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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Billy Crystal!

Hello humans! That was a Mike Wazowski/Disney World inside-joke, in case you were confused. Today, the beautiful, talented Billy Crystal turns sixty-four, and I'd like to celebrate by naming a few of his greatest accomplishments, both in film and elsewhere. Yes, that was a very short introduction. Would you even enjoy it if there was a long, detailed one anyway? I think not.

When Harry Met Sally... - Also known as one of my all-time preferred films. I'm still contemplating whether I can call this my absolute preferred (remember, I dislike the term "favorite"), but this delightful romantic-comedy is definitely up there. As one of the greatest films, in my opinion. Recently, the genre of romantic-comedy has been continuously ridiculed and automatically deemed an undesirable blockbuster. (Yes, they still make a whole lot of money, despite the audience's groans and moans of its quality. Hypocrisy at its finest.) Regardless of what today may think of these romantic comedies, When Harry Met Sally... is much more than that. Rather than a predictable boy-meets-girl-and-they-fall-in-love scenario, the creatively brilliant duo of Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron compose a witty, fresh, enormously sweet film that incorporates both romance and comedy. I wouldn't call this a romantic comedy because, once you attach that label on a film, it is placed among the rest of movies of that type. And it most certainly is not just like everybody else. Billy Crystal is phenomenal as the wonderfully cynical Harry Burns, providing me with my first experience with him, aside from Monsters Inc. The chemistry between him and Meg Ryan is, also, undeniably adorable--not only their romantic chemistry, but their general, social chemistry, which is an impressive scene to witness. Most preferred film or not, I absolutely love this picture.

Monsters Inc. - Yet another great achievement by the brilliant minds of Pixar. A story about a monster civilization who obtains power from the terror of children--additionally, monsters cannot come into physical contact with children, or they will be severely sterilized--Pixar concocts a wonderful tale about friendship and...making new friends in spite of what authority says? Regardless of the theme, this animated feature is sensational. Billy Crystal lends his voice to the now-timeless character of Mike Wazowski, a one-eyed, conceited green monster, who, along with his buddy Sulley (voiced by John Goodman), defy the rules to protect a cute little human girl named Boo. Mike Wazowski, unquestionably one of the best Pixar characters created, is hilarious when accompanied by the voice talent of Billy Crystal, who I must say is ideal for the role. (Great quote: [on being called a cretin incorrectly] "First of all, it's "cretin". If you're going to threaten me, do it properly.") Definitely one of the most excellent produced by Pixar. As much as I love this animation, I have to agree with the Academy awarding Shrek the (first-ever) Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Otherwise, the gold would clearly, without question, go to them.

Analyze This - I nearly forgot about this one! And how could I? A hilarious comedy about a psychiatrist whose newest primary patient is an insecure mob boss, starring Billy Crystal as the shrink and Robert DeNiro as the mob boss. Forgive me, it's been a while since I've seen this picture, but I can assure you, I laughed quite a bit. I most certainly did. Ahem. In one of his first comedic turns, Robert DeNiro shines as Paul Vitti, who approaches his doctor whenever the slightest complication arises in his life. Of course, being a dangerous member of the mafia, Billy Crystal as Dr. Ben Sobel complies with his varied antics. I'm sure you all know the famous image of Robert DeNiro, squinting at Billy Crystal and saying "You!" You know what I'm referring to. Billy Crystal himself is not the highlight of the film, clearly going to his costar, but with someone else in his role, I doubt this film could be successful. Thus, Billy Crystal is utterly irreplaceable. The on-screen relationship between him and Robert DeNiro is fantastic, and considering what a force DeNiro is in the industry, I'd say that is pretty impressive on Billy Crystal's part.

America's Sweethearts - While this movie wasn't as well-received as others, I still enjoyed it. That's right, I found this romantic comedy (in this case, the term applies) about a separated Hollywood couple who get back together for sake of publicity, to be rather entertaining. Maybe John Cusack, who plays Eddie Thomas, was a bit too depressed and cynical, and though I enjoy cynicism, I enjoy it when done properly. Such as when Billy Crystal does it! Here, he plays Eddie's publicist, Lee Phillips, as he tries to manage the major conflict between his client and his ex-wife, Gwen Harrison, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones as a detestable diva. (The fact that I disliked her so much displays what? Talent.) Julia Roberts plays her sister, Kiki, who is sweet pushover and tends to Gwen's every need. I won't give anything else away, other than that it is a predictable, typical romantic comedy sort of movie. What are the highlights, you may ask? Billy Crystal, as always witty and quick, and, a very-much under-appreciated actor, Stanley Tucci, playing the heartless, anxious studio head. Two marvelous actors simply displaying their immense talent.

The Academy Awards - I hope you know that this is not a specific movie of his. He has hosted nine times, and each time, I'm sure, was fantastic. I've seen merely two out of those nine (unfortunately, they do not distribute past Academy Award ceremonies to the public) and I can say with definite assurance that he was probably the best of the best. It's no wonder they asked him to host again this year, after such a weak, disappointing ceremony in 2011. (To clarify, that ceremony celebrated the achievements of 2010.) Billy Crystal was a refreshing change this year, as he brought some of his timeless humor to satisfy all viewers of the show. There is no doubt in my mind that everyone was truly entertained this year. (Or is it, there is no doubt in my mind that no one was entertained? When the word "doubt" is used, it's difficult to determine which is the proper form. Oh, woe is English.) The other ceremony I've viewed with Billy Crystal as host was when Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won every single Oscar. I will always remember a certain "secret insult" he made towards Bill Murray, who lost that year to a magnificent Sean Penn in Mystic River. (He seriously thought he would win against that?) Well, when the winner was announced, and the other nominees cheered on, Bill Murray just sat there, with this nasty, sore expression. Then, when Sean Penn walked off stage, Billy Crystal says, "Bill, don't go. No, Bill. We still love you, Bill." This, to me, was an obvious jab at his petulant reaction to losing, which just pleased me all over. If only the Academy would produce past award ceremonies, like from the 1960s as well as Billy's past hosting gigs, for the purchasing-pleasure of the public. Someone must record these events, right? Hint to those people: Sell.

Unfortunately, I'm ashamed to say that is basically all I've encountered with the comical talent of Billy Crystal. Believe me, I intend to experience more of his comedic prowess, with films such as Mr. Saturday Night, City Slickers, and The Princess Bride. Be patient with me here! Unless you really couldn't care less whether or not I watched more of his filmography or not. If that's the case, you should have stopped reading a long while ago. Once again: Happy Birthday Billy Crystal! I spelled Birthy at first.

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