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Kimmel opens Oscars with standing O for Streep, Ali wins

Jake Coyle, The Associated Press | posted Monday, Feb 27th, 2017

The 89th Academy Awards kicked off with Justin Timberlake dancing down the Dolby Theatre aisles, Jimmy Kimmel mocking Matt Damon and a standing ovation for the “highly overrated” Meryl Streep.

Timberlake’s ebullient song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” from the animated film “Trolls”, was an early cue that the Oscars would steer toward festiveness instead of heavy-handed politics. Protests, boycotts and rallies have swirled ahead of Sunday night’s Oscars. But host Kimmel, in his opening monologue, quickly acknowledged that he “was not that guy” to heal a divided America.

Kimmel instead struck an irreverent but sarcastic tone, singling out Streep, whom President Donald Trump derided as “overrated” after her fiery Golden Globes speech last month. Listing some of her credits, Kimmel said Streep has “phoned it in for over 50 films.” He led a standing ovation for the “overrated” actress before adding a pointed punchline: “Nice dress, by the way,” he said. “Is that an Ivanka?”

The host then predicted Trump was sure to tweet about the night’s awards at 5 a.m. “during his bowl movements.”

As expected, the night’s first winner was Mahershala Ali for best supporting actor. The “Moonlight” co-star glowed on the stage as he informed that crowd that he and his wife, Amatus Sami-Karim, welcomed a daughter four days earlier. He thanked his wife for “being such a soldier through the process.”

Most expect another day of sun for Damien Chazelle’s celebrated musical “La La Land,” up for a record-tying 14 nominations. But its night started off with an upset, losing out on costume design to the Harry Potter spinoff “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

Ezra Edelman’s “O.J.: Made in America” took best documentary, making it at 467 minutes the longest Oscar winner ever, beating out the 1969 Best Foreign Language Film winner “War and Peace” (431 minutes).

Edelman’s documentary, while it received an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release, was seen by most on ESPN as a serial, prompting some to claim its place was at the Emmys, not the Oscars.

Edelman dedicated the award to the victims of the famous crime, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
“This is also for other victims, victims of police violence, police brutality,” Edelman said. “This is their story as it is Ron and Nicole’s.”

The “OscarsSoWhite” crisis of the last two years was largely quelled this season by a richly diverse slate of nominees, thanks to films like “Moonlight,” ”Fences“ and ”Hidden Figures.“ A record six black actors are nominated. For the first time ever, a person of colour is nominated in each acting category. And four of the five best documentary nominees were also directed by black filmmakers.

“Remember last year when it was the Oscars that were racist?” joked Kimmel in the opening.

The nominees follow the efforts by Academy of Motions Pictures Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs to diversify the membership of the largely white, older and male film academy. In June, the academy added 683 new members: 46 per cent of them were female; 41-per cent were nonwhite; and they pulled from 59 countries.

The academy is hoping to improve on last year’s telecast. The Chris Rock-hosted show drew 34.4 million viewers, an eight-year low.

Politics have taken the spotlight ahead of Hollywood’s big night. On Friday, the United Talent Agency, forgoing its usual Oscar party, instead held a rally protesting Trump over immigration. “We will not tolerate chaos and ineptitude and war-mongering,” Jodie Foster told attendees.

The six directors of the foreign film nominees released a joint statement condemning “the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the U.S. and in so many other countries.” The signees included the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose “The Salesman” is favoured to win him his second foreign language Oscar. He isn’t attending the awards in protest of Trump’s proposed travel ban of seven predominantly Muslim nations, including Iran.

U.S. immigration authorities are also barring entry to a 21-year-old Syrian cinematographer who worked on the documentary short nominee “The White Helmets,” about the nation’s civil war.

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