Why the Epic Oscars Screw-up Should Make Trump's White House Happy

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The cast of 'Moonlight' reacts after it turns out the movie won best picture award at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017.
The cast of 'Moonlight' reacts after it turns out the movie won best picture award at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017.Credit: Matt Sayles, AP

There are multiple reasons Donald Trump’s White House should be very pleased with the way the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony turned out.  

First and foremost, it will be a welcome relief for Trump and his team to face a Monday morning filled with discussion of the unprecedented mistake in Hollywood instead of scrutinizing their missteps last week and the outraged reaction. 

It was, after all a historic Oscar moment when the wrong film was declared “Best Picture” by two confused and distressed movie stars, and then corrected in the middle of the acceptance speeches. As a result, multiple news cycles on cable television will now be full of discussion of the foibles of Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and the Academy of Motion Pictures instead of the travel ban, alleged campaign mischief and the Russian connection, or Sean Spicer’s war with the media. For the first time in a month, the epic failure of the weekend will have nothing to do with them. 

Moreover, any blow to the image of the Hollywood elite, the declared enemy of Trumpworld, will surely be celebrated, especially coming a day after the president made the announcement that he will forego the annual Hollywood-hits-the-Beltway event, the White House Correspondents dinner. 

Thirdly, the “La La Land-Moonlight” debacle makes the point for them that even the most carefully choreographed and planned-out moves can go awry. Everyone makes mistakes, they can now argue. How can the administration be accountable for reports of behind-the-scenes chaos and flawed roll-out of executive orders when the most polished media professionals can’t even get the “Best Picture” award right? 

But ultimately, the Trump administration’s biggest win is the fact that the video clip that will be run over and over on television will be the dramatic end of the ceremony - the announcement of “La La Land” and the correction. 

This will leave far less time to run excerpts of numerous negative references to the U.S. president, both humorous and serious, that would have been the lead story of the ceremony, pre-screw-up.  

The anti-Trump jokes came fastest and furious in Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue, which he opened by noting that the ceremony “is being watched live by millions of people in 225 countries that now hate us.”

He followed up with gratitude to the president. “I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?” and noting, “In Hollywood, we don’t discriminate against people based on what countries they come from. We discriminate on them based on their age and weight.”

He mocked the poisonous relationship between Trump’s White House and the press, saying "If there’s anyone here from CNN, or the LA or New York Times — if you work for anything with the word 'Times' in it, even Medieval Times — I'd like to ask you to leave the building right now We have no tolerance for fake news. Fake tans, we love..."

Anticipating statements about Trump in the evening’s acceptance speeches, Kimmel pointed out to the nominees that each of them would have an opportunity to “get to come up here on this stage tonight and give a speech that the President of the United States will tweet about in all caps during his 5:00 A.M. bowel movement tomorrow.”

Kimmel’s predictions were on target, with several of the nominees and presenters using their moment in the spotlight to make a political statement.

The strongest statement against Trump’s policies came was the non-attendance of Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director whose film "The Salesman" took the Best Foreign Language film Oscar. Farhadi stayed away in protest of Trump’s executive order that focused on seven countries with Muslim majorities. 

In his acceptance speech read by a spokesperson taking his place, Farhadi made a political statement saying that "my absence is out of respect to the people of my country and those of other six nations that have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.”

One of the stars of his film, Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti announced last month that she, too would stay away from the ceremony because "Trump's visa ban for Iranians and others is a racist move and unacceptable."

As another foreign participant in the ceremony, Mexican actor Gael García Bernal took the stage to present an award, he declared: "Flesh and blood actors are migrant workers; we travel all over the world, we build families, we construct stories, we build life that cannot be divided. As a Mexican, as a Latin-American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I’m against any form of wall that wants to separate us."

Ultimately, however, the atmosphere is so politically charged that it shouldn’t take long for the “La La Land-Moonlight” mix-up to fade and the left-right sniping to resume. Some have been able to integrate it into the political discourse almost immediately - most notably anti-Trump activist filmmaker Michael Moore - who had his own political Oscar moment in 2003, when he fomented against then-president George Bush.

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