Murphy bows out, Crystal steps up, but what if Oscar needs another host?
Eddie Murphy, as the world now knows, took a powder.
He is not going to host the Oscars after all. His “Tower Heist” director, Brett Ratner, was the fellow who’d asked him to do it in the first place when the Oscar powers-that- be originally asked Ratner, for their own benighted reasons, to produce the show.
But then Ratner —said to be in life an overprivileged brat from an inept Judd Apatow movie—started lipping off. At a news conference for “Tower Heist,” he was innocently asked by someone in the vast army of Hollywood fawners and junketeers about how he rehearses his actors.
“Rehearsal,” averred Ratner charmingly, “is for fags.”
Dismissive public bigotry about homosexuals is no longer permissible for a producer of the highest-profile entertainment event in the Western world. Frankly, I don’t think it ever was permissible. Even in the “let’s-break-every-rule” late- 1960s and early ’70s, a producer saying something that dumb about one of the two tentpole minority groups of Hollywood (the other, of course, would be Jews. See Neal Gabler’s classic history “An Empire of Their Own”) would have notable difficulty finding people willing to work for him.
Nor was that Ratner’s only mistake. He went on Howard Stern’s glands-on-parade satellite radio frat party and discussed his sex life and the physical endowment he brings to its pursuit.
I’ll say this for Ratner: Any man who supports Stern’s ongoing First Amendment assault on our current revival of the All- Too-Appropriate ’50s deserves some sympathy from the thinking classes, even if they don’t begin to include Ratner himself.
Nevertheless, Ratner’s “I’m Way Out of My Depth” openmic tour of all the wrong places got him yanked from the Oscar gig. His appointed emcee, Murphy, merely did what a loyal friend should do and backed up his friend by bowing out.
Leaving, of course, a big hole where an Oscar host ought to be.
Ricky Gervais, bless him, rushed in and offered himself, at reduced cost, as host for a Twofer— the Oscars and the Golden Globes, to which he’s already a committed fixture.
He wasn’t fast enough. Earlier, BillyCrystal— who has reached the stage of life where his hair has attained that orangish- brown color, never found in nature, which only seems to exist among aging comedians in proximity to West Coast functionaries of the dyer’s trade—had mentioned that he might want to give the Oscars another go.
The Academy and Crystal, 63, confirmed Thursday it would take him up on that offer.
Crystal tweeted that he is “doing the Oscars so the young woman in the pharmacy will stop asking my name when I pick up my prescriptions.”
But, considering that the Oscars, really, belong to us all, I think the time has come for all good people to have their own input for those coastal bigwigs who’ve been fumbling the matter of Oscar hosts for years. Even though this year’s Oscar host sweepstakes are settled again, for now at least, we all need to offer our own categories of acceptability for Oscar show hosts, so that the boredom and cheesiness are minimized, and rare wit, hilarity and entertainment are made a little less rare.
Here’s my list of possible Oscar hosts. By all means, send yours to the Motion Picture Academy, too.
The A-list (Oh, go ahead, offer them the gig. They couldn’t be worse than some have been very recently.) Eddie Murphy, still. Ricky Gervais. Oprah Winfrey. Billy Crystal. David Letterman. (No kidding. He was never as bad as he thinks he was, and in his current snarling and dyspeptic incarnation, he’d be hilariously off-key.) Craig Ferguson. Robert Downey Jr. Ellen DeGeneres. Robin Williams (no fair, though, setting too many rules for what he’s allowed to say).
Tom Hanks (with lots of good writers). Julia Roberts (ditto). Bruce Vilanch (my Far Left Field suggestion. The woolly bearded Vilanch has been the chief Oscar gagster for Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal but is, himself, one of the most “inappropriate”- looking men in all of public life, which is why producers, in a bit of “Oh, what the hell” bravado, couldn’t do better than having Vilanch and Gervais as truly subversive co-hosts for an evening never to be forgotten— whether ecstatic hilarity or infamous calamity).
The B-list (smaller potatoes but on the same plate as some hosting chops). Hugh Jackman. Neil Patrick Harris (with plenty of bigger name co-hosts). Whoopi Goldberg (she’s done it before—always acceptably but never great). Adam Sandler. Tracey Ullman. Steve Carell and Tina Fey together. Jimmy Fallon (with lots of bigger name co-hosts). Bill Murray. Kevin Spacey. Emma Thompson. Anne Hathaway (again; she wasn’t bad). Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson together. (They’d set the world’s record for smirking coastal contempt. They’d have to make sure, though, that Jack was entirely weed-free for the full week beforehand.) Hugh Grant. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton together (are we talking surreal fun or what? Elaine May would be an acceptable, if entirely impossible, Keaton substitute).
The C-list (Well, everybody’s gotta be someplace. Or, you never know until you try.)
John Cusack. Dick Cavett (preceded by a massive publicity campaign to remind people who he is). Tom Cruise (with lots and lots of good writers). Steven Spielberg (to take the show in an entirely different direction— toward actual film. Add seasoning from Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard and Francis Ford Coppola to taste). Leonardo DiCaprio. John Goodman. Cate Blanchett. Roseanne Barr. Jamie Foxx. Bette Midler. Kristen Wiig. Susan Sarandon (or Tim Robbins. Not both). Jimmy Kimmel. Ben Stiller. John Travolta. Charlie Sheen (yes, Charlie Sheen). Bruce Willis. Madonna.
The D-list (Never. Never again or let’s not even try it.)
Steve Martin. Alec Baldwin. Johnny Depp. Chris Rock. Al Pacino. Robert De Niro. Robert Redford. Zack Galifianakis. Mel Gibson (though he’d have been awfully good in his pretoxic era). Regis Philbin. Chelsea Handler. Wolf Blitzer. Jay Leno. Dr. Phil. Jennifer Lopez. Justin Bieber. Snooki. Dina Lohan. Michael Lohan. All the Kardashians great and small. The Ghost of Bert Parks.