Seeing as the awarding of Oscars often seems like a random process, here are some random observations on Sunday night's big Hollywood shindig (up to press time, anyway).
· In his opening monologue, Jimmy Kimmel burnished his standup comedy chops, picking targets in the room and in Washington — occasionally at the same time. Quoting Donald Trump's Twitter response to Meryl Streep's Golden Globes speech — "one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood" — Kimmel ran down a few Streep career highlights on the occasion of her twentieth Oscar nomination, for Florence Foster Jenkins. "Meryl Streep has phoned it in for over 50 films over the course of her lackluster career," he deadpanned. He then asked the audience for a round of applause; they responded with a standing ovation.
· But Kimmel also offered a word of thanks to Trump, and the perspective he provides: "Remember when last year it seemed like the Oscars were racist?"
· Before Kimmel took the stage, Justin Timberlake entered from the rear of the auditorium singing. In a medley that included "Can't Stop the Feeling!" and Bill Withers' "Lovely Day," among other songs, he made the Oscars feel a little like the Grammys and got the evening off to a high-energy start — no mean feet for an Oscar telecast.
· Pacing remains an issue, at least for those that care about who wins the bigger awards. At the one-hour mark only one of the major Oscars — best supporting actor, for Moonlight's well-deserving Mahershala Ali — had been awarded. Viola Davis didn't pick up her supporting Oscar actress until about the 80-minute mark of the show. If the Oscars made for riveting television on their own, pacing wouldn't be an issue. But they don't. Even though the producers did a nice job with the historical montages that preceded those awards. It was also kind of fun to see Red Vines and Junior Mints parachute down to the audience. Movie stars gotta eat, too.
· Oscar didn't seem #sowhite this year. Between the wins by Ali and Davis, a guest appearance from the three Hidden Figures stars (accompanied by real-life NASA physicist and mathematician Katherine Johnson) and a shout-out to Fences playwright August Wilson, the first 90 minutes of the show were refreshingly colorful.
· The evening's first non-Kimmel political moment came when Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman won for best foreign language film. Farhadi, an Iranian native, did not attend the awards, a silent protest against the ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries (including Iran). Accepting on Farhadi's behalf, Plano's Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American engineer (and the first self-funded woman to fly to the International Space Station), read a statement from the director that celebrated filmmakers' ability to "create empathy between us and others, an empathy which we need today more than ever."
In other words, the movies bring different people closer together. That's a reward that transcends any award.