Billy Crystal is Balls, Yo

Published on February 28th, 2012

Alex and James care about movies, and as much as they try to pretend to not care about the Academy Awards, they do. This past Sunday, the MacGuffin Men set out to keep a running journal of their thoughts throughout the 84th Annual Academy Awards, with the intention of doing a podcast on the Best Picture winner for this coming Thursday. It was an intense experience, mostly because they really didn’t want to have to watch The Help. Below are their thoughts on the highs and lows of the broadcast… and an absurd amount of comments about Billy Crystal.

7:53pm  This Nick Nolte red carpet interview is amazing.
James: “Those two people are not in the same conversation.”

8:01pm  Tim Gunn is calling everybody ‘breathtaking.’ Alex is asthmatic, Tim! He won’t survive the night if you keep showing us things that will take his breath away. Please talk about War Horse a bit so he can catch his breath.

8:03pm  James: “How weird would it be if Albert Nobbs and Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry made out… would it be weird if I got turned on by that?”
Alex: “Yes, because you would be getting aroused by Hilary Swank.”

8:12pm  Every one of these red carpet interviews is awkward… although Sandra Bullock just said “sexy times,” adding to her already infinite amount of cool points.

8:18pm  It’s hard to root for any of these movies while The Rundown is playing on Spike TV.

8:23pm  OH GOD BRIAN GRAZER NEVER STOPS LOOKING TERRIFYING

8:33pm  The most important thing we learned from Billy Crystal’s opening short: blackface is apparently still acceptable in 2012.

8:40pm  Alex: “This opening is making me miss the days when James Franco was an Oscar host.”
James: “Just remember, that song could have been Party All the Time.”

8:43pm  Somebody in the audience screamed as it was announced Hugo won the cinematography award. Apparently Alex is not the only person who knows that The Tree of Life just got robbed.

8:49pm  Do you love Billy Crystal so far? Or do you LOVE Billy Crystal so far?

8:50pm  Brett Ratner is already at the after party, drinking and bragging about how he could have done the show better. Probably with a three-hour tribute to X-Men: The Last Stand.

"Do you regret hiring me yet, Singer?"

8:51pm  Two modern technology jokes already, Billy? If you tell me to text again, I’m going to kill you.

8:53pm  That’s three in 23 minutes. Fuck you, Billy.

8:56pm  People should get an award just for properly pronouncing Michel Hazanavicius’ name.

8:57pm  The voice of the MacGuffin Men, Emily, chimes in on the festivities via that new technology all the kids are using: a text message! Her thoughts on the awards so far: “It’s like someone’s alcoholic aunt picks the winners.”

9:05pm  Sandra Bullock wins the day again with her intro for the Best Foreign Language film award. Sandra Bullock: making us forget The Blind Side, one day at a time.

9:10pm  Jessica Chastain should win Best Supporting Actress for fooling me into thinking her character in The Help was played by Bryce Dallas Howard this whole time.

Pictured: Not Bryce Dallas Howard, apparently.

9:13pm  She did not win. Apparently the Academy doesn’t award weird, abstract achievements… Except for the fact that they are currently awarding people for achievements in acting.

9:14pm  Moneyball is the first baseball movie to be nominated for Best Picture since Field of Dreams. This means The Sandlot wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, which is a fucking travesty.

9:19pm  HOLY SHIT HOW DID WE NOT KNOW THERE WOULD BE A CHRISTOPHER GUEST SEGMENT

9:25pm  “And there’s the Roons!”

9:38pm  James: “Is that what seeing movies in Quebec is like?”
Alex: “I’ve been to the movies a lot of times, but that has never happened.”
James: “Can Cirque du Soleil host the show next year?”

9:40pm  Robert Downey Jr. wins everything, forever. He knew he would have to really step it up to make up for the general shittiness of Gwyneth Paltrow, and that’s precisely what he did.

9:44pm  Thanks for kicking the entertaining, energetic documentary winners offstage. That’s what this show needs. Less energy.

9:46pm  Chris Rock, being the best since 1992: “Fuck it, I’m just going to do some stand up making fun of how easy it is to make an animated film right before I present the award for Best Animated Film.”

9:47pm  Rango wins Best Animated Feature, meaning 20% of the 2011 films James saw this year have now won Oscars.

9:50pm  Titanic 3D commercial! FINALLY SOMETHING WORTH WATCHING

9:53pm  Emma Stone’s eyebrows should win the award for Best Visual Effects… they are too pristine to be real. (Also, that bit with Ben Stiller was really funny.)

9:54pm  Michael Bay appearance! And yes, Alex is still mad about Transformers losing Best Visual Effects to The Golden Compass in 2008.

9:56pm  Did Real Steel lose the award for Best Visual Effects because the steel was too real?

Pictured: Reality.

9:58pm  Billy Crystal just said, “I liked that one” in reference to one of his jokes, marking the first time anybody has said that about any of his jokes tonight.

9:59pm  Now that Jonah Hill has lost weight, does he get retro Oscar acting points for still being fat in Moneyball?

10:01pm  Apparently not, as he loses Best Supporting Actor. Hooray for Christopher Plummer, though… We really didn’t want to have to make a pun with ‘bummer.’ (Also, his speech and jacket combination were a delight.)

10:03pm  Is that Lorne Michaels playing keys in the balcony?

10:04pm  Oh god now Seven is on Spike TV. Spike, you’re really tempting us here… Can we live blog the Spike TV Oscar counter programming instead?

10:05pm  WHAT’S IN THE BOXXXXXXXXX

10:08pm  Billy Crystal is doing his ‘I can read minds’ bit. We hope he turns the camera on us and then gets really offended by what we have been thinking about his performance.

10:09pm  Okay, that Nolte joke works… as do all jokes about Nick Nolte. You’re now batting 0.008, Billy, but we kind of wish we were watching Luck right now, so Nolte is probably still the real winner.

10:12pm  At least 60% of the shots in this broadcast are of Billy Crystal laughing at his own shitty jokes.

10:12pm  The shadow on Owen Wilson’s nose dent is unfortunate. It’s Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Dark Knight eye troughs all over again.

"Alfred, why does nobody around here know how to properly light my face?"

10:12pm  James: “Is it original to say I’d like to score with Penelope Cruz?”
Alex: “No. But since our comments aren’t particularly original, I’m writing that down anyway.”

10:14pm  The Artist’s composer’s name is almost ‘Bourne.’ We’re counting the Best Original Score as a victory for the MacGuffin Men, despite the fact that the two best scores from this past year weren’t even nominated.

10:19pm  Bret McKenzie must feel really wonderful about his Oscar win. It has to feel great beating one other song from a movie nobody saw.

10:21pm  Oscar promo: “Will Kristen Wiig be the first SNL cast member to win an Oscar?”
James: “Nope.”
Alex: “If The Tree of Life can lose best cinematography, I’m sticking with Kevin Garnett’s advice and saying anything is possible.”
James/The Academy: “YOU DON’T GO AGAINST HUGO.”

10:24pm  Did Michelle Williams actually bring Busy Phillips as her date? With Jason Segel in attendance, that’s two Freaks and Geeks cast members in the building (not to mention Judd Apatow). I assume that somewhere Martin Starr is eating a sandwich and laughing his ass off.

10:25pm  “Good evening. I’m Angelina Jolie, and this is my thigh. Also, I look horrendous.”

10:27pm  Community just won an Oscar. Suck it, nerds.

"Good evening. I'm Jim Rash, and I'm much cooler than Angelina Jolie."

10:30pm  “The Academy congratulates Woody Allen, but he is not in attendance because he isn’t allowed to be in the same room as Martin Scorsese’s guest.”

10:30pm  With Midnight in Paris’ Best Original Screenplay victory, that means 40% of the 2011 films James has seen are Oscar winners. Once Neve Campbell wins Best Actress for Scream 4, studios will be beating down his door for him to bless their movie with his eyes. He’ll be like the Good Luck Chuck of cinema, until studios realize nothing can make Good Luck Chuck seem like a good movie.

10:32pm  Note how this segment of actors talking about film are using the score from Beginners. Where was its Best Original Score nomination, Academy? (Moneyball has a great score as well.)

10:32pm  Also, why did the first two of those segments end with Adam Sandler? Although the Academy’s apparent enjoyment of him might explain some of these nominees being here, as well as the choice of host.

10:34pm  The Oscars are 84… maybe when we’re 84 we’ll like Billy Crystal’s jokes too.

10:36pm  We feel bad that The Artist is losing so much to Hugo, but at least Jean Dujardin didn’t have to understand Billy Crystal’s monologue.

10:42pm  Rose Byrne is trying to beat Angie at the “Who can look terrifyingly skinny?” game.

10:44pm  Ellie Kemper is cuter than all of these animated creatures combined.

10:46pm  We didn’t know Michael Shannon and the guy from Mythbusters made an animated short together.

10:47pm  Does Angelina Jolie keep adopting so she can have a new person to challenge herself to weigh less than?

10:58pm  Pharrell has been playing drums in the balcony all night and they haven’t given him a close up. And they wonder why they can’t draw in a younger audience.

11:03pm  Billy Crystal says he’s been thinking of deceased Oscar producer Gil Cates every second of tonight. We appreciate the sentiment, but maybe that’s why all of your jokes have been duds.

11:13pm  Billy Crystal said the talking head segments about stars describing why they love film were good. Finally, Billy and the MacGuffin Men agree on something. Hey, Academy! Perhaps the best way to explain how great film is is simply to have the least identifiable humans on the planet appear totally identifiable. It makes you seem like human beings, as opposed to people that thought a live-action version of The Smurfs was a good idea.

11:14pm  In her speeches to the Best Actor nominees, Natalie Portman is really speaking from the heart… of the teleprompter.

11:18pm  Jean Dujardin didn’t learn that if you want to get your Benigni on, you have to do it before the speech.

"MERDRE!"

11:29pm  Sandra Bullock has been crying for the whole show. There must be gum on her seat… gum.

11:31pm  It’s very difficult to hate on Meryl Streep, regardless of how few of her movies are actually good, or how that one line in her acceptance speech was kind of dickish.

11:32pm  However, still no Oscar wins for the cast of Dawson’s Creek. Maybe next year Michelle Williams will bring Linda Cardellini as her good luck charm instead.

11:33pm  Tom Cruise is presenting the award for Best Picture, and he is apparently very excited about it… TOM CRUISE ACTION VEIN SIGHTING.

11:36pm  Thank god War Horse didn’t win… Now we don’t have to do a podcast on War Horse.

11:38pm  Good night, Billy Crystal! We won’t miss you at all!

The Academy Awards show this year was mediocre, but it represented the average person’s feelings towards the Academy quite well. The broadcast’s best moments were either the moments that were the most abstract and interesting (Cirque du Soleil’s performance) or the moments that were the most human (the talking heads segments). In between all of that, however, was proof of the Academy’s inability to really show that they know what it is they want, with a wealth of forgettable, uninteresting, and unfunny segments. The show was depicted as a look at going to the movies and, with few exceptions, the Academy made themselves seem completely removed from actual people that go to the movies. By making this their show’s theme, the Academy was more or less saying they go to the movies to get wrapped up in something outside of themselves, but by giving The Artist their most prestigious award, they showed us they most like to get wrapped up in something that reminds them of themselves. The fact that everybody seems to enjoy The Artist shows that it is a good film, but it is certainly not a great one, mostly due to its overly simplistic nature. Abstract questions of fate in The Adjustment Bureau were ignored, as was the almost universal humanity found in Beginners. The incredibly ballsy and kind of great writing present in Young Adult was somehow dismissed, and 50/50 remains a more heartwarming movie than anything about a horse stopping a war ever could. Other Best Picture nominees were more interesting for how they twisted a simple idea (The Tree of Life, Moneyball, Midnight in Paris), or for the pure humanity on display in Hugo and The Descendants. Through the nomination process, the Academy told us that they are as old as you think, and in picking The Artist as their winner, they showed how self-absorbed and uncreative they are as well.

There is a chasm between the Academy that hands out the awards to the viewers that watch the acceptance speeches, and this will never change. There will never truly be a consensus film of the year, as opinions on art are much too subjective for that to happen. But that doesn’t make the Academy Awards unimportant. Like the feelings expressed by the stars throughout Sunday’s talking head segments, film is important to us as a culture. It is our most pervasive and wide-reaching art form, and regardless of how one feels about the current state of movies, that isn’t changing. Your Monday morning likely contained at least one conversation about the Oscars, if only to say how apathetic you were towards their existence when a co-worker brought up the topic. If you’re like Alex, you sent angry text messages when The Tree of Life failed to win Best Cinematography, and if you’re like James you got excited that Dean Pelton won an Oscar. Our reactions to these awards are instinctual and emotional, and will remain so. The Academy might not realize that they are closer to us than they realize, but so long as they continue to have their show hosted by an old dog doing no new tricks, in an effort to remind themselves of what once was, this space will remain. That doesn’t matter, however, so long as people are still willing and able to make films that are interesting, beautiful, and remind us why we ever started to pay money to see other humans play make believe on a giant screen. These movies still exist… we just have to work a little harder to find them.

Be sure to check back this Thursday, when our podcast will be about the newly-crowned Best Picture, The Artist.

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