The choice of Crystal is actually a pretty good parallel to the nominees themselves. Sure, Crystal is funny and I did enjoy it when he's hosted in the past, but the choice is so... safe. You know what you're going to get when he hosts, just like how you know what you're going to get when you watch an episode of House or a Michael Bay movie. Dr. House is going to disregard rules and conventions of decorum and be cranky while Michael Bay movies love America and explosions. In the same way you can count on Crystal to be funny but not distracting and be just on the safe side of edgy so that the old people that make up the Academy won't get offended.
With the nominees (hi Lauren!), you can see that even though the Best Picture category upped their nominations to ten a few years ago, it doesn't do anything to help them take any chances. Every movie that was marketed as Oscar-bait got a nomination, and some of the movies that I enjoyed most this year didn't get any recognition. Sure, that happens every year, but I can't list one movie that was nominated that I feel anything special towards. Sure, some of those movies are good, but I wouldn't use the word "Best" to describe them.
This is what I hate most about the Academy Awards. Since the nominations tend to be very safe, I almost never watch cheering for a specific movie to win. Instead I watch hoping against hope that a certain movie won't win. The notable exception that proves the rule was the 2010 Academy Awards where I watched praying and hoping beyond hope that District 9 would take home the top award as it was my favorite movie that year.
No movie since has combined people exploding and awesome accents quite like District 9
How to fix it:
I understand that the goal of the Awards is to be an elitist selection from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the people that are supposedly in the know about movie-making as opposed to "the People" that select things like the People's Choice Awards, but fundamentally this group needs to realize to tone down the snobbery a bit. The reason they get to be elitist and selective is that it is supposed to mean something special when films and actors and artists and directors and makeup artists get nominated for these awards. But at the same time, the selectors in the Academy are susceptible to expensive ad campaigns and give out awards to those films with the nicest crap in their gift baskets (Editor's Note: See Shakespeare in Love). This cheapens the Awards in general. Beacause of this the Academy has lost it's right to be snobby. In order to make the shows more accessible now that they're free to do so since I just revoked their snobby card, here are the changes that need to be made immediately:
1) The whole thing is a party, so lighten up. There doesn't need to be this huge sense of gravitas around the ordeal. This is a show about rich people giving other rich people awards for doing things that made them rich, not the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. Get seriously funny people to host and try and have a new host every year. This will keep the shows fresh.
2) Cut down on nominees. Currently, the whole damn fiasco of the Academy Awards runs too long. I don't think they should cut out any award categories, but what they can do is limit some of the categories to three nominees at the most. They already relegate most of the technical awards to off-screen stuff, might as well cut down on those. The only categories that should have more than three nominees are Best Picture, Actor/Actress, and Director. Also: Ten nominees for Best Picture is way too much. Sure that means that it will be less likely that a movie I loved would get nominated, but I won't care as much if the Awards were less of a joke than they currently are.
3) Add certain categories. I know I just said that the show goes on too long, but there are conspicuous categories missing from the Awards, notably ones for comedies. Add some in there for comedy films and comedic actors and actresses and boom, there you go. Problem solved.
4) Since my Academy Awards are taking on a more lighthearted feel, I think that it would be proper to just let everything out on stage. What I mean is that there have been a lot of controversies throughout the Awards' history (George C. Scott flat out refusing his award for Patton and calling the whole thing a '"meat parade', Marlon Brando sending a Native American woman in his stead for The Godfather to read a scathing fifteen-page rant about discrimination in film) and that has the current Awards terrified of those things happening again. Controversy is fun, and while I don't advocate having Kanye West jump up on stage and start yelling at everyone, I do think that it is a little silly that they always have their producers ready to cut the cameras away from potential controversy. Just let it happen, I want to see it.
Part of me wants to say that the Academy Awards can't be saved. That its too far past the point of no return and that I should just continue on not caring. But the fact is that I still love the idea of them and I want the Oscars to live up to the ideal that lives in my head. They are awards given to films and filmmakers by other filmmakers and should have an extra weight to them. But there are so many problems that the extra weight and worth of the awards just isn't there. It makes me profoundly sad.
Just to keep you from bugging me about it later I would give Best Picture to The Muppets because it was one of the few movies this year that made me completely forget I was watching a movie and made me feel like a kid again.