The 89th annual Academy Awards will not be remembered for Jimmy Kimmel’s hosting duties, a extravagant music number, a political rant, or the treats that parachuted from the sky, but for the M Night Shyamalan twist ending when Warren Beatty accidentally named La La Land as the Best Picture when the winner was really Moonlight. Other than that, the evening sailed along smoothly with award show-brand jokes, bits, and boiler-plate acceptance speeches. If it weren’t for that snafu at the end, the night would have been just another basic awards ceremony. Because when mistakes like that happen, things get interesting. Case in point: Steve Harvey announcing the wrong winner at the Miss Universe pageant. People eat stuff like that up. Unfortunately, the 2017 Oscars will be better known as the year that Warren Beatty screwed up instead of the year that Moonlight won Best Picture.
In an effort to convince everyone that this year’s ceremony would be lively and lovely, they had Justin Timberlake open the telecast with a performance of “Can’t Stop the Feeling” — that one song from Trolls that radio stations kept on playing over and over and over and over again to the point of nausea. Nonetheless, the crowd enjoyed it and there were plenty of cutaway shots to awkward dancing moments from people like Jeff Bridges.
First-time host Jimmy Kimmel tackled the opening monologue as if he was hosting his own late-night talk show. He looked comfortable on that stage and it wasn’t a surprise considering he shoots his own show across the street from the Dolby theater. Natrally, he toyed with the nominees in the audience and took a turn into the nation’s politics — but handled it with a humorous, and for the most part, lighthearted approach. Expectedly he targeted Trump, saying and said that he wanted to thank our president, saying “remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?” He went on to respond to last year’s #OscarsSoWhite campaign saying, “It has been an amazing year for movies. Black people saved NASA and white people saved jazz. That’s what you call progress.”
One thing that Kimmel does very well self-deprecating humor and humbling celebrities through a passive aggressive humiliation — with the exception of Matt Damon (which we will get to later). In addition to making fun of himself (at the end of the ceremony during the Best Picture chaos, he said “I knew I’d screw this up), he playfully called out actors one by one throwing some zingers and spent a good amount of time on Meryl Streep, citing Mr. Trump’s tweet about her being overrated — a bit that went on throughout the evening. Just like Kimmel and Damon’s feud, a thing that spilled over from his talk show that should be obnoxiously overdone, but manages to always garner laughs now and then.
At one point, Kimmel got sincere saying, “I’m not the man to unite this country, but it can be done. You know, if every person watching this show — I don’t want to get too serious, but there are millions and millions of people watching right now — and if every one of you took a minute to reach out to one person you disagree with, someone you like, and have a positive, considerate conversation — not as liberals or conservatives, as Americans — if we could all do that, we can make America great again. We really could. It starts with us.”
Surprisingly, there weren’t many high-octane, politically-charged acceptance speeches like Meryl Streep’s at the Golden Globes. There wasn’t much direct trash talk about Mr. Trump. Instead there was a call to action for more inclusion, tolerance, solidarity, and using creativity as a platform. One of the most memorable moments was when The Salesman won for Best Foreign Language film. The Iranian director, Asghar Farhadi, has been making headlines as of late when he said he would boycott the ceremony following the news that Trump’s travel ban. Engineer Anousheh Ansari accepted the award on his behalf and read the following statement: “I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight. My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those from other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US. Dividing the world into the US and our enemies categories creates fear – a deceitful justification for aggression and war.”
Perhaps it was good that the Oscars wasn’t drenched in political rants, but I was expecting a lot more talk of resistance. More of it would have made the ceremony more dynamic and sensational, but the ceremony felt more sophisticated in its Trump pushback taking a “Love trumps hate” approach with emotionally-charged inspirational speeches from the likes of Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis.
Of course, the “In Memoriam” segment is always something to look forward to (or not look forward to, depending on how you approach it). But this year was more difficult to get through considering the enormous talent we lost including the most recent passing of Bill Paxton — even Jennifer Aniston, who was introducing the segment, got choked up. Sara Bareilles sang a stirring rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” as we saw clips of Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Wilder, Prince, Mary Tyler Moore, and more flash on screen to remind us who we lost as we sit there and try not to sob uncontrollably.
Overall, the show felt like a three-hour-plus version of Kimmel’s talk show. There was an Oscars edition of “Mean Tweets” where celebrities read insulting, yet hilarious tweets from the masses in order to keep them grounded, which is always fun. There was also a bit where Kimmel surprised a busload of tourists by bringing them into the ceremony where they got to mingle with the celebs. Although it ran a little too long, it was quite entertaining to see a real people interact with A-listers. More specifically, it was fun to see a couple get “fake married” by Denzel Washington while the bride documented the moment it on a selfie-stick. And of course, the Oscars wouldn’t be complete without a yearly food bit. There was that one year when Ellen bought the audience pizza and last year, Chris Rock handed out Girl Scout cookies. This year, Kimmel got creative and had snacks parachute down from the ceiling not once, but twice during the show. That’s fun and all, but perhaps if they didn’t include this, the telecast would have been shorter.
After getting over the monologue hump, Kimmel handled the most thankless job in showbusiness well. He wasn’t a fantastic host, but he wasn’t a horrible host either. He was a cruise director and he kept everything on track the best way he could. He went through the motions of every host: he did crowd work, provided comedic interstitials & segues, and most importantly, provided the audience with Twizzlers, Junior Mints, cookies, and donuts. It was a fine show for the first 2 hours and 55 minutes. It was everything you expected in an awards show: musical performances, presenters forced to tell jokes that don’t land well, and cutaway shots of celebrities acting like they aren’t bored out of their mind. Then those last minutes happen it was enjoyably shocking — and awkward. It wasn’t the best Oscars ever but it sure as hell was interesting.
Dino watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
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Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer