Aside from a string of running gags throughout the live
telecast about Kimmel's faux feud with his long-time pal, actor
Matt Damon, the 45th U.S. president proved to be Kimmel's
In keeping with his signature deadpan, sardonic delivery,
Kimmel's social commentary was pointed while restrained, and he
wasted little time addressing the political furor that has
loomed so large over the Hollywood awards season.
"This broadcast is being watched live by millions of Americans,
and around the world in more than 225 countries that now hate
us, and I think that is amazing," the late-night television star
exclaimed shortly after stepping onto the stage of the Dolby
Theatre in Hollywood.
Insisting he was at a loss for words to help unite a divided
country, Kimmel exhorted viewers to make their own efforts at
reconciliation by reaching out to political adversaries they
knew personally to "have a positive, considerate conversation,
not as liberals or conservatives, as Americans."
"If we could all do that, we could make America great again," he
said, an allusion to Trump's own campaign slogan.
Kimmel also showed a willingness to tweak the motion picture
academy for its own shortcomings, drawing a sly parallel between
the criticism both the president and the Oscars have taken for a
perceived lack of racial sensitivity.
"I want to say, 'Thank you, President Trump,'" he said. "I mean,
remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?"
he asked rhetorically in a reference to the #OscarsSoWhite
controversy that clouded the Academy Awards in 2016.
The joke drew hearty laughter and applause from the star-studded
audience in the hall, recognizing a renewed measure of racial
balance in the awards after two straight years in which all the
major acting categories shut out nominees of color.
Kimmel capped his monologue with a deliberately back-handed
tribute to perennial Oscar nominee Meryl Streep, whose fiery
denunciation of Trump at the Golden Globe Awards in January drew
an angry Twitter retort from Trump calling her "one of the most
over-rated actresses in Hollywood."
"From her mediocre early work in 'The Deer Hunter' and 'Out of
Africa' to her underwhelming performances in 'Kramer vs. Kramer'
and 'Sophie's Choice,' Meryl Streep has phoned it in for more
than 50 films over the course of her lackluster career," Kimmel
He then noted she was celebrating her 20th Oscar nomination - as
best actress for "Florence Foster Jenkins" - before asking the
audience to give an "undeserved round of applause" to the
"highly overrated Meryl Streep." She got a standing ovation.
[to top of second column]
LIVE-TWEETING TO TRUMP
Later in the evening, Kimmel stoked the Streep-Trump theme further,
sending a tweet back to the commander-in-chief with the message,
projected on a large screen behind him: "Hey @realDonaldTrump. u up?
Alluding to Trump's confrontations with the White House press corps,
Kimmel also jokingly demanded that journalists from several news
outlets leave the building, declaring, "We have no tolerance for
fake news. Fake tans we love."
The political barbs began flying after a breezy opening dance number
led by Justin Timberlake, performing the Oscar-nominated song "Can't
Stop the Feeling" from the animated film "Trolls."
The performance brought the attendees to their feet dancing. As they
took their seats again, Timberlake welcomed Kimmel out to the stage.
"Oh good, I got a sitting ovation," he remarked dryly. Then, in a
self-deprecating nod to the revolving door of one-time Oscar emcees
in recent years, He added: "This is my first time here, and the way
you people go through hosts, it's probably my last."
Through no apparent fault of his own, Kimmel's appearance will
likely be remembered for the pandemonium surrounding the upset
victory of "Moonlight" as best picture at the end of the night, in a
stunning, unprecedented Oscar mix-up in which "La La Land" was first
announced erroneously as the winner.
"I blame myself for this," Kimmel interjected. "I knew I would screw
this show up."
Kimmel, 49, was tapped for the Oscar gig after two stints hosting
television's Primetime Emmy Awards, most recently in 2016.
A 14-year veteran of ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!", he is the third
star of late-night broadcast TV to preside over Hollywood's highest
honors, following in the footsteps of Johnny Carson of NBC's "The
Tonight Show" and Kimmel's personal hero, David Letterman, then host
of the CBS "Late Show."
Letterman, whose Oscar performance was widely panned, was never
(Editing by Mary Milliken)
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