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2012: The year of feel-good films

Comedian Billy Crystal, host for the 84th Academy Awards, poses in this undated publicity photograph with a large Oscar statuette. (REUTERS/Bob D'Amico/ABC/AMPAS/Handout)

LOS ANGELES: When the curtain rises on the Oscars this Sunday, nervous anticipation will, as usual, fill the theater at the world’s top film awards, but this year movie fans can relax.

After years of trying to jazz up the Academy Awards with flashy, hip hosts, Billy Crystal is returning for a ninth time in 2012, bringing what Oscar watchers say is a level of predictability and comfort to the show.

Frontrunner films – silent romance “The Artist,” civil rights story “The Help” and drama “The Descendants” among them – bring familiarity, comedy, love, humanity and a triumph of spirit that contrasts to recent years of darker, best film winners such as “The Hurt Locker” or “No Country for Old Men.”

This year could even see some history-making events in acting categories.

It seems Oscar voters took a lesson from last year’s winner, feel-good film “The King’s Speech,” or maybe from audiences who at box offices have favored escapist fare like “Avatar” over tales of woe and war amid the gloomy economy and world conflict.

Whatever the reason, voters at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences appear in sync with movie fans’ appetite for entertainment, and there is no one better suited to celebrate Hollywood than Crystal, the 63-year-old comic and star of 1980s and 1990s films like “When Harry Met Sally” and “City Slickers.”

“Billy is the emcee version of comfort food, tasty and familiar, but not very spicy” said Entertainment Weekly movie writer Dave Karger.

Exactly what Crystal has in store on Oscar night is still anybody’s guess. The producers and host are notoriously tight-lipped. But it’s likely Crystal will start as he has in past years, comically editing himself into a video reel of scenes from major movies.

Co-producer Don Mischer gave one interview and was asked to compare Crystal to Ricky Gervais, the acerbic comedian who hosted the Golden Globes. Mischer said “Ricky is entertaining and all that, but I don’t think the Oscars is a place for being mean-spirited, or taking real brutal shots at people.” So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the races.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 25, 2012, on page 14.

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