During his opening monologue, Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel called Meryl...

During his opening monologue, Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel called Meryl Streep "highly overrated," as he riffed on Donald Trump's tweets about the actress on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. Credit: Invision/Chris Pizzello

Politics were supposed to pick up an Oscar, too, on Sunday during what pundits expected to be the most impassioned — or politicized — ceremony in memory. The thunder from the left was expected immediately, the Donald Trump volleys continuous. Then the 89th annual Oscars ceremony got underway. Politics, passion, thunder and volleys largely forgot to turn up, at least through much of the show. These Oscars were mostly business as usual.

There were exceptions. In presenting the Oscar for best animated feature, Mexican actor and director Gael García Bernal said to thunderous applause, “I’m against any form of wall that wants to separate us.”

Meanwhile, first-time host Jimmy Kimmel took on the role of surrogate for most other winners who declined to refer to the president or his policies. He scored a number of Trump hits during his monologue and at various points afterward. In one memorable jibe, for example, he said “If there’s anyone here from CNN or The New York Times — in fact, if you work for anything with ‘Times’ in the title, even Medieval Times, then leave. We have no tolerance for fake news.”

During the monologue alone he landed half a dozen Trump jokes, including: “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.” He congratulated all the winners who would later read Trump’s tweet reactions, issued in all-caps, “during his 5 a.m. bowel movement.”

In a long tribute to Meryl Streep — nominated for her 20th Oscar — Kimmel called her “highly overrated,” and said she “has phoned it in for more than 50 films over her lackluster career.” The joke, of course, referred to real Trump tweet that criticized her Golden Globes speech.

The Oscars have a long, fraught history with politics and controversy, including Michael Moore’s rip of President George W. Bush in 2003, saying ”we live in fictitious times [and have] elected a fictitious president.” Oscar producers have long sought to keep politics off the stage, to varying results. At least through 10:30 p.m. Sunday, politics were largely confined to the opening monologue, exactly where the producers wanted it.

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