Last year, the elephant in the room at the Academy Awards was the newly-elected President Donald Trump. This time, there were many more elephants for host Jimmy Kimmel to address, starting with the biggest, most disgusting one of them all: Harvey Weinstein.
In interviews leading up to his second year hosting the Oscars, Kimmel indicated that Hollywood predators would not be his focus, telling ABC News, “This show is not about reliving people’s sexual assaults.” James Corden learned the hard way that jokes about rape can have unintended consequences, but going easy on the prominent men brought low by #MeToo could be just as irresponsible.
On the 90th anniversary of the awards, the show opened with an old-timey black and white newsreel version of the red carpet, including jokes about nominees, past and present.
When Kimmel took the stage in glorious color, he generally seemed more excited to talk about last year’s Best Picture snafu that briefly awarded La La Land the top prize before handing the award over to its rightful recipient: Moonlight. With Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway set for a do-over at the end of the night, Kimmel couldn’t resist taking some shots at the snafu.
“This year, when you hear your name called, don't get up right away,” he told nominees. “Last year, about a week before the show, the producers asked me if I wanted to do some comedy with the accountants,” the host revealed. “I said, no, I don't want to do that. So, the accountants went ahead and did comedy on their own.”
“We can’t ruin this one, this is a special year, this is a big one,” Kimmel said. “Oscar is 90 years old tonight, which means he’s probably at home right now watching Fox News.”
Then, as the camera panned to the giant Oscar statuette, he said, “No question about it: Oscar is the most beloved and respected man in Hollywood. And there’s a very good reason why. Just look at him. Keeps his hands where you can see them, never says a rude word, and most importantly, no penis at all. He is a literal statue of limitations.”
“And that’s the kind of men we need more of in this town,” he continued. “Here’s how clueless Hollywood is about women: we made a movie called What Women Want and it starred Mel Gibson.”
From there, Kimmel moved on to Harvey Weinstein, who was kicked out of the Academy this year for his horrendous history of (alleged) sexual abuse. He was just the second person ever to get kicked out after another man was removed for sharing screeners. “He got the same punishment as Harvey Weinstein for giving his neighbor a copy of Seabiscuit on VHS,” Kimmel said to a huge laugh from the crowd.
“But what happened with Harvey, what’s happening all over was long overdue,” he continued. “We can’t let bad behavior slide anymore. The world is watching us. We need to set an example. And the truth is, if we are successful here, if we can work together to stop sexual harassment in the workplace, if we can do that, women will only have to deal with harassment all the time at every other place they go.”
“Over the course of this evening, I hope you will listen to many brave and outspoken supporters of movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp and #NeverAgain, because what they’re doing is important,” Kimmel said. “Things are changing for the better, they’re making sure of that. It is positive change. This is a night for positivity and our plan is to shine a light on a group of outstanding and inspiring films, each and every one of which got crushed by Black Panther this weekend.”
Later, Kimmel addressed the pay inequality scandal that erupted when it was revealed that Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams were paid wildly different salaries for reshoots on All the Money in the World despite being represented by the same agency. One of the biggest laughs of the night came when he said, “I have to admit, this story really surprised me. This one shook me, because if we can’t trust agents, who can we trust?”
Overall, the monologue was short on political jokes, though Kimmel did get in a couple of excellent jokes about the Trump administration. “None other than President Trump called Get Out the best first three-quarters of a movie this year,” he joked. And then this killer: “We don’t make films like Call Me by Your Name for the money. We make them to upset Mike Pence.”
After a banner year during which he made late-night matter again by driving real action on health care and guns, Kimmel was ultimately able to find the right balance between condemning the industry’s abusers without diminishing the celebratory nature of the night. Not an easy feat, but he pulled it off.