Pete Hammond

MONDAY PM  UPDATE: As you know, Brett Ratner is producing the Oscar show with Don Mischer and emailed me tonight with his reaction to Billy Crystal’s statements regarding possibly hosting the Oscars again. Ratner says: “I didn’t see what Billy said. I’m really focused on finishing my film Tower Heist right now. [But] I was told by the Academy that I don’t have to make a decision until mid-September.”

PREVIOUS: So is Billy Crystal once again the answer to all of Oscar’s woes? His statement in answer to a fan’s query at an American Cinematheque screening of City Slickers on Friday night was that he might be open to hosting again “maybe one or two more times”. But that’s not even the first time he’s dropped the hint this year. In March, shortly after he made his appearance on the 83rd Oscar show to honor Bob Hope, he was hosting a charity event  and told a reporter, “I think the show needs to change. There’s too many awards and it has to sort of freshen itself up, and if I can be a part of that, that would be great.” Between that and Friday’s encouraging words, what more do the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and newly minted producers Brett Ratner and Don Mischer need to hear?

Of course, if Crystal means he would host as long as there “were fewer awards” he can forget it. The Academy’s Board (largely made up of below-the-line craftspeople) regularly balk at any attempt to limit the number of awards on the actual ABC broadcast itself, insisting that the producers and host/s can basically do whatever they want creatively except try to eliminate any of those 24 categories. When Bill Condon and Larry Mark produced the show three years ago they even privately suggested at one point that perhaps some of the crafts categories (the shorts for instance?) might be handed out during the Red Carpet pre-show. That way they would still be broadcast nationally, just not in the traditional way as part of the big show itself. It was an instant no-go from Academy honchos.

Gil Cates, who has produced the show 14 times, even tried handing out some of those awards from the audience on the 2005 show in order to move things along. But the idea wasn’t well-received (some felt it belittled those awards) and wasn’t attempted again. This film organization isn’t called The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for nothing.

But Crystal clearly was energized by the standing ovation he received at the 83rd Academy Awards  as well as all that flattering praise – as opposed to  the critical drubbing for co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Billy is getting his Oscar juices flowing. The American Cinematheque appearance gave him another (unplanned?) opportunity to send a message to the Academy. And a high-profile full-blown Oscar hosting gig could be a win-win for Crystal and the Academy which is still reeling from some of the critical brickbats thrown at last year’s hosts. After all, Billy hasn’t starred in a major live action movie since 2002′s sequel Analyze That and hasn’t starred in a critically well-received pic since 1999′s Analyze This.

Although he said he wasn’t promising anything, the Academy and their producers would be crazy not to take Billy’s hint, particularly since Ratner says one of the things the show needs is a lot more comedy. And Mischer co-produced and directed the show where Crystal’s return was so warmly received. In the annals of Oscar hosts the golden comedy trio has been Hope (18 times), Johnny Carson (1979-82 and 1984) and Crystal (eight times between 1990 and 2004). Is Crystal’s Oscar moment coming again? It should.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.

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