And so this turned into one of those Golden Globe years. You shook your head, and smiled just a little. A Farrelly brother tried to defeat racism, and successfully defeated the house orchestra. Various people involved with the production of Bohemian Rhapsody thanked various people whose names don’t rhyme with lyin’ swinger. All this after two big wins for The Kominsky Method, the TV series my uncle loves as much as your uncle.
The Golden Globes haven’t always had to mean something. An earlier generation classified the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s boozefest as a larky delight, so much looser than the Academy Awards. “I’ve often wondered when I’m watching on television, ‘Are the people as drunk as they seem?'” said first-time Golden Globe attendee and presenter Tyler Perry. “To everybody watching: yes, we are.” But there’s a fine art to a great party. And in 2019, since the poor Academy barely seems capable of putting their Oscars ceremony together, the Golden Globes have become, impossibly, the steady and sane alternative. “One lucky audience member,” Andy Samberg began, “WILL HOST THE OSCARS!” he finished in unison with cohost Sandra Oh.
It was the bleakest joke they made all night. Their other jokes were, well, bad. Their opening monologue goofed on the Globes’ “controversial” reputation, with Oh and Samberg saying very nice things in a brutal tone of voice. Bradley Cooper: Hot! Gina Rodriguez: From heaven! Jeff Bridges: Our dad! “Well, that was fun,” said Oh. “It was fun!” agreed Samberg. It wasn’t.
Maybe it’s wrong to complain about radical positivity when certain major Earth countries are currently commanded by nuclear nihilists who sow dissent for breakfast then reave souls for burger brunch. But the hosts seemed anxious about anything that would cut deeper than air quoted praise. (The mood was catching: Winner Christian Bale’s wife warned him he could “ruin a perfectly good movie and a so-so career in one speech.”) Samberg and Oh’s dynamic never didn’t look like a hosting shotgun marriage. You missed the way past hosts could improvise in real-time. What would a quick wit like Tina Fey or Ricky Gervais make of a show so steeped — wonderfully, then painfully — in sincerity?
The heart was tugged, no doubt. Oh thanked her parents when she accepted a Best Actress prize for her performance in Killing Eve. Alfonso Cuaron made it clear in his two tender acceptance speeches that Roma was a film both personal and national-historic. (“Muchas gracias, Mexico.”) Regina King won for If Beale Street Could Talk and created a powerful, self-described “soapbox” moment. (Side eye to Mr. Farrelly: Some people don’t have to beg the orchestra to cut the play-off music.) King promised that everything she produced moving forward would employ 50 percent women. “Regina, we’re available!” exclaimed presenter Megan Mullally — the kind of joke you know Fey would’ve made 15 out of.
In the year of Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther, you caught a utopian feeling, more sorts of people invited to this shindig than ever before. Carol Burnett’s speech was just wonderful — and yet, how fascinating to notice how her introductory montage featured an extensive clip from “Went With the Wind,” a sketch from 1976. You doubt anyone will ever do another Gone with the Wind sketch about funny clothes.
Burnett was accepting a prize named for her. She gave one of the greatest old pro career speeches ever, unusually — and modestly — claiming her success was all in the timing. Jeff Bridges went in another direction. The Cecil B. DeMille honoree seemed to be improvising. He thanked Michael Cimino, thanked Bucky (famous engineer and architect Buckminster Fuller), described his stand-in as “the thread through the whole deal,” and promised us that “we can turn this ship in the way we wanna go, man!”
“Nobody told me I had to follow Jeff Bridges,” presenter Harrison Ford said. No one told anyone they had to follow Jeff Bridges, and there was a dwindling feeling as the show tumbled forward. Utopia receded. Not because the winners were bad. I know people who outright loathe Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody. But, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. Everybody’s got an opinion, and I’m the dunce who thinks Best TV Drama winner The Americans was very okay. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association doesn’t have to satisfy anyone’s definition of taste.
But you didn’t feel like anyone was getting away with anything. It was a come down from last year’s festivities, when the naughtily riotous Globes atmosphere sparked a revival-tent energy, Oprah Winfrey and Barbra Streisand and Margaret Freaking Atwood. This year, there was a dull spirit of good behavior, broken only occasionally. The Assassination of Gianni Versace producer Brad Simpson decried people who say “we should put walls around ourselves.” Best Actress in a Drama winner Glenn Close had the line of the night: “It was called The Wife. I think that’s why it took it 14 years to get made.”
Oh began the show declaring this was “a moment of change.” I hope so, but even Oh had to add a disclaimer. “I’m not fooling myself. Next year could be different. It probably will be.” Next year arrived early. The collective fire of Black Panther, BlackkKlansman, and Crazy Rich Asians won zero awards. The big movie winners were disputed period pieces peddling flavors of feel-goodery. The prospect of a wildly diverse Golden Globes became, well, a stage full of the Kominsky demographic. Good in a different way, maybe — one oughtn’t be ageist, either! — but there was already a long stretch of history when Michael Douglas was a Hollywood genre unto himself.
Recall one telling moment, an awkward cut with eerie resonance. Best Actress in a TV Comedy winner Rachel Brosnahan thanked Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke. Following her gaze, the camera cut to…Amazon overlord Jeff Bezos, whose vibe will never not be Observer From Fringe Realness. Brosnahan had only just described her show as a matriarchy. Huzzah for the women — now, here’s the dude behind the curtain! He’s, like, the thread through the whole deal, and I’m not feeling this at all, man. But we’re alive — we are, man, alive! We can turn this ship the way we wanna go, even if we just wanna go away. Grade: C+