The first salvo against Donald Trump was fired only a few minutes into the Oscars — and then they just kept on coming.
In what might be an unprecedented numbers of jokes, allusions, and sincere articulations inspired by a single person during an awards telecast, Hollywood’s most luminous tackled Trump and his policies during the the 89th annual Academy Awards. From host Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue, to the acceptance speeches, to those blue ribbons on tuxedo lapels, there were direct and indirect references to the 45th president throughout the ceremony.
The Oscars got underway with a joyous opening musical number by Justin Timberlake performing best original song nominee “Can’t Stop the Feeling” that brought the crowd to its feet. Then Kimmel took the stage and threw out a slew of POTUS jokes.
“This is being watched live by millions of people in 225 countries that now hate us,” Kimmel told the Dolby Theater (full monologue video below).
Kimmel also had this to say: “I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? … It’s gone thanks to him.”
And this: “In Hollywood, we don’t discriminate against people based on what countries they come from. We discriminate on them based on their age and weight.”
Kimmel also made jokes about “mediocre” and “overrated” Meryl Streep — a reference to Trump’s criticism of the actress, who slammed him during the Golden Globes last month.
And the ABC late-night host noted that actors will give speeches that “the president will tweet about in all caps during his 5 a.m. bowel movement tomorrow.”
But Kimmel also surprised by throwing out this plea for unity: “If every person watching this show … if every one of you took a minute to reach out to someone you disagree with, someone you like and have a positive, considerate conversation — not as liberals and conservatives, but as Americans — we could make America great again.”
Yet the host noted that he’s probably the wrong person to unite the country. “I can’t do that,” Kimmel said as the camera shifted to showing Hacksaw Ridge director Mel Gibson, a best director nominee, seated in the audience. “There’s only one Braveheart in this room — and he’s not going to unite us either.”
After the monologue, Kimmel was far from done: “Doctor Strange was nominated for special effects — and also Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.”
Later, when Iranian director Asghar Farhadi won for The Salesman, the award was accepted on his behalf by Anousheh Ansari, famed for being the first female space tourist. Ansari read a blistering letter from Farhadi, who declared last month he would not attend the Oscars in the wake of Trump’s executive order blocking citizens from Iran and six other predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. (The ban has since been halted by judicial decisions.)
“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” Farhadi said via the letter. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and from the other six nations whom have been disrespected by the inhumane law which bans immigrants entry into the U.S.” Ansari was interrupted by cheers here, then continued: “Dividing the world into the ‘us and our enemies’ categories creates fear — a deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which themselves have been victims of aggression. Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others — an empathy we need today more than ever.”
Trump’s immigration policy was also in the spotlight when The White Helmets — about the Syrian civil war — won best documentary short. U.S. immigration authorities reportedly barred its 21-year-old cinematographer Khaled Khateeb from traveling to Los Angeles for the Oscars. Director Orlando von Einsiedel noted, “It’s very easy to feel these guys have been forgotten, the war has been going on for six years, if everyone here could just stand up and remind them that we all care that this war ends as quickly as possible.”
Likewise when Barry Jenkins who won best-adapted screenplay for Moonlight along with Tarell Alvin McCraney, he told viewers, “All you people out there who feel like there’s no mirror for you, that your lives are not reflected, The Academy has your back, the ACLU has your back, we have your back, and for the next four years we will not leave you alone, we will not forget you.”
In another instance, actor Gael Garcia Bernal took a shot at Trump’s border wall plan while introducing best animated film: “Flesh and blood actors are migrant workers. We travel all over the world. We construct families, we build life, but we cannot be divided. As a Mexican, as a Latin American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I’m against any form of wall that wants to separate us.”
And when Zootopia won that animation category, director Rich Moore pointedly noted, “We are so grateful to audiences to audiences all over the world who embraced this film with this story of tolerance being more powerful than fear of the Other.”
After so many references to Trump policies, Kimmel even tweeted to the president while on stage:
But wait, there was more: After Swedish cinematographer Linus Sandgren won for La La Land, Kimmel threw out a quip referencing Trump’s much-debated comment last week suggesting Sweden was attacked: “We’re so sorry about what happened in Sweden last week. We hope your friends are okay.”
And even when presenting the final award of the night — best picture — Warren Beatty along with Faye Dunaway seemed to allude to the topic at hand as well. “Our goal in politics is the same as our goal in art — and that’s to get to the truth,” Beatty said. [Movies] show us the increasing diversity in our community and a respect for diversity and freedom all over the world.”
(After that, of course, Trump was quickly forgotten amid the jaw-dropping chaos of Dunaway reading the wrong winner, but that’s a whole other story).
Sunday’s ceremony was expected to one of the most politicized in memory given Hollywood largely standing in opposition to President Trump and his policies. Even on the red carpet before the show began, several stars were spotted wearing the blue “Stand with the ACLU” ribbons. While the nonprofit organization is considered nonpartisan, its mission to protect “individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and law of the U.S.” has become rather topical of late as the ACLU has mobilized an effort to resist Trump’s deportation plans.
On Saturday, Hollywood had a warm-up round at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, where Casey Affleck used his acceptance speech for best actor to call out Trump’s policies as “abhorrent” and “un-American.”