Billy Crystal is back. Harvey Weinstien's been working his awards-season magic. Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks all have films in the hunt for Best Picture. And still there's almost zero buzz heading into this year's Oscar show. Why?
As thrilled as everyone is about the return of Billy Crystal as host, it's quite possible that folks haven’t yet recovered from last year's Anne Hathaway-James Franco debacle. Her super-wattage energy and his almost defiant indifference made for a noxious cocktail that inspired Roger Ebert, Peter Travers, The Hollywood Reporter and 57% of Americans polled to declare it the worst Oscar-cast they'd ever seen. And no matter how you measure it, the ratings were down at least 10 percent.
Making matters worse was the initial selection of Brett Ratner as producer, a choice that furrowed the brow of just about everyone this side of Ratner's mother. But the world seemed to make peace with it when he announced that Eddie Murphy would be hosting. Then Ratner started spouting homophobic slurs during a Q&A; the next thing you knew he was canned and Murphy was suddenly bowing out. The 84th Annual Oscars had gone down in a ball of flames three months before they happened.
And then there's the absence of a sexy race for Best Picture. "The Artist"—a silent French film in black-and-white!-- has been so dominant throughout the awards season, that the contest lacks any drama, with George Clooney's "The Descendants" presenting the only real challenge. Last year gave us "The King's Speech" vs. "The Social Network," before that was "Avatar" vs. "The Hurt Locker," with the films' directors, ex-spouses Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron, heightening the drama with their Best Director showdown. This year's race features a pair of films that have taken in a combined $103 million, which is respectable, but with neither breaking $10 million nor finishing higher than 7th at the box office in any week.
But it's still the Oscars. As James Franco pointed out to David Letterman after his widely reviled stint as co-host.
“Leading up to the Oscars, I couldn’t hear enough about how, ‘Oh, people don’t care about the Oscars anymore. It’s dead. It’s boring. It’s at the end of a long awards season. Who cares about it?’" said Franco. "Then they can’t hear enough about a show they don’t care about.”
Haters gonna hate, Jimmy.
Plus, the show is littered with Hollywood legends and rising stars. In addition to Pitt, Clooney, Allen, Scorsese, Spielberg and Hanks, vying for awards are Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Rooney Mara, Michelle Williams, Jessica Chastain, Jonah Hill and Kenneth Branagh, to name a few. Among the presenters will be Halle Berry, the cast of "Bridesmaids," Bradley Cooper, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Michael Douglas, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Zach Galifianakis, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Milla Jovovich, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Jennifer Lopez, Natalie Portman, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller and Emma Stone.
You might not care, but you know you'll watch, even if it's only to grouse about how dumb awards shows are and how much you hated "War Horse."
The 84th Annual Oscars Awards air Sunday night at 8 pm on ABC. You can print out your Oscar ballot here, and check out our complete coverage of the 2012 Academy Awards here.