Jimmy Kimmel will host the 89th Academy Awards, according to multiple reports.
ABC, which is airing the Feb. 26 show, has yet to confirm the reports in both Variety and the Hollywood Reporter announcing Kimmel’s hosting appointment, but that is a formality. Kimmel was widely expected to be named host following his well-received performance during the Sept. 18 Emmy telecast.
A Kimmel-hosted Oscars signals all sorts of things, but controversy is certainly not among them. Chris Rock hosted the 2016 awards ceremony that had become a lightning rod for an “Oscars So White” backlash against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which had not nominated a single black actor in any major category for two years in a row.
Rock, who was to become a surrogate for the critics, did not disappoint them. “I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as White People’s Choice Awards” was one of the less pointed barbs. The selection of Kimmel could indicate that the Academy’s efforts this past year to ensure a more diversified nominee base for the 89th ceremony are expected to pay off — either that or the Academy simply decided it was time to get back to normal in the hosting department.
Kimmel is a first-timer to this, but in a sense represents a return to a tradition that dates back to the late ’70s when Johnny Carson hosted a string of Oscars. The late-night-TV-host as Oscar-host would be a sporadic presence after the memorable Carson run — David Letterman (’95) and Jon Stewart (’06, ’08) — in part because the carriage network (ABC) didn’t want to be in the business of promoting another network’s late-night star.
In that regard, Kimmel’s arrival on the Dolby Theatre stage is overdue. As Emmy host, he gave what many assumed to be a warm-up performance for next year’s Oscars. He was funny — which is unusual, if not nearly unprecedented in this context — and was unafraid of calling out names.
One example: “You must be present to win. It’s called the Maggie Smith rule. Why do we keep nominating this woman? She’s treating us like the People’s Choice Awards.”
Another example: Directing the camera to Mark Burnett, producer of “The Apprentice,” he said, “If we ever build that wall, he’s the first one we’re throwing over.”