On Oscar night, it's Crystal vs. Crystal

If Billy Crystal's ninth outing as Oscar host ("just call me 'War Horse'") got off to a not terribly exciting start, he has no one to blame but Billy Crystal.

And, OK, the nine -- count 'em, nine -- Best Picture nominees, which made his traditional musical medley more of  a long-distance obstacle course than ever.

Crystal, whose Oscar record has made life difficult for every other host in recent memory, is now in competition against only himself.

He's stuck with that medley, I'm afraid, though his true strength as a host tends to come through in the less-scripted moments -- the Jack Palance updates, for instance -- and we're not far enough into the show to have seen those yet.

But I'm betting that if Sacha Baron Cohen had dumped ashes all over Crystal instead of Ryan Seacrest, he'd have found a way to spin them into gold.