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Before Best Picture Mixup, Oscars Focus Turned to Political Drama With Anti-Trump Messages

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HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Host Jimmy Kimmel onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel pokes fun at President Donald Trump during the 89th Annual Academy Awards Sunday night (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

There was as much envelope pushing as envelope opening at Sunday night’s Oscars.

Politics was ready for its close-up at the Academy Awards, an award ceremony that spent nearly as much time panning the Trump Administration as it did crowning the best of the past year in filmmaking.

Going into the night, La La Land was considered a heavy favorite for best picture, but many film buffs viewed a possible upset by the indie drama Moonlight—about an African-American boy desperate to keep his homosexuality secret in a tough Miami neighborhood—as a statement against conservative values.

And whether or not Academy voters were making a statement, that film did win after some drama of the offscreen kind when presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced La La Land in a gaffe of historic proportions. But painting the (eventual) winner as an anti-Trump statement is almost as tenuous as Red Staters viewing the Patriots’ Super Bowl win as validation of a Republican-led government last month. Moonlight was written and filmed before Trump even announced his candidacy.

“You certainly could make the argument that Moonlight won for cultural or political reasons,” conservative movie journalist Christian Toto, who runs the site HollywoodinToto.com, told RealClearLife. “Normally, a delight like La La Land would be a certain winner. Yet that isn’t totally fair to Moonlight, which is a very fine movie. But when you start thinking in politically correct terms, these kind of debates will undoubtedly come up.”

It took just one minute into Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue for the host to make his first joke about the 45th president. “This is being watched live by millions of people in 225 countries that now hate us,” Kimmel said.

To French actress Isabelle Hubbert, nominated for Elle, Kimmel quipped, “I’m glad Homeland Security let you in [the country]” and deadpanned that the acceptance speeches will be what “the president will tweet about in all caps during his 5 a.m. bowel movement.”

Throughout the evening both presenters and the winners peppered their remarks with left-leaning messages of defiance against Trump. “We have your back,” Moonlight director Barry Jenkins said during his acceptance speech for best adapted screenplay, in a shout-out to people who feel disenfranchised. “And for the next four years we will not leave you alone.”

When Iran’s The Salesman won for best foreign language film, a political statement from director Asghar Farhadi was read because the two-time Oscar winner boycotted the ceremony in protest of the Trump immigration policy towards his country. (See video below.)

 

Turning serious, Kimmel beseeched the viewers to try to reach out across the partisan divide.

“If every person watching this show—there are millions and millions of people watching right now—and … 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 would all do that, we could make America great again, we really could,” Kimmel said.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Actor Ruth Negga attends the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Actor Ruth Negga attends the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

In a less vocal, but no less obvious symbol of defiance, a number of celebrities—including best actress nominee Ruth Negga (above), Hamilton creator Lyn Manuel Miranda, and Jenkins—also sported blue ribbons on the red carpet to show solidarity with the ACLU.

“There was no single moment like Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes screed, nor something like Michael Moore’s anti-Iraq War speech of yore,” said Toto. “Yet the anti-Trump themes rose up repeatedly right up until the show’s final seconds.

“And has any other show featured a host who implied the President of the Unites States is racist? So, yes, it was far more political than usual.”

—Ethan Sacks for RealClearLife