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Viola Davis Won Early Oscars, Meryl Streep Took Center Stage

By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali won early Oscars on Sunday for their supporting roles in African-American stories “Fences” and “Moonlight” on a night where diversity, and U.S. President Donald Trump, both loomed large.

Ali, and a tearful Davis, each winning their first Oscars, were among a record seven actors of color nominated for Academy Awards this year, in stark contrast to 2016 when there were none.

“O.J.: Made in America,” a series about the 1995 double murder trial of former footballer O.J. Simpson won best documentary.

Trump and actress Meryl Streep also took center stage on the movie industry’s biggest night as host Jimmy Kimmel fired off political zingers after an awards season marked by celebrity opposition to the Republican president and his policies.

“I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?” quipped Kimmel in an apparent reference to Trump’s crackdown on immigrants and travelers from seven majority Muslim nations.

Streep, 67, was given a standing ovation by the Oscar audience after Kimmel recalled how Trump had derided the actress as “overrated” after she attacked him at the Golden Globes ceremony in January.

89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Model Chrissy Teigen wears a Zuhair Murad gown as she arrives with husband John Legend REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Karlie Kloss in Stella McCartney and Nirav Modi jewelry. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Actress Emma Roberts. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Pharrell Williams and Mimi Valdes. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Leslie Mann and husband Judd Apatow. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Emile Sherman (L-R), Angie Fielder and Iain Canning of the Best Picture nominee “Lion”. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Actor Vince Vaughn. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Michael J. Fox and his wife Tracy Pollan pose on the red carpet. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Actor Matt Damon and his wife Luciana Barroso. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Actor Dev Patel and guest. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Dakota Johnson in Gucci with Cartier jewellery poses on the red carpet. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Casey Affleck poses on the red carpet. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – La La Land’s Director Damien Chazelle and his girlfriend Olivia Hamilton. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Salma Hayek poses on the red carpet. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Actor Halle Barry poses on the red carpet. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Musician Sting and his wife Trudie Styler REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Vanity Fair Party – Beverly Hills, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Comedian James Corden and Julia Carey. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Vanity Fair Party – Beverly Hills, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Actor Eugene Levy. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Emma Stone. REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Actress Charlize Theron REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Priyanka Chopra arrives REUTERS/Mike Blake
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals – Hollywood, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Ryan Gosling REUTERS/Mike Blake
Presenters Kate McKinnon and Jason Bateman. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
89th Academy Awards – Oscars Vanity Fair Party – Beverly Hills, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Elon Musk and his mother Maye Musk. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Best Supporting Actor winner Mahershala Ali.
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

“Meryl Streep has phoned it in for more than 50 films in the course of her lackluster career,” Kimmel quipped as triple Oscar winner Streep squirmed in her seat.

Several celebrities wore blue ribbons on Sunday in support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) advocacy group that worked to get Trump’s travel ban blocked in U.S. courts.

Iran’s “The Salesman” was named best foreign language film but its director, Asghar Farhadi, boycotted Sunday’s ceremony because of the Trump’s controversial bid to ban travelers from seven majority Muslim nations.

In a speech delivered on his behalf by Iranian-American space expert Anousheh Ansari, Farhadi said his absence was due to “an inhumane law that bans entry into the U.S… Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war.”

‘ART HAS NO BORDERS’

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which votes on the Oscar winners, made no mention of Trump when she took the stage on Sunday.

But she told the audience of A-listers and the millions of people watching on television around the world that, “tonight is proof that art has no borders, art has no single language and art does not belong to a single faith. The power of art is that it transcends these things,” she said.

With a leading 14 nominations, romantic musical “La La Land” had looked set to dance away with an armful of Academy Awards, including best picture at the end of the night, for its love letter to artistic ambition and Los Angeles itself.

A best picture win for “La La Land,” starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a jazz pianist and a struggling actress, would be the first musical to win best picture at the Academy Awards since “Chicago” in 2003.

But the movie’s chances of equaling the 11 Oscar record held by “Titanic,” “Ben-Hur,” and “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” appeared to have slipped away as the musical lost early technical awards for sound and costumes.

(Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy, Nichola Groom and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Sandra Maler and Mary Milliken)

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