Coming at the end of an awards season that has been even heavier on anti-Donald Trump rhetoric than on tearful speeches thanking agents and lawyers, the 2017 Oscars carried an extra layer of suspense.
Would the Oscars show be another demonstration of how divided the country is, with a parade of winners attacking Trump and his policies? Or would the evening be a trip to "La La Land," with the multi-nominated escapist musical keeping the mood light and breezy?
Instead, the show ended with the craziest climax in Oscar history, showing just how divided things can really be, as Warren Beatty read the wrong Best Picture winner. After seemingly bringing the evening to its expected end, announcing "La La Land" as the Best Picture, and the movie's producers took the stage to give their thanks, it turned out that Beatty had made a mistake.
The Best Picture winner was, instead, "Moonlight," the independently made, low-budget story about a gay African American male and his coming of age.
It was a shocker that transformed what had been a pretty standard Oscars show into a jaw-dropper.
Kimmel jokingly asked Beatty, "Warren, what did you do?"
Beatty said when he opened the envelope, "it said Emma Stone, 'La La Land." Stone had won best actress a few moments earlier. It appeared Beatty and Dunaway had been given the wrong envelope.
Before the last-minute mix-up, the 89th Oscars had offered both the anticipated political digs at Trump, and the usual awards show silliness, mostly thanks to host Jimmy Kimmel, who at times turned the Oscars into a super-long episode of his late-night show.
And after two years of #OscarsSoWhite controversy, with the show being slammed for overlooking actors of color, the 89th Oscars made history with a record number of wins for African Americans, including Viola Davis (best supporting actress for "Fences"), Mahershala Ali (best supporting actor for "Moonlight") and "Moonlight" writers Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney.
But Kimmel and the writers seemed intent on keeping the mood light, no matter what.
Kimmel set the tone with a confident, sharp opening monologue that combined self-deprecating humor ("Oh good, I got a sitting ovation"), good-natured jabs at celebs (teasing Justin Timberlake, who opened the show performing his best song nominee, "Can't Stop the Feeling" about reuniting with NSYNC), and pointed jokes (the Oscars show was watched, Kimmel said, in "more than 225 countries that now hate us.")
Unlike other hosts, Kimmel didn't largely disappear after his opening monologue. But his recurring visits got less entertaining as the evening dragged on, and Kimmel ordered candy dropped from the rafters, chatted with tourists brought in for an unexpected visit to the Oscar show, and kept the jokes coming.
To his credit, Kimmel didn't take himself or the proceedings too seriously. But that also robbed this Oscars of emotional impact.
And does anybody else find the long-running mock feud between Kimmel and Matt Damon as hilarious as they do? By the end of the Oscars broadcast, this bit felt as tedious as the ill-advised recurring segments featuring actors waxing on about favorite films.
Here are other highlights and lowlights from the 2017 Oscars:
The inevitable political comments: Kimmel needled Trump, saying he wanted to thank the president: "remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? That's gone, thanks to him." Kimmel also recalled Trump's comments responding to Meryl Streep's Golden Globes speech, in which the actress attacked Trump's agenda by jokingly referring to the "overrated" Streep.
"Nice dress, by the way," Kimmel said to Streep. "Is that an Ivanka?"
Kimmel also saluted the French best actress nominee Isabelle Huppert, saying he was glad homeland security let her come.
Nodding to Trump's Twitter habit, Kimmel at one point sent a Tweet to the president, asking "U up?"
On a more serious note, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi boycotted the ceremony. When his film, "The Salesman," won for best foreign language film, Farhadi had a representative on hand to read a statement from the director: "My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of the other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S."
Rich Howard, co-director of "Zootopia," which won for best animated feature (beating "Kubo and the Two Strings," made by Hillsboro's Laika studio), also made a reference to the Trump administration. "We are so grateful to the audiences all over the world that embraced this film with this story of tolerance being more powerful than fear of the other," Howard said.
Mel Gibson: Despite Kimmel's suggestion that we should try and have respectful conversations with those who don't agree with us, social media lit up whenever Gibson was on camera. The actor-turned-director's film "Hacksaw Ridge" was up for several nominations, and Twitter users were mad as hell that everyone seemed to have gotten over Gibson's history of transgressions, from anti-Semitic remarks to allegations of abuse.
Diversity and division: As the show ran long, social media users were arguing whether a few of Kimmel's jokes had been racist. But it all ended with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, reunited decades after "Bonnie and Clyde," presenting the award for Best Picture.
Beatty said our goal in politics is the same as our goal in art, "and that's to get to the truth." The Best Picture nominees reflected increasing diversity in "our community," Beatty added.
Then he and Dunaway announced the movie that won the night's biggest prize. After a weirdly long pause, Beatty handed the envelope to Dunaway, who said "La La Land" won Best Picture. But as it turned out, this wasn't a year when Hollywood was staying in its escapist comfort zone.
And, just as the Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump race ended with an upset, so did the Oscars, as the "La La Land" winners were stopped, and "Moonlight" emerged the victor.
-- Kristi Turnquist
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