I mean, how do you follow up after… you know?
This year’s Oscar ceremony was, on balance, pretty great. It moved. There were a couple of surprises and warm moments, and more than one win that was a surprise while not quite being an upset. For example, while I had hopes for Best Director and Best Picture that didn’t quite come to fruition (more on those later), I couldn’t be mad at the universally beloved Guillermo Del Toro winning both awards and the whole place being delighted.
But there’s a difference between a ‘good’ show and the incredible whiplash of the show we had last year, after the Best Picture upset. I wasn’t vibrating with adrenaline. Because the secret of last year is that as much as everyone likes to talk like it was a ‘mistake’ and a screw-up… it was glorious live television. Straight-up glorious.
Jimmy Kimmel knows the magic of live TV is in what you can’t plan, and he knew that this year’s show was going to be planned within an inch of its f*cking life, because of how embarrassed they were at last year’s snafu. He knew there would be nothing left to chance, especially not the envelopes – did you see those huge letters and the super-low camera angles designed so that everyone could see what award was being presented at what time?.
So he tried some things. He tried the jet ski bit with Helen Mirren which actually came off pretty well, and the movie theatre bit with Gal Gadot and co., which, in the room we were in anyway, played as kiiiiiind of condescending.
But here’s what he didn’t try: jokes.
I read more than one headline that said Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue was ‘surprisingly bold’ or ‘unflinching’, and I don’t understand what show they were watching. I guess his monologue was straightforward, in that it acknowledged the pay disparity between Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams, or the bit about how nobody but white men could open a movie until last spring, but it wasn’t necessarily funny – it was just true.
There wasn’t really another option for Kimmel, though. If he’d been flippant or funny or taken shots at anyone but Weinstein (or Matt Damon), he would have been ignoring the tone of the last few months, right? Or risked coming off like a too-cool-for-what-Hollywood-cares-about James Franco?
So he gave up the funny and the spontaneous for a show that worked well and felt timely. I didn’t exactly expect it, but it’s not unwelcome, so I guess that’s the theme for the night. As much as I like a searing comedian and a rough joke, I was surprised at how mature Kimmel felt, and how much I didn’t mind. He’s probably going home and to bed at a responsible hour, too.