LOS ANGELES, CA – In accepting the award for best supporting actress at the 89th Academy Awards, Viola Davis didn’t talk politics: She praised the art.
“I became an artist and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life,” said Davis, who won for her role in “Fences.”
Davis has been the show-stealer of the night thus far, but there has been plenty of politics Sunday night.
The best foreign language film award for Iran’s “The Salesman” was accepted by Anousheh Ansari, who read a speech prepared by director Asghar Farhadi.
Farhadi opted not to attend in protest over President Trump’s travel ban made it unclear whether he would even be allowed into the country to attend.
“Dividing the world into the ‘us and our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war,” he wrote in his speech. “These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.”
Jimmy Kimmel set that tone right from the start.
Kimmel also took swipes at Trump straight out the gate (“I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? That’s gone, thanks to him,”) and joked about the diversity this year (“It’s been a great year. Black people saved NASA and white people saved jazz..”}
Kimmel also led a round of applause for the “highly over-rated” actress Meryl Streep.
Streep had been hailed this year for her her Golden Globes acceptance speech in which she denounced Trump’s campaign rhetoric without ever mentioning his name. Trump slammed her as “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood” in a tweet afterwards.
In his opening monologue, which followed a musical performance by Justin Timberlake, Kimmel also gave a little ribbing to the show, and to himself, joking, “This is my first time here and the way you people go through hosts it’s probably my last time.”
The host also provided some levity later on in the broadcast in a bit which involved a group of unsuspecting tourists finding themselves suddenly a part of the show.
Upon finding out that one couple was engaged, Kimmel enlisted nominee Denzel Washington to “marry” them on the spot.
The first award of the evening for best supporting actor went to Mahershala Ali for his role in “Moonlight.”
He thanked his wife who was pregnant during this awards season.
“We just had our daughter four days ago,” he said.”I just want to thank her for being such a soldier through this process and really carrying me through it all.”
Hollywood’s biggest night has had lots of buzz about whether “La La Land” will sweep.
A musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as a pair of lovers looking for their big breaks in Los Angeles, “La La Land” has been a favorite during this awards season.
But there’s also been a great deal of attention paid to the diversity of this year’s nominees following two years worth of discussion over #OscarsSoWhite.
Seven out of the 20 performers nominated in the acting categories are people of color.
History has already been made: “Moonlight’s” Barry Jenkins is the first African American to score nominations for best director, best picture and best adapted screenplay in the same year. That film’s co-editor, Joi McMillon, also became the first African American to earn a nomination for achievement in film editing.
Viola Davis, who is nominated for best supporting actress for her role in “Fences,” is now a three-time Oscar nominee, a first for an African American woman.
That theme of inclusion could also become a part of what’s expected to be a prominent part of the evening: politically-tinged messages from those on stage.
A few stars including Jodie Foster and Michael J. Fox helped kick off the Oscars weekend’s politics as speakers at a rally held Friday in lieu of United Talent Agency’s annual pre-Oscars party.
The event, which included speeches in support of immigrant rights, is just one way Hollywood has voiced its displeasure with President Trump’s administration and policies.