Eddie Murphy drops out as host of the Oscars and Billy Crystal replaces him?
That’s sort of like losing a rookie and replacing him with an all-star. Crystal, who will host the Academy Awards for the ninth time on Sunday, is arguably the best host of the past quarter-century.
Here, from best to worst, is a ranking of Oscar hosts from 1987-2011:
1. Billy Crystal • (1990-93, 1997-98, 2000, 2004) For his opening bits alone, Crystal is up there with Oscar-cast legends such as Bob Hope and Johnny Carson. Billy in the movies? And the song-and-dance routines? Magic.
2. Steve Martin • (2001, 2003 and, with Alec Baldwin, 2010) His smooth, deadpan delivery was always a winner, and he hit the right balance between mocking himself and mocking the rest of Hollywood. “Hosting the Oscars is like making love to a beautiful woman,” he said in 2001. “It’s something I only get to do when Billy Crystal is out of town.”
3. Jon Stewart • (2006, 2008) Quick on his feet, topical and unafraid to offend the stars, Stewart may have entertained viewers more than the Academy. And he mixed politics and entertainment. “I do have some sad news to report,” he said in 2006. “Björk couldn’t be here tonight. She was trying on her Oscar dress and Dick Cheney shot her.”
4. Chris Rock • (2005) The Oscars were looking for “edge.” Why didn’t he return? Maybe because he insulted a bunch of stars by name, such as when he said, “The only acting you ever see at the Oscars is when people are acting like they’re not mad they lost. I remember one year when Halle Berry won the Oscar, Nicole Kidman was smiling so wide she should’ve won an Emmy at the Oscars for her great performance.”
5. David Letterman • (1995) Contrary to popular belief, Letterman wasn’t the worst Oscar host in history. If you go back and watch his performance, he did a pretty decent job. But expectations were too high, and the “Oprah, Uma” thing got all the ink. But he had some great lines. Such as his reference to the film “Eat Drink Man Woman”: “Coincidentally, as I understand it, this is also how Arnold Schwarzenegger asked Maria Shriver out on their first date.”
6. Ellen DeGeneres • (2007) It was a kinder, gentler Oscars. DeGeneres did try going out into the audience, which was brave, and occasionally worked. Such as when she had Steven Spielberg take a picture of her and Clint Eastwood — and made him do it again because he messed up.
7. Hugh Jackman • (2009) An affable guy who made little impression. His opening number — supposedly toned down because of the recession — wasn’t a big success.
8. Whoopi Goldberg • (1994, 1996, 1999, 2002) The first woman to host solo, which she went on to do four times. But her performances were more notable for her costumes than her jokes, which often fell flat. “Y’all better cut me some slack because we’re going to be here a while,” she said in 2002.
9. Chevy Chase • (1987, with Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan; 1988) He started out great — his first line in 1988 was, “Good evening, Hollywood phonies” — but overall Chase acted too cool for school.
10. James Franco • (2011, with Anne Hathaway) There was no Oscar host in 1989, which is pretty much what the Academy got with Franco last year. At best, he looked bored, uninterested and completely lacking in energy. Hathaway may be the unluckiest Oscar host, forced to try to make up for her pathetic partner.
And the Academy Award goes to...
The 84th Academy Awards broadcast from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre and hosted by Billy Crystal will be aired Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on ABC/Channel 4.