Diversity, Trump take center stage
Oscars so white? Not this year.
Diversity took center stage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday, as Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.
Coupled with director Ezra Edelman’s win for Best Documentary Feature for his nearly eight hour O.J. Simpson documentary, “O.J. Made in America,” last year’s Oscar whiteout seemed like a distant memory.
If diversity was at the center of the show, politics weren’t far behind. Host Jimmy Kimmel wasted no time digging into the Donald Trump during his stinging, sharp opening monologue at the top of the show.
“Thank you to President Trump,” said Kimmel. “Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?”
No corners of the telecast were safe from the realm of politics and world events. Asghar Farhadi, director of Best Foreign Language Film winner “The Salesman,” skipped the ceremony to protest Trump’s proposed travel ban on Muslims, saying in a statement, “dividing the world into the ‘us and our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.”
Best Makeup and Hairstyling winner Alessandro Bertolazzi – a winner for “Suicide Squad,” of all movies – dedicated his award to “all the immigrants.” Even the Best Animated Film category became a political platform, with presenter Gael Garcia Bernal going off script and saying he was opposed to “anything that wants to separate us.” The winners of the category, for “Zootopia,” explained their film promotes the message that “tolerance (is) more powerful than fear of the other.”
Ali, winning the night’s first award, thanked his teachers and his professors for helping him learn he’s in service of his stories and his characters, not himself.
Davis, winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Fences,” gave a powerful speech in which she said artists “are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
After her speech, host Kimmel joked Davis was just nominated for an Emmy for her speech.
Kimmel was a game host. Early on he requested the audience give nominee Meryl Streep – a victim of Trump’s Twitter ire – a “totally undeserved round of applause” for a career full of “uninspiring and overrated performances.” Streep, ever game, stood up and bowed to the crowd, who gave her a standing ovation in return.
He also poked fun at Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington and Hollywood in general. While introducing Dwane “The Rock” Johnson, he noted the former pro wrestler is now the highest paid actor in the world, “which really puts this whole thing in perspective, doesn’t it?”
He also drew groans for a joke about O.J. Simpson after the Best Documentary win, then commented on the groans in the style of a next-day write-up of his performance on the show.