Some Thoughts on the Golden Globes

Courtesy of the Golden Globes/NBC

Ah, yes, the Golden Globes. Every year, it’s whispered about among folks in the biz how easily the Hollywood Foreign Press Association can be bought, and every year, nobody really does anything about it. Remember when The Tourist and Burlesque and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland remake were nominated for best picture back in 2010? Or when Joel Schumacher’s disastrous The Phantom of the Opera movie was nominated in 2004? How about when Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book WON in their respective drama and musical or comedy categories only three short years ago?

The Golden Globes always have a wacky sense of unpredictability to them, and I guess that’s part of their appeal. Fans like to tune in and watch their favorite stars in a giant hotel ballroom getting plastered together, laughing about the events of the past year, and feeling hopeful knowing more serious award shows are following. But why is it the Golden Globes are debated, questioned and dismissed every year, and yet by the time the next ceremony rolls around, people actually want to talk about them again?

I think it’s mainly because when the Globes normally occur, it’s the first or second week of January and entertainment options are fatally slim. Movies in theaters are like, Paranormal Activity 6 in 3D! or something like last year’s The Rhythm Section (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky). Or the movies are the leftover awards bait movies that are trickling out to the rest of the world after their awards qualifying NY/LA runs. But normally, entertainment options are pretty slim and it’s often so much fun to have a cocktail and sit back with some familiar faces and enjoy an awards show that’s way too long and meanders and staggers and means nothing, but like any other live television event, it could potentially be a fun way to kill an evening.

The only reason why the Globes are taken seriously as a predictor of the awards shows to come is because it’s televised. If the Golden Globes had no audience, no Ricky Gervais and/or Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and this was a smaller scale ceremony, nobody would ever talk about them. I doubt anyone in the entertainment industry really thinks about the Golden Globes as a critically important stepping stone to an Oscar or an Emmy. But like they do every year, they go along with it and maybe the evening will be kind of fun after all.

This year, the 78th annual Golden Globe Awards, was a disaster waiting to happen. First of all because of the bombshell LA Times article published in the days leading up to the event that uncovered the fact that there are no black members of HFPA, a seemingly cliquey and exclusive group of fewer than 90 journalists. This led to a larger conversation than we usually get about how and why the Golden Globes operate the way they do. The HFPA promised to address this on air, and it was addressed multiple times throughout the evening, in occasionally sincere, but usually clumsy and gauche ways.

Also, because of the ongoing pandemic, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler agreed to host the show from two different coasts – Fey in New York City at the Rainbow Room at 30 Rock, and Poehler at the Beverly Hilton in LA, both to a small audience of masked, vaccinated first responders. There were no really big winners of the night – everything was kind of all over the place, in a way they so often are at the Globes. And this year was particularly infuriating to me.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm won Best Picture – Musical or Comedy and Sacha Baron Cohen won for best actor. I think this is kind of frustrating because even though I liked the Borat sequel, I never thought it was awards worthy. I was hoping it would go to Hamilton, which felt like the obvious choice even though it wasn’t really a movie, or Palm Springs, a crowd pleaser that everyone mostly agreed on. I was secretly hoping in the back of my head it would go to Netflix’s The Prom, a movie I’m pretty sure only I really loved. I can only imagine the uproar if the trophy had gone to Sia’s misbegotten autism musical Music. In retrospect, it would have been pretty funny if this happened, proving the unspoken point about the Globes once again. I think it was nice to see Rosamund Pike win for I Care a Lot, which was fresh in my mind after seeing it the evening before. I know it won’t, but it would be nice to see this lead to an unlikely Oscar nomination for Pike.

Best picture – drama went to Nomadland, Chloe Zhao’s beautiful snapshot of a forgotten America, and the second or third most boring choice on this list. Truly, the biggest eye-roll choice would have been either Mank or The Trial of the Chicago 7 – the kind of movie that was seemingly designed to compete for awards. Nomadland is a beautiful and touching film, but seeing it win is making me like it a bit less, I must admit. Promising Young Woman should have swept the drama categories, and this is a position I will not argue. There is not a single better film among the nominated dramas, and it would have been a truly exciting choice for a winner. Aaron Sorkin also won the award for best screenplay, writing some variation of the same dialogue he’s been writing for 30 years, instead of Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman, another ridiculous decision I will die mad about.

Chadwick Boseman posthumously won best actor – drama for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a performance that I truly believe was the best work of his tragically short career, and led to a heartbreaking speech from his widow, who will likely have to give more of these speeches. And best actress – drama was a difficult category to predict. Carey Mulligan, Viola Davis, Frances McDormand and Vanessa Kirby all seemed equally likely to win, and yet singer Andra Day’s performance in the poorly received The United States vs. Billie Holiday took the trophy home. This was the moment I gasped and started hysterically laughing. Don’t expect to see this play out the same way at the Oscars.

Daniel Kaluuya won best supporting actor for his performance in Judas and the Black Messiah, which is a win I can’t really argue, and one everyone kind of expected him to win. However, nobody expected a Jodie Foster win for The Mauritanian, a movie no one has really seen. This award was expected to go to either Amanda Seyfried for Mank, or Glenn Close for Hillbilly Elegy.

Every time there is a new Glenn Close project, it seems like award pundits try to shape a narrative around her that never comes to fruition. In 2018, it was more or less agreed upon that even though The Wife was a lesser film on the oeuvre of Glenn Close, she had never won the Oscar so okay fine let’s give it to her. If Close were to win the Oscar for Hillbilly Elegy, it would be an example of a great actor winning the Oscar for one of the worst films of their career. So, I mean, I guess we’ll see. 2020 has been such a bizarre year, and the films we’ve gotten out of the year have been so varied and weird, I could see this happening.

Pixar’s Soul won best animated feature and best original score. Not much to dissect there, it’s the best choice in either category. Another controversy this year at the Globes surrounds Minari, which won for best foreign language feature. Minari is a film mostly in subtitles, but not entirely, and one that was made in the United States, and yet the Globes have a rule that disqualifies it from the best picture categories, because a certain percentage of it is subtitled. The same thing happened last year with The Farewell, which was pushed to the less prestigious category for no real reason. So, yeah, maybe something the Globes need to work on?

Over on the TV side, The Crown and Schitt’s Creek won best television series in their respective categories. Emily in Paris still somehow received applause when it was announced among the other nominees. I still haven’t seen The Crown, but it’s a boring choice, and wins continuously every year. Schitt’s Creek is a good choice, because it’s never won before, and it’s also rewarding a show that can’t be nominated again, and it’s kind of meaningful for something to win at the end of its run. I would’ve been happy with it completely sweeping every category like it did at the Emmys, but who cares.

The Queen’s Gambit won best limited series against competitor Small Axe, Steve McQueen’s Amazon anthology series of feature films which is being considered as a television show here for some reason. It’s not a surprising choice, and Anya Taylor-Joy also took home best actress for the miniseries. As I’ve said, the Globes are rarely indicative of what will happen at bigger award shows, but expect to see The Queen’s Gambit’s hype carry it all the way to the next Emmy Awards. The hype is too strong, and people like this show too much for it to be ignored. Hopefully people can actually gather in an auditorium by then.

Overall, there were fewer surprises in the TV category, and it’s almost kind of boring to talk about them at all. The wonky decisions were mostly limited to the nominations, like Emily in Paris and Ryan Murphy’s Ratched, and those shows didn’t win anything. In fact, many of the television awards last night mainly felt like a thing you had to get through to get to the big awards of the night. Maybe that’s because we all recently watched these shows get Emmys not that long ago, and maybe it’s because The Crown is a deeply predictable choice. Either way, it’s always kind of fascinating to see the Globes clumsily balance TV and film, as if one is not more important than the other.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s comedic timing was still absolutely on point, despite them hosting the show from different parts of the country. The two of them have been friends long enough for this not to really matter at all. Moments like Jane Fonda’s powerful speech for the Cecil B. DeMille award and Norman Lear’s tribute packed the appropriate emotional punch, despite the crazy circumstances around them. And the few fun presenters we had (Barb & Star) were outweighed by a lot of people that just wanted to get up onstage and read names, and go home.

Ultimately, even though the Golden Globes are problematic and ultimately kind of meaningless, and this year’s ceremony touted the Globes’ worst ratings of all time – a viewership of only 5.42 million – they’ll do them again next year, and we’ll be having the same conversation again about why they don’t really matter. I do think the 78th Golden Globes will be an interesting case study in the future for how we did award shows during the pandemic – the restrictions in place and the spotty wifi. I sure hope everyone can gather for next year’s show, in the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton, everybody drunk as can be, and deeply enjoying each other’s company. May we be so lucky.

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