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Oscars Review: Best Picture Shocker, Kimmel Thumps Trump

·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
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Going into this year’s Oscars, two things seemed most at stake: whether La La Land would dominate the awards, and whether President Trump would dominate the show itself. Well, neither proved to be the case. It turned out that Warren Beatty dominated the proceedings in the end. As the night’s final presenter, along with Faye Dunaway, the two declared La La Land the Best Picture winner, but as the producers and cast for that film assembled onstage, it was announced that, no, Moonlight had actually won. Beatty explained in the tumult that ensued that the card in his envelope was for Emma Stone’s La La Land win. Host Jimmy Kimmel made the inevitable joke: “I blame Steve Harvey for this” — a reference to the comedian’s botch of the 2015 Miss Universe winner.

La La Land took some of the biggest awards, including Best Actress (Emma Stone), Best Director (Damien Chazelle), and the key music prizes. But Moonlight, in winning Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), was certainly the equal of La La Land in prestige.

As for the Trump subject matter and subtext, well, despite the best — and worst — efforts of Kimmel, Trump didn’t receive the roasting many prognosticators and viewers assumed he would. Kimmel proved to be a relaxed host — sometimes so relaxed, his humor was slovenly. His opening monologue was studded with Trump slaps — “This broadcast is being watched by millions of Americans and around the world — 225 countries that now hate us”; “I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? That’s gone, thanks to him.”

But among the winners’ remarks, there were only a few general statements of solidarity with the world: no specific, by-name critiques of the president. There was no equivalent to Meryl Streep’s fiery Golden Globes speech castigating the new Trump era. In its place, there was a strongly worded statement from the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (whose film The Salesman won Best Foreign Film), about the “inhumane law” that bans people from Iran and from six other countries from entering the United States.

Kimmel is no political satirist, of course — he reminded us this night that his inspiration is David Letterman, who hosted the Oscars in 1995 in what was deemed an ill-considered performance. Kimmel’s version of the Oscars had some nice moments, but also moments that ran punchlines into the ground. The first time refreshments were dropped from the ceiling from tiny parachutes, it was charming; by the third time, it was a drag.

Taraji P. Henson asking her “Hidden Figures” co-star, Octavia Spencer, to share her snack. (Credit: ABC)
Taraji P. Henson asking her “Hidden Figures” co-star, Octavia Spencer, to share her snack. (Credit: ABC)

His stunt — bringing civilians from a Hollywood tour bus into the theater, was a tedious dud. It may be that spontaneous reactions are now impossible in this country, with Americans’ constant use of cell phone cameras preventing any real human interaction. While the tourists snapped pictures and selfies, Kimmel basically made fun of them, and some of the stars in the front rows looked terrified at coming into contact with members of the Great Unwashed.

Kimmel transferred two bits from his late-night show. “Mean Tweets,” with stars like Ryan Gosling and Whoopi Goldberg reading social-media insults, was mildly amusing, but Kimmel really has to retire his once-funny, now-tiresome “feud” with Matt Damon, which he was hammering away at right up to the final Best Picture award moment.

Samuel L. Jackson reads “Mean Tweets.” (Credit: ABC)
Samuel L. Jackson reads “Mean Tweets.” (Credit: ABC)

Ultimately, it was an Oscars ceremony that achieved the diversity the Academy of Arts and Sciences had wanted, along with a messiness that the Academy probably shuddered at witnessing — certainly during Beatty’s botch, perhaps at Kimmel’s tour-bus stunt. At its worst, the show found Kimmel begging Donald Trump to tweet about the Oscars. There is some shamelessness that is appalling. I’m glad Moonlight won Best Picture.

Read more:
Oscars 2017: The Highs, the Lows, and What Just Happened?
‘Moonlight’ or ‘La La Land?’: The Shocking Mixup During the Best Picture Announcement
Oscars 2017: Complete List of Honorees