Given the degree to which President Donald Trump loomed over trophy-show season, it was inevitable talk would turn political at the Oscars, though a lot of Oscar-night political headline got ripped up in favor of breaking news when the Best Picture Academy Award accidentally was given to the wrong movie.
The politics started long before the actual ceremony, when celebrities were seen on red-carpet arrivals shows proudly sporting blue ribbons in support of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Accepting his win for Best Adapted Screenplay, Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins told viewers: “All you people out there who feel like your life is not reflected, the Academy has your back, the ACLU has your back. For the next four years we will not leave you alone, we will not forget you.”
To which Tarrell Alvin McCraney, who wrote the play that Jenkins had adapted for Moonlight, added, “To all the black and brown boys and girls and non-gender-conforming individuals, this is for you.”
Asghar Farhadi, whose The Salesman, was named the year’s Best Foreign Language Film, refused to travel to the United States for the ceremony, to protest Trump’s travel ban. In a statement he sent, read by Iranian-American engineer Anousheh Ansari, the Iranian director continued to savage Trump, saying: “I am sorry I’m not with you tonight. My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of the other six countries who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.”
He added, “Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war.”
Meanwhile, U.S. immigration authorities denied cinematographer Khaled Khateeb, the Syrian national who filmed The White Helmets, entry into the U.S. to attend the Oscars. And, the attendance of Raed Saleh, the leader of the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Syrian rescue group that is the subject of the movie, also had been an open question since Trump’s proposed travel ban. Accepting the film’s Oscar for Documentary Feature, Orlando von Einsiedel, said Saleh “is not able to join us tonight” and read a statement from Saleh that said, “Our organization is guided by a verse from the Koran ‘to save one life is to save all of humanity.’ We have saved more than 82,000 civilian lives. I invite anyone here who hears me to work on the side of life, to stop the bloodshed in Syria, and around the world.”
Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal was a presenter for the Best Animated Feature category. But, before introducing the nominees, he pivoted to say, “I’m against any form of wall that wants to separate us.”
La La Land producer Marc Platt spoke pointedly onstage about how “repression is the enemy of civilization.” Unfortunately, his remarks got lost amidst the confusion that ensued, when the movie’s cast and crew onstage got word it had not won Best Picture after all.
La La Land’s Linus Sandgren won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, giving awards-show host Jimmy Kimmel the chance to joke in Sandgren’s direction, as he exited the stage, “On behalf of all of us, we’re so sorry about what happened in Sweden last week. Hope your friends are OK.”
Kimmel had begun taunting Trump as he opened this year’s Academy Awards. “This broadcast Is being watched live by millions of Americans and around the world in more than 225 countries that now hate us,” he joked in the opening monologue.
“Maybe this is not a popular thing to say, but I want to say thank you to Donald Trump,” Kimmel continued, giving viewers a momentary pause. “I mean, remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? It’s gone. Thanks to him!”
Telling the theater audience to give Meryl Streep a round of applause for her body of work, they instead gave a standing ovation to the actress who famously got under Trump’s thin skin with her Golden Globe acceptance speech.
“Nice dress, by the way,” Kimmel told Streep. “Is it an Ivanka?”
Concluding his opening monologue, Kimmel said he thought it was important for people in the hall to appreciate the moment. “We’re at the Oscars! The Academy Awards! You’re nominated! … Some of you will get to come up on this stage tonight and give a speech that the President of United States will tweet about in all caps during his 5 AM bowel movement tomorrow, and I think that’s pretty darned excellent, if you ask me!”
But, try as he might, Kimmel could not get a Twitter rise out of Trump as the ceremony unspooled. At one point the ABC late-night star took the stage to admit, “We’re more than two hours into the show, and Donald Trump has not tweeted at us once”, then tweeted this:
Truth is, Trump had in fact tweeted about the Oscar ceremony, but before it happened, and it was about an ad The New York Times was unveiling in the ceremony – its first TV ad since 2010, though Trump fake-news-ily called it the publication’s first ad ever, by say of suggesting NYT must be getting desperate:
Here is that ad: