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February 27, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Film critics wasted no time banging out reviews of Sunday night’s Oscars, with several of them posting their assessments of the affair within minutes after the ceremonies concluded. Indeed, Daily Variety‘s Brian Lowry posted his (negative) review of Billy Crystal’s opening as if he were racing a legion of tweeters. Actually, many of the reviews read almost as if they had been written for previous Oscar telecasts, with the same complaints about stilted presentations, boring productions, and unsurprising results. Tim Goodman in the Hollywood Reporter complained that the show “started slow, got slower, bloated the entire affair with montages, glazed the eyes of viewers … and then ladled on even more montages until it culminated in the predictable — if warranted — crowning of The Artist.” Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times yawned, “It all looked very familiar, which is perhaps necessary when so few of the nominated films are.” Christy Lemire of the Associated Press complained about the “montages of nominees describing the movies they love best on a night when the quality of films and the love of a shared moviegoing experience should be self-evident.” But Robert Bianco in USA Today suggested that there have been worse Oscar ceremonies: “If the show and its host weren’t all we might have hoped, it would be unwise to underestimate the value of the reliable competence Crystal brought,” he wrote, adding, “If that strikes you as unimportant, compare that to last year’s hosting performance by Anne Hathaway — who was sweet but seemed unsure of what she was doing — and James Franco, less sweet and unsure of where he was.” And David Wiegand in the San Francisco Chronicle observed that Crystal’s “presence represents a kind of surrender to the reality that it’s generally pointless to try to reinvent the Oscars with some misguided attempt to appeal to younger audiences. After all, with the memory of James Franco in a fetching red frock still haunting our nightmares, the Motion Picture Academy could have propped John Barrymore’s corpse onstage and it would have been an improvement over last year.” But Hank Stuever in the Washington Post, remarked that Crystal “seemed to be overseeing a cruise ship dinner show designed to appeal to the over-50 travel club.” Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times had a different nautical reference, writing that Chrystal’s had appeared “steady on the tiller, even if the waters were bathwater calm and very, very familiar.” Xan Brooks, the film critic of Britain’s Guardian newspaper, asked, “Just when, exactly, did the movies get so old?” He was referring, of course, not only to the age of those on stage presenting and receiving the awards, but also to the reverential nostalgia on display among the nominated films, with such contenders as The Artist and Hugo grabbing the most awards. But films evoking Hollywood’s past have been around since Hollywood had a past. Like The Artist, 1952’s Singing in the Rain was set during the time when studios were transitioning from silent films to talkies. Two years earlier, Sunset Boulevard, whose principal character is a faded star, received 11 Oscar nominations and won three awards. All three versions of A Star Is Born (1937, 1954, 1976) received a bevy of Oscar nominations. And Crystal did attempt to puncture the nostalgia balloon early on. “The movies have always been there for us,” he said. “They’re the place to go to laugh, to cry, to question, to text.”