Donald Trump is going to be really, really sorry he didn’t watch this year’s Oscars: Hollywood messed up as it’s never messed up before.
After a ceremony filled with attacks on Trump, the Best Picture award melted down as Warren Beatty and his “Bonnie and Clyde” co-star, Faye Dunaway, accidentally named “La La Land” as the Best Picture. But it was actually “Moonlight,” as Beatty later explained.
If there was an Academy Award for Biggest Oscars Presence That Wasn’t Actually Present at the Oscars, this year the statuette would surely have gone to Donald Trump.
Trump might not have attended — or, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer, even watched — the Oscars, but his contentious relationship with Hollywood left a big, Trump-shaped impression on the festivities at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday. Even before the opening number, the questions loomed: How political would the ceremony be? Could Trump resist the urge to fire off a heated tweet or two about the Oscars?
It’s often been suggested that Washington, DC is Hollywood for ugly people, and the ugly relationship between Tinsel Town and the current chief executive made for some compelling anticipatory questions.
It didn’t take long to find out just how big a part Trump would play at the Academy Awards. Host Jimmy Kimmel addressed the orange-haired elephant in the room during his opening monologue, when he told the audience that the ceremony would be viewed in hundreds of countries “that now hate us, and I think that’s an amazing thing.”
Elsewhere in his monologue, Kimmel heaped backhanded praise on Trump critic/target Meryl Streep, characterizing her as an actress who “has stood the test of time for her many uninspiring and overrated performances” and “has phoned it in for more than 50 films.” Kimmel then implored the attendees to give “a totally undeserved round of applause” to “the highly overrated Meryl Streep.”
Trump wasn’t the only target of Kimmel’s sharp tongue — “Hacksaw Ridge” director and controversy magnet Mel Gibson, who was in attendance at the Dolby Theatre, received his share of barbs. Declaring that he wasn’t up to the task of uniting the public in these divisive times, Kimmel observed, “There’s only one Braveheart in this room, and he’s not going to unite us either.”
“You look great; I think the Scientology is working,” Kimmel went on to tell Gibson.
And then there was Matt Damon, Kimmel’s sparring partner in a years-long public joke/rivalry.
“When I first met Matt, I was the fat one,” Kimmel recalled, before dinging him for passing on “Manchester by the Sea” in order to make “a Chinese ponytail movie instead.”
“And that movie, ‘The Great Wall,’ went on to lose $80 million,” Kimmel cracked.
Kimmel got in another jab at Damon later on in the ceremony, as Damon and Affleck presented for Best Original Screenplay. As Damon unrolled his spiel about the importance of scripts, music welled up, playing him off. The camera panned to the pit, to reveal Kimmel conducting the band in an effort to usher Damon off.
Before Kimmel verbally punched Damon full of holes, Justin Timberlake opened the show with a song-and-dance number to the tune of “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” from his animated film “Trolls.” The primary takeaway from the segment was that A-list acting talent doesn’t always come with A-list dance moves. (Nicole Kidman, whatever that was you were feeling — please stop it.)
There were the usual histrionics and heartstring-tugging. In addition to the Trump-era calls for unity and inclusiveness peppered throughout,, Viola Davis earned a Most Emotional Acceptance Speech nod while picking up her Best Supporting Actress for “Fences.”
Davis shed enough tears to turn the Oscars stage into a safety hazard as she declared, “I became an artist and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” Jennifer Aniston, meanwhile, choked up while introducing the In Memoriam segment with a mention of “Titanic” actor Bill Paxton, who died unexpectedly the previous day.
The gags between the back-patting ranged from the cute (leading a busload of unaware tourists into the Dolby Theatre to hobnob with the rich and famous) to the cutting (an Oscars edition of Kimmel’s “Live!” skit Mean Tweets featured Casey Affleck reciting “Casey Affleck is the real-life version of Billy Bob Thornton’s character in ‘Sling Blade” and Jeff Bridges declaring, “I think Jeff Bridges wears pants a lot less than we all think he does.”)
Ultimately, the staged antics ended up taking a far backseat to an unintentional bit of comedy, as Beatty and Dunaway served up a jumbo-sized blunder, mistakenly named “La La Land” as the Best Picture winner rather than the actual winner, “Moonlight.”
Had he watched, the last laugh would have gone to Trump.