal's age and a slow-moving format where the "some of the least interesting awards" kicked off the broadcast.
Newsday's Verne Gay echoed that Crystal-on-a-cruise-ship sentiment, writing: "Billy was back and it was very good to have him back. But the hard truth is that the Oscars, like life itself, has moved on. The world has changed, and sometimes it's better to cherish our memories than rehash them."
Meanwhile, Mary McNamara of The Los Angeles Times pondered what the three-hour, super-reverential event might have been like had disgraced would-be producer Brett Ratner not opened his mouth, thereby dragging pal Eddie Murphy along with him as a prospective host.
"Chris Rock's riff about how easy it is to voice animation also cleared the smoke of the holy incense for a few minutes, raising the question of how different the show would have been if Ratner had kept his lip zipped and Murphy had remained host," McNamara wrote.
"But if Crystal and his bar mitzvah humor seemed a bit dated and occasionally weirdly racist — yes, that was him in black face as Sammy Davis Jr. during the opening number, and yes, he did make a joke about there being no black women in Beverly Hills — his hand was steady on the tiller, even if the waters were bathwater calm and very, very familiar," she continued.
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