With an Unlikely Assist, Jimmy Kimmel Proved to Be an Oscar Winner Himself

You turn on the Oscars and you know what to expect.

A slog: long, predictable, long, not much fun, long, lots of awards for some weird movie you didn’t go to.

Maybe it’s not safe to say this year’s show fixed all that. It was still kind of predictable and I haven’t seen Poor Things yet, but it sure looks weird.

But the show ran nowhere near as late into the night as it usually does; and a lot of it was sort of, kind of—no, genuinely—fun. In parts anyway.

Having a late-night star host was not directly responsible for all the positive energy, but Jimmy Kimmel definitely ran the ship well, delivered laughs, and interacted genially with the glitterati down front.

Not all his jokes landed, but the best were clearly laugh-worthy, and he got off a kill shot right before the goodbyes.

Jimmy seemed a bit surprised at how warmly he was greeted by the audience, drawing sustained applause from many who stood to salute him. “Thank you for that partial standing ovation,” he said.

His monologue ranged over the Hollywood landscape of the past year, saluting the big success stories like Barbie, Oppenheimer, and Poor Things. He was willing to mix it up with some pointed jibes, like a reference to Oppenheimer nominee Robert Downey Jr’s infamous past drug use. “This is the high point of Robert Downey Jr’s long and illustrious career,” Kimmel said. “Well, one of the high points.”

He touched the controversy around the snub of Barbie director, Greta Gerwig, “whom many believe deserved to be nominated for best director.” That got strong applause, which Kimmel punctuated by saying, “I know you’re clapping but you’re the ones who didn’t vote for her. Don’t act like you had nothing to do with it.”

For the most part Kimmel steered clear of politics, which tend to lead his nightly monologues on Jimmy Kimmel Live and often kicks up trouble at the Oscars. But he didn’t entirely ignore recent headlines:

“Emma Stone plays an adult woman with the brain of a child,” Kimmel said when the camera found the Poor Things star in the audience, “Like that lady who gave the rebuttal to the State of the Union Address.”

He riffed on a note of movie history, noting that 48 years earlier Robert DeNiro and Jodi Foster had both been nominated for acting awards and both were again last night. In 1976, when both starred in Taxi Driver, DeNiro had been old enough to be Foster’s father, Kimmel said. “Now she’s 20 years too old to be his girlfriend.” Foster nodded assent amiably.

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Kimmel has endured some of the slings and arrows of live awards show in the past, having been host in 2017 when the wrong movie was announced Best Picture winner (a moment Kimmel referenced when Emma Stone, who won that year and her winning card was somehow handed to the Best Picture presenters, won again last night.) “Make sure to tear up that envelope so there’s no confusion over Best Picture,” Kimmel said.

No slings this year. Jimmy patrolled the stage with confidence. When some jokes fell flat, he just rolled on. He even seemed to enjoy dealing out some groaners, like citing the oddity that two gents named Yorgas were nominated for Poor Things. That led to Kimmel to wonder if either man would win. “Yorgas is as good as mine,” Kimmel said, delighting purveyors of Dad jokes everywhere.

One planned bit presented an interesting risk/reward ratio. Recalling the infamous Oscar streaker of a half-century ago, Kimmel seemed to be setting up wrestler/actor Jon Cena for a repeat performance. But Cena begged off, instead shuffling across the stage, seemingly naked but holding the award-category card at crotch level. The too-obvious gag paid off when Cena reached the standing mic and said: “Costumes are so important.”

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By far the best audience reception came for the one big production number of the show (there once were five of them, one for each nominated song): Ryan Gosling and a cast of cowboys singing “I’m Just Ken” from “Barbie.” That set off spontaneous fun among the movie star set in the good seats.

The decision to move the show up an hour surely pleased the network (and local stations which could get their late post-Oscars newscasts on an 11 p.m. for once) It even left the host some time to kill, which Kimmel used to outstanding advantage.

Reading off his cell phone he asked the audience’s indulgence because he had received a review.

“Has there ever been a worse host than Jimmy Kimmel at the Oscars?” he read. That initially sounded like a play on Kimmel’s famous “Mean Tweets” segment from his show. But he continued:
“His opening was that of a less-than-average person trying to be something which he is not and never can be. Get rid of him and perhaps replace him with another washed-up, cheap ABC talent.”

By that point there should have been no mystery as to the author, but the signoff left no doubt. “Make America Great Again.”

So here was a guy running for President deciding the best use of his time was to deliver a nasty critique to a TV host. Of course, no one with a lick of sense tries to take on a skilled late-night host in a game of rank-out. Kimmel’s reply scored his biggest laugh of the night.

“Thank you, President Trump,” he said. “Thank you for watching. I’m surprised you’re still up… isn’t it past your jail time?”

Even if nothing else had gone right, that line made Jimmy Kimmel’s night at the Oscars.

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1 Comment

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  1. Geri McB says:

    “Some weird movie you didn’t go to”? You’ve got to be kidding! Movie-lovers have been especially thrilled this year with the cornucopia of both good and great movies. Even the documentaries had a plethora of riches.

    And you thinking the former president’s predictable nasty tweet “made” Jimmy Kimmel’s night is telling. The political comment that was terrific, and brought the house down, was Kimmel comparing the Poor Things’ adult with the child’s brain to Katie Britt.

    How is it you neglected to mention John Mulaney’s dissection of Field of Dreams? Along with Ryan Reynolds and John Cena, Mulaney’s bit stole the show. There’s been a huge cry online for Mulaney to host next year. BTW, he’s a former SNL writer, and frequent host. Strange that you omitted this.

    All-in-all, it was a great show. Despite TFG’s nasty tweet.