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Crystal perfect host again

In a triumphant return as Oscar host after three years, Billy Crystal poked fun at politicians, most nominees, and everything that crossed his path.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2004 09:37 IST

In a triumphant return as Oscar host after a three-year absence, comedian Billy Crystal poked fun at politicians, controversies over gay weddings and Janet Jackson's breast, all the major nominees, and anything else that crossed his comedic path.

Making his eighth appearance as master of ceremonies, Crystal also aimed some of his wit at the controversy surrounding Mel Gibson's newly opened hit film in Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic about the last hours in the life of Jesus, "The Passion of the Christ."

"For the very, very first time, we're being simulcast in Aramaic," Crystal joked in his opening monologue. Then, turning to Charlize Theron, nominated as best actress for her role as a serial killer in "Monster," he said, "You look absolutely beautiful, but in that movie you scared the bejeezus out of Mel Gibson. You were absolutely scary.

"Mel Gibson's movie, unbelievable hit, $117 million," he added. "Opened on Ash Wednesday, had a Good Friday, a better Saturday and Sunday, unbelievable."

Addressing another first-time Oscar nominee in the audience, 13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes, Crystal said, "You're too young to have three names," then recalled that he first hosted the Oscars 13 years ago.

"Things were so different then. You know how different it was? Bush was president, the economy was tanking and we'd just finished a war with Iraq," he dead-panned.

He also cracked that Best Picture nominee "Lost in Translation" was the favorite film of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- the Austrian-born muscleman-turned-politician often parodied for his thick accent.

Crystal kicked off the show with one of his famous pre-taped parody montages and a musical monologue. The montage started with Crystal finding a magical golden ring in his box of Cracker Jacks as he sat in a darkened movie house, his camcorder aimed at the screen. As he slips the ring on his finger, he is transported by a bolt of lightning into the movie he's watching.

Crystal found himself inserted into a series of scenes from some of this year's most-nominated films, to comic effect, including an appearance as a troll-like Gollum character, staring at his reflection in a pond and talking about returning as host of the Oscars.

"I haven't been to the Oscars since they were taken over the by evil wizards." His reflection asks, "The Orcs?" and Crystal answers, "No, the Weinsteins," referring to Miramax Films co-chairman and perennial Oscar powerhouses Bob and Harvey Weinstein.

Michael Moore, the documentarian who caused a stir at last year's Oscar with an anti-Iraq war tirade, made a cameo in the montage, urging an end to the fictional war portrayed in "Lord of the Rings" before being unceremoniously stomped on by an elephantine creature -- drawing roars of laughter from the crowd.


In a musical medley of songs spoofing the five films nominated for best picture, Crystal blended a reference to Janet Jackson's breast-baring Super Bowl performance with a parody of "Lord of the Rings," sung to the tune of "My Favorite Things," warbling the line, "Frodo and Sam on a mystical planet, then Smeagol pops out like the right boob of Janet."

It was the backlash over Jackson's notorious halftime performance that prompted ABC to deliver the Oscars' live coast-to-coast telecast for the first time with a five-second delay as an anti-smut safeguard.

Producers insisted the delay would not be used to censor political statements, and in the opening moments of the show, there was no evidence that anyone had to be bleeped for nudity or profanity.

After the first commercial break, Crystal was joined on stage by his longtime comic colleague, Robin Williams, telling the audience, "This is the reason for our five-second delay."

The two then stood side by side, smiling, as Williams, in a joke about the recent flurry of same-sex weddings performed in San Francisco said, "Look at us -- a San Francisco wedding cake."

Crystal, 56, back as master of ceremonies after a three-year hiatus, is widely regarded as a favorite of Oscar audiences and critics alike for his dead-pan humor, quick ad-libs and Hollywood send-ups.

First Published: Mar 01, 2004 09:19 IST