Crystal criticized for blackface at Oscars

Billy Crystal as Sammy Davis Jr. in the opening skit of the Academy Awards ceremony Feb. 26, 2012. ABC/AMPAS

Oscar watchers set Twitter aflame over Billy Crystal's skit during the opening of last night's Academy Awards ceremony which featured the comedian in blackface.

During the filmed montage parodying the Best Picture nominees, Crystal encounters the mysterious time traveling car in Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," whose passengers include Sammy Davis Jr., played by Crystal in blackface.

Crystal had played Davis the same way many times on "Saturday Night Live" in the 1980s, but that didn't stop hundreds from questioning the bit on Twitter.

When Octavia Spencer later won Best Supporting Actress for "The Help," comedian Paul Scheer tweeted that her win "shows just how far we've come since Billy Crystal performed in Blackface."

Complete coverage: Oscars 2012

Alluding to the controversy last fall when Eddie Murphy bowed out of Oscar hosting duties after the show's original producer Brett Ratner exited over his use of a gay slur, "max read" wrote: "lmao remember when you were all like "billy crystal is going to be so SAFE" and then he did BLACKFACE."

Morgan Carroll concurred: "Good thing the Oscars went with the safe choice!"

Brian Glidewell tweeted: "When the announcer said "Ladies and Gentlemen, Morgan Freeman," I 90% expected Billy Crystal in blackface."

Julie (@jas508) called Crystal's act "pretty tacky,"

Galia Mango wrote: "Who does he think he is? Robert Downey Jr?" (Downey received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the comedy "Tropic Thunder," playing a Method actor so Method-y he undergoes a skin-darkening process to play a black character.)

My Damn Channel opined, "When Billy Crystal dies, I really really hope his "In Memoriam" clip is him as Blackface Sammy Davis Jr."

But not all tweets were condemning, noting that Crystal has impersonated Davis for years, and that Davis (who died in 1990) himself enjoyed it.

Neil Miller tweeted: "Billy Crystal in blackface is already better than the last 4 hosts combined."

Matt Goldberg tweeted: "Billy Crystal in blackface. Night: MADE."

Gregory Violet wrote: "Nobody does blackface like Billy Crystal does blackface."

And Scholaris took the high road: "Billy Crystal slammed for blackface skit - what next, we are way over the top 2 precious- if u skit a dog n wear hair and tail r u doggist?"

What do YOU think? Was Billy Crystal's impression harmless, or over the line?

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