Billy Crystal's opening monologue: It's about baseball and the economy, stupid.
He sings. He dances. He jokes. He smooches George Clooney on the lips in a parody of a hospital scene in "The Descendants," and he hangs with Justin Bieber trying to capture the youth audience. He's Billy Crystal. And the night marks his ninth time hosting the Oscars. After delivering his opening speech, he launched into a song and dance routine to introduce the best pictures and said, "You didn't think I wasn't gonna do this, did you?"
As the comedian and Oscar host pro put it, that record means that "tonight, just call me 'War Horse.' "
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He also learned a thing or two after his close-up with Clooney, as he told Clooney's girlfriend and Oscar date, Stacey Kiebler. "You're lucky, he's a good kisser," he joked.
The Academy Award veteran clearly plans to keep things moving. He told the crowd, "We gotta' hustle because of the nine nominated films … ." He talked fast and kept the opening monologue brief. And cut to the chase: It's pretty inside, but the economic climate is ugly.
"We're here at the beautiful Chapter 11 Theater to celebrate a holiday tradition that not only creates memories for the ages but breeds resentments that last a long time," he said.
Crystal noted (in a deep James Earl Jones tone, ala "Field of Dreams") that movies are like baseball because, "like baseball, the movies have always been there for us. … The place to laugh, to cry, to question, to text."
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But he wasn't done taking a quick cut at the audience, telling the crowd and -- more importantly -- the viewers that "nothing takes the sting out of a recession like watching millionaires present each other with gold statues." Play ball.
Claudine Zap writes for Yahoo! and has previously covered events including the royal wedding, the 10 year anniversary of 9/ 11, the Super Bowl, and the Grammys.