HOLLYWOOD — Hollywood seized the global platform of the Oscars on Sunday to take on Donald Trump, but stars kept the tone light and inclusive after the U.S. president’s divisive debut. Seldom before has the Oscarcast been so conflicted as this year, when a new White House occupant made the big show an inviting platform for a political primal scream as much as a time-honored gala. Fortunately, Jimmy Kimmel was up to the challenge of keeping things comfortable while pertinent. Turns out his splendid job as Emmys host last fall was just a warmup for Sunday night, proving adept at keeping things funny and smart. Trump, Streep and Matt Damon Justin Timberlake had promised a politics-free opening and he delivered, getting the party going with a high-energy medley. He started in the lobby and danced through the aisles as he sang his Oscar-nominated song “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” high-fiving people like Denzel Washington and getting A-list actors up and dancing.
Then Kimmel took over and instantly had everyone roaring with laughter. “This broadcast is being watched live by millions of Americans and around the world in more than 225 countries that now hate us,” he said in the opening monologue. Along with the usual jibes at Hollywood’s vanities, he never let Trump stray too far from his attention.
The late-night comedian quipped that Trump, who pulled off a political upset win with his campaign that targeted immigration, had taken the heat off Hollywood and its annual gala. “I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? That’s gone,” Kimmel said. “We are very welcoming to outsiders here in Hollywood. We don’t discriminate on people based on what countries they come from. We discriminate against them based on their age and weight,” he said. While hailing many of the celebrated stars in the room, Kimmel recognized one of moviedom’s actors “who seem great but really aren’t.” Based on Trump’s Twitter eruption after the Golden Globes, Kimmel impishly saluted Meryl Streep, “who has stood the test of time for her many uninspiring and overrated performances” and “phoned it in for more than 50 films.” Streep, who has been unstinting in her criticism of Trump, received a standing ovation. And in the spirit of unification, he even took the giant step of burying the hatchet with Matt Damon, with whom he has shared a yearslong comic feud: “When I first met Matt,” said Kimmel during his backhanded act of reconciliation, “I was the fat one.” From his seat in the hall, Damon pretended to fume.