Jimmy Kimmel knows he can’t bring America together, but he tried on Sunday night via his Oscars opening monologue.
“I’m not the man to unite this country,” he said on stage, noting that there was only “one ‘Braveheart’ in the room and he’s not going to unite us either” (referring, of course, to controversial Mel Gibson).
But, he added, it can be done: “There are millions of people watching. If everyone of you took a minute to reach out and have a positive conversation – not as liberals or conservatives but as Americans, we could make America great again. It starts with us.”
From there, Kimmel quipped that it was time to bury the hatchet with his old nemesis, Matt Damon. “When I first met Matt I was the fat one,” he said, kicking off his “apology.” Damon, as a producer of “Manchester by the Sea,” could have starred in the Oscar-nominated film, but gave the starring role to Casey Affleck instead.
“He handed over what turned out to be an Oscar winning role and made a Chinese pony tail movie instead,” Kimmel said. “That movie, ‘The Great Wall, went on to lose $80 million. Smooth move, dumbass!”
Popular on IndieWire
Kimmel moved on to make more pointed jokes about Donald Trump, Hollywood and this year’s nominated pictures: “Thank you to President Trump; remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? It’s gone, thanks to him!”
On lessons learned from this year’s nominated films: “Black people saved NASA and white people saved jazz, thats what you call progress!”
On young-looking “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle: The movie has earned “14 nominations, one for every year Damien has been alive… if he wins, he gets to go to any college he wants!”
On “Manchester by the Sea’s” sad storyline: “‘Manchester,’ that was a fun movie. [On Amazon it said], ‘customers who purchased this movie also purchased Zoloft.'”
“Manchester” wasn’t the year’s only movie with a sad ending. “Of all the nominees the only happy ending was the one in the middle of ‘Moonlight,'” Kimmel said to groans from the audience. “You didn’t watch it, did you?”
On Hollywood inclusiveness: “We don’t discriminate against people based on what countries they come from we discriminate against them based on their age and weight!” Other quips pointed out that not many Americans have seen nominated films like “Elle” and “Captain Fantastic.”
Kimmel saved the biggest moment of his monologue to single out Meryl Streep, who was criticized by Trump for her passionate speech at the Golden Globes, calling her “overrated.”
“Of all the ‘great’ actors in Hollywood, one in particular has stood the test of time for her many uninspiring and overrated performances,” he said. “May I say, from her mediocre early work in ‘The Deer Hunter’ and ‘Out of Africa’ to her underwhelming performances in ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ and ‘Sophie’s Choice,’ Meryl Streep has phoned it in for more than 50 films over the course of her lackluster career. This is Meryl’s 20th Oscar nomination. Made even more amazing by the fact that she wasn’t even in a movie this year, we just wrote her name in out of habit.”
Streep then earned a standing ovation. Before ending, Kimmel added to the crowd, “some of you will get to give a speech that the President of the United States will tweet about at 5 a.m. during his bowel movement tomorrow. And I think that’s pretty darn excellent.”
In an unusual move, the Oscars opened with a Grammys-like touch: A musical performance rather than a pre-taped bit. Justin Timberlake opened the show with his Oscar-nominated song “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” while dancing down the aisles of the Kodak Theatre and eventually making it to the stage.
The host won’t have much time to dwell on his first Oscars performance, as he heads back to work Monday with a new episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” But in success, Kimmel might prove to be an obvious choice to continue repeating as the telecast’s host on an annual basis.
Kimmel was named host of the Oscars in December, which was much later than usual. That gave Kimmel just two and a half months to prep for the gig, when most hosts are given more time. But the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” host is a pro, having just hosted the Emmy Awards in September. (And, of course, he hosts for a living, doing it most weeknights for ABC.)
In September, Kimmel wasn’t so sure he would be given the gig: “I’m always on the short list. Maybe they do that just so I don’t feel bad about myself, but I never felt that there was any real, serious consideration.” When we asked him if he’d like to do it, he said absolutely – with a caveat. “That’s not to say I wouldn’t immediately regret saying yes, as I do with almost everything I agree to. The Oscars really does seem like a no-win situation, but in a way that makes you want to win. It’s a challenge, and nobody’s ever happy with the host.”
The night is still young, but with his opening, Kimmel proved to be off to a good start. Watch his complete opening monologue below: