Christian Ziolkowski ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
If you find yourself hosting the Oscars, it’s never a good sign when you are not featured in the opening number. So, when the 89th Academy Awards began with Justin Timberlake performing his hit song “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” it didn’t exactly seem like a vote of confidence for host Jimmy Kimmel.
But, any doubts about his hosting abilities were quickly erased when he took the stage. He aimed his signature brand of aloof sarcasm at countless celebrities in the room, starting with himself. When he pointed out that this was his first time attending the Oscars, he quipped, “With the way you guys go through hosts, it’s probably my last time here too,” he instantly had the room in his hands. Poking fun at everyone from Mel Gibson to Jeff Bridges, he felt like a real host. Rather than a famous emcee talking to a big theater, he just felt like a guy who was welcoming his buddies to a party he threw.
Unlike some hosts—like Jimmy Fallon at the Golden Globes—Kimmel was a constant presence on stage throughout the night. He was never excessive, but he was constantly there to provide a dose of humor when we needed it. The show’s finest moments came from him simply needling audience members. He asked Mahershala Ali what he was going name his new baby—“when your name is Mahershala, you can’t really go with Amy.” He told Casey Affleck that he looked like “a vagrant” and elevated his ongoing feud with Matt Damon to a new level. He pointed out that The Great Wall is on pace to lose $80 million and recorded a mockumentary short about the impact that We Bought a Zoo had on his life. He complimented his friend’s acting ability, saying, “The thing about Matt Damon is that he has no discernible talent, but it somehow works.” Decades from now, his rapport with Damon may well go down as a classic show biz feud. He certainly helped its chances tonight.
If there was any place where Kimmel’s Oscars fell short, it was when he used gimmicks. His “Mean Tweets” segment was funny, but it felt more appropriate for a late night talk show than a black tie event. Also, his prank in which he brought an unsuspecting group of tourists on stage was cute, but took too long in a show that already suffered from a bloated runtime. But, at other moments, these bits worked. When he dropped bags of food from the sky, it accomplished the same thing as Ellen DeGeneres’s pizza gag without killing the show’s momentum.
Given the current political climate, the question of how Kimmel would handle President Trump loomed over the evening. But he toed the line delicately, hilariously teasing the president without taking an aggressive political stance. He tweeted at Trump from the stage, and mocked his banning The New York Times from press briefings, saying, “if you work for anything with the word ‘times’ in the name, even if it’s Medieval Times, please leave the building now.” He was always funny and tasteful, never going too far but never ignoring the elephant in the room.
Kimmel got off to a fantastic start and gave the show the attention that it deserves. At times, his performance seemed like a throwback to a simpler era, when hosts simply told jokes on stage. He commanded the room with his words and humor, and, for most of the show, that was enough. The broadcast certainly could have been shorter, and, at times, it seemed to turn into an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live. But, he did everything the job requires and he did it superbly. His ranking among past Oscar hosts will be determined with time, but he gave a solid performance that left nothing to be desired. Just like he congratulated Mahershala Ali by saying, “Congratulations…I mean, not for the people who lost,” Kimmel deserves to be congratulated for a job well done.