After all the crazy Oscar drama live onstage, one idea endures: the power of empathy

Academy Awards: The drama onstage
“La La Land” producer Marc Platt delivers an eloquent speech about “the Hollywood in the hearts and minds of people everywhere” while the best-picture mix-up gets sorted out behind him. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

And the winner actually is …

The final-act confusion over the best picture award that had movie moguls staggering out of the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood after Sunday’s Academy Awards was a fitting conclusion to a show that had been pulling off a more artful bait-and-switch all night.

The expectation was that Hollywood would slam President Trump as it had done throughout the awards season. The question on the minds of Oscar watchers going into the ceremony was who would be most likely to follow in Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes footsteps.

Would one of the acceptance speeches turn into a broadside? Would a presenter go rogue and exhort Americans to rise up and resist? Or would the political fervor be reserved for the stealth satire of host Jimmy Kimmel, who in his opening monologue joked that “this broadcast is being watched in 225 countries that now hate us.”

Kimmel, whose demolition jobs are delivered with the smoothness of a barber giving an old-fashioned shave, had an irresistible target, and he certainly got in his share of presidential licks. But there was another famous figure in his crosshairs, Matt Damon, the good-sport target of a fake celebrity feud.

It wasn’t as if Kimmel lost sight of Trump during the ceremony. There was a hilarious bit late in which he tweeted the Tweeter-in-Chief to see if he might be secretly watching. (The absence of social media venom from the White House prompted the check-in.) But Damon served as a jocular safety valve, rescuing Kimmel from becoming too focused on the elephant not in the room.

The Oscars has many different audiences, not all of them natural couch-fellows. Experiencing the ceremony from inside the Dolby Theatre as a first-time attendee, I was fascinated by how the show managed the tightrope act of appealing to movie industry elites who dressed to the nines for the occasion and to the more casually attired viewers from all over the world who make up Hollywood’s maddeningly heterogeneous consumer base.

Producer Marc…