Kicking off tonight’s Oscars ceremony, host Jimmy Kimmel took few prisoners in a sharp-tongued, wide-ranging monologue that managed to address the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and gender-based wage inequality, and — of course — included some well-placed jabs at perennial Hollywood punching bag Donald Trump.
After a playful, prerecorded black-and-white intro in which Kimmel parroted an old-time newsreel announcer in order to introduce some of the stars arriving at the ceremony, the late-night host — emceeing for the second year in a row — addressed the gathered crowd of celebrities by telling winners to pause a minute before coming up to the stage to accept their awards.
That Emma Stone’s laugh appeared a little harsher than others came as no surprise; the line was a reference to last year’s infamous best-picture mixup, in which “La La Land,” a movie musical starring Stone and Ryan Gosling, was mistakenly awarded the ceremony’s top prize before “Moonlight” was named the actual winner.
Diving directly into the firestorm of sexual misconduct allegations that’s turned Hollywood inside out since the ouster of high-profile executive Harvey Weinstein last fall, the host let loose with a volley of shots at the likes of Weinstein and Mel Gibson (whom he noted once starred in a film titled, ironically, “What Women Want”).
Kimmel earned particular laughs by dubbing “Oscar,” the iconic golden statuette standing stoically to his right on the stage, a step in the right direction in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp. Why? “He keeps his hands where you can see them,” ribbed Kimmel. “And most importantly, he has no penis.” The host quipped: “He is literally a statue of limitations.”
Then, referencing repeat nominee “The Shape of Water,” Kimmel dubbed 2017 “the year men screwed up so badly, women started dating fish.”
The gulf in pay between actors and actresses in Hollywood also earned mention from Kimmel, who brought up “All the Money in the World,” the Ridley Scott drama that famously commenced reshoots after recasting alleged sexual predator Kevin Spacey with eventual Best Supporting Actor nominee Christopher Plummer.
Mark Wahlberg infamously took a much fatter paycheck than co-star Michelle Williams for reshoots, despite belonging to the same talent agency. “This story really shook me because if we can’t trust agents, who can we trust?” Kimmel joked.
Cambridge-bred Rachel Morrison, nominated for Best Cinematography for her work on “Mudbound,” was given a special round of applause by Kimmel, acknowledging that she is the first female nominee in the category.
“If you are a nominee tonight who is not making history,” he added, cheekily, “shame on you.”
National politics are never far from the Oscars stage, and the late-night host found some creative ways to link the Best Picture nominees to events in Washington.
“We don’t make movies like ‘Call Me By Your Name’ for money,” Kimmel started out at one point, a grin in his voice as he acknowledged that few of the Best Picture nominees constituted bona fide blockbusters. “We make them to upset Mike Pence.”
Elsewhere, Kimmel singled out “Get Out” director Jordan Peele (nominated both for his helming and writing on the breakout social-horror pic) for praise, saying that Trump called it “the best first three-quarters of a movie this year.”
Weaving between heavy topics and lighter punchlines, Kimmel also offered (after a long-winded explanation that urged actors to call attention to social causes like the Parkland-inspired March For Our Lives) an unconventional solution for cutting down the notoriously overlong awards ceremony’s runtime: namely, a prize for the winner whose speech runs the shortest. With some aggressively marketing assistance by Helen Mirren, Kimmel raised the curtain to reveal a green Kawasaki jet-ski, its price tag flashing chintzily on the screen.
“In the unlikely event of a tie, the jet-ski will go to Christopher Plummer,” Kimmel added.Isaac Feldberg can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @isaacfeldberg.