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(Three Updates) Will “Tower Heist” Talent Steal Back the Oscars?

November 7, 2011

By John C.

Even with over $25 million at the box office and a mostly positive critical response, Tower Heist isn’t the sort of film that gets recognized when it comes to receiving Oscar nominations.  Yet the incredibly entertaining action comedy will be intrinsically linked to this year’s Academy Awards, with several members of the cast and crew responsible for bringing life to this year’s telecast.  But controversy is quickly spreading about some of these choices.

We reviewed Tower Heist on Friday and had a lot of fun with the film, all citing Eddie Murphy as one of the standouts of the ensemble comedic cast. His hilarious role as a small time criminal helping the main characters pull off the titular robbery is a comedic comeback for the actor.  Playing almost as an homage to such 1980’s films as 48 Hours and Beverly Hills Cop, which were responsible for making him a star in the first place, this is Murphy’s funniest live action work in quite some time.

It was officially announced on September 6th that Eddie Murphy would be hosting the 84th annual Academy Awards that will be held on February 26th of next year, a widely publicized choice that was met with much curiosity as to what sort of stylings he would bring to the proceedings.  After just missing the Best Supporting Actor award in 2006 for his excellent dramatic work in Dreamgirls, I think this might finally be his time to shine in the Oscar spotlight.

I was in the small minority that didn’t outright trash the wacky co-hosting job done by Anne Hathaway and James Franco at this year’s ceremony, but I’ll also be the first to admit that the mostly stale material they were stuck working with wasn’t exactly what you would call memorable.  But neither actor can be entirely blamed for this as they aren’t trained in the sometimes improvisational art of stand-up comedy, and did do their best to keep things going.  Last year the Oscars were saved by the majority of the awards going to the rightful recipients, particularly in the stellar Best Acting and Best Picture categories.  This year the telecast will be livened up by good writers and a host that doubles as a skilled comedian.

The controversy stems from the fact that the producer of this year’s show will be Tower Heist director Brett Ratner.  Although initially an odd choice because his films are nothing but pure entertainment, I must admit that Ratner is a director who knows how to deliver stylish fun and there is a good chance he will do a fine job of masterminding this year’s telecast.  But only if he can keep his mouth shut behind the scenes.  The big problem comes from the fact that he has a reputation for publicly saying things that really shouldn’t be said and came under serious fire over the weekend for his offensive comment that “rehearsing is for fags.”  Thankfully, he won’t be in charge of scripting the show.  Along with some of the comedic scribes behind Curb Your Enthusiasm and Saturday Night Live, Tower Heist co-writers Jeff Nathanson and Ted Griffen will be responsible for thinking up some of the material.

What will or should win in the big categories is still largely up in the air and we’ll start offering commentary on that over the next few months, but hopefully the team behind Tower Heist will do their best to make the show itself as entertaining as possible.  If nothing else, Eddie Murphy seems to be back in his prime and will more than likely bring his unique brand of fast paced dialogue-driven humour to the proceedings.  Although some of these choices are turning heads for obvious reasons, the Academy realizes that they need to breath new life into the annual telecast and they seem to have picked a cast and crew that knows how to deliver on the front of pure entertainment.  Here’s hoping they can all provide a memorable night that doesn’t garner any more controversy.

Updated on Tuesday, November 8th:  Well, this literally changes everything.  Brett Ratner resigned today as the producer of the Oscars.  What he said was impulsive and offensive, but I stand by what I said and still think he would have done a fine job of producing the telecast.  But after the public outcry that his comments have received over the last two days, his personal choice to resign was pretty much the only thing he could do short of causing a protest.  To conclude, Ratner’s pitch-perfect statement just about says it all:  “Over the last few days, I’ve gotten a well-deserved earful from many of the people I admire most in this industry expressing their outrage and disappointment over the hurtful and stupid things I said in a number of recent media appearances.  To them, and to everyone I’ve hurt and offended, I’d like to apologize publicly and unreservedly.”

Updated on Wednesday, November 9th:  And the situation just continues to spiral unbelievably out of control, making my original headline a complete moot point.  One offensive comment from producer Brett Ratner and a nasty backlash has completely derailed all preconceived expectations for the Oscars in no less than two days.  Eddie Murphy has followed suit and resigned as the host of the telecast, a move made in solidarity with Ratner.  This truly is a huge loss for everyone involved, but he seems to have been painted into a corner.  The bigger question at the moment is who the Academy will get to replace him as the host.  I would personally side with this awesome Twitter campaign trying to get The Muppets for the gig, but the most real option at the moment seems to be the multi-talented Neil Patrick Harris.  But until an official announcement is made, I sincerely hope that this ridiculous mess will just fade away.

Updated on Thursday, November 10th:  Third update in as many days, rendering my original headline entirely obsolete.  The Academy has just announced that Billy Crystal will be hosting the Oscars.  The show will be produced by Brian Grazer, and this will be Crystal’s ninth time hosting the telecast throughout his impressive career. Although I am still in shock that Eddie Murphy won’t be hosting the show and would have loved to see The Muppets get the job, Billy Crystal is an excellent and reliable choice.   As it turns out, going with class and familiarity was pretty much the only way that this whole mess could just be swept under the rug once and for all.  At least we can count on the hilarious Billy Crystal to provide entertainment come February 26th.

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