Oscars 2012: A year of comfort

Wed Feb 22, 2012 3:56pm EST
 
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When the curtain rises on the Oscars this Sunday, nervous anticipation will, as usual, fill the theater at the world's top film awards, but this year movie fans can relax.

After years of trying to jazz up the Academy Awards with flashy, hip hosts, emcee Billy Crystal is returning for a ninth time in 2012, bringing what Oscar watchers say is a level of predictability and comfort to the show.

Frontrunner films -- silent romance "The Artist," civil rights story "The Help" and drama "The Descendants" among them -- bring familiarity, comedy, love, humanity and a triumph of spirit that contrasts to recent years of darker, best film winners such as "The Hurt Locker" or "No Country for Old Men."

This year could even see some history-making events in acting categories.

It seems Oscar voters took a lesson from last year's winner, feel-good film "The King's Speech," or maybe from audiences who at box offices have favored escapist fare like "Avatar" over tales of woe and war amid the gloomy economy and world conflict.

Whatever the reason, voters at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences appear in sync with movie fans' appetite for entertainment, and there is no one better suited to celebrate Hollywood than Crystal, the 63-year-old comic and star of 1980s and 1990s films like "When Harry Met Sally" and "City Slickers."

"Billy is the emcee version of comfort food, tasty and familiar, but not very spicy" said Entertainment Weekly movie writer Dave Karger.

Exactly what Crystal has in store on Oscar night is still anybody's guess. The producers and host are notoriously tight-lipped. But it's likely Crystal will start as he has in past years, comically editing himself into a video reel of scenes from major movies.   Continued...

 
Oscar statuettes are on display during the opening of "Meet the Oscars" exhibition at Grand Central Station in New York, February 22, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid