Each year the Hollywood Foreign Press ushers in a star-studded season honoring excellence in film and TV with the Golden Globe Awards.
It’s a televised party in Beverly Hills where celebs and film/TV makers drink, eat and try to make merry in the very tight quarters of an overstuffed hotel ballroom.
Think your rich Aunt Mildred’s chance for the over-the-top second wedding she never had or the bar mitzvah reception for the son of some tech giant classmate of yours who bought Apple stock early and married late that you only managed to get on the list for because you ran into him at the airport while trying to hide the fact you were flying coach.
Of course, that doesn’t quite do it justice.
The Golden Globes are often the most entertaining of all old show biz awards shows because for some god forsaken reason they consistently get almost every major star in the industry to show up and give or get one of those quite surprisingly small mini-replicas of our great golden earth.
Though even that was tricky this year because nothing about our earth or the product produced during this time period seems to represent anything particularly golden, at least not in the traditional sense.
No, in real life we citizens of the world are holding our collective breaths about the possibility of real global warfare between the United States and Iran. Or we are obsessing yet doing very little about climate change as this weekend we watched large swaths of the real Australian sky burn an ominous blood red thanks to over 146 (and counting) environmentally induced brush fires.
Neither the evening nor few of the nominated and/or winning films provided much release from those catastrophic doldrums either. For instance, I very much enjoyed Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in…Hollywood and its meticulous recreation of a 1969 Los Angeles. But its win as best comedy/musical, director, screenplay and supporting actor still can’t help but remind us all of one of the most grisly crimes of our 20th century, the Tate-LaBianca murders; that is even as it tries to rewrite that history to give its victims (and us) our much more well-deserved (well, preferred) Hollywood ending.
The best drama and director award for Sam Mendes’ 1917 forced us to look back in terrifying detail at a fictionalized version of fact-based events in and around the battlefields of WWI. While extremely well made, this also doesn’t so much as provide hope for humanity but hold a magnifying glass up to ALL the battlefields of our past and, inevitably, remind us of all those likely to come in our future.
On the television side, a miniseries win for yet another recreation of the catastrophic – the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl – brilliantly reminded even the most casual of viewers that another nuclear winter could even today be just one ignored safety regulation away. Not to mention that the recognition of Succession as best TV drama brought home every cynically snowflake propaganda worry we all ever had about Fox News and the Murdoch family through its fictional, though albeit much more entertainingly awful doppelgängers, the Roys.
There were some small breaths of encouragement. Taron Edgerton and Renee Zellweger won best acting awards for personifying the real-life, stage and singing facsimiles of Elton John and Judy Garland as they rose to fame, slid into addiction and, well at least in one case, managed to survive.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her Fleabag season 2 gave some glamour and sympathy for those of us consistently making the wrong yet most human of choices even if it didn’t give us our full Hollywood happy Tarantino finale. But perhaps that’s a clue to its popularity. It doesn’t sugar coat our mistakes yet still shines some teeny tiny minuscule glint of light into all of our hopelessly aberrant collective futures.
Such was not the case with Globes’ host Ricky Gervais for most of the evening. His shtick about being the worst possible choice to lead the festivities proved incredibly prescient given the world events of the preceding week and the jokes he chose to perform.
He opened by touting the Globes’ decision to this year serve an all-vegetarian menu but then chided its members for being, ahem, vegetables. He attempted a timely jab at director Martin Scorsese for recently stating superhero movies were not cinema but more like amusement park rides he had no interest in and then cracked at the irony of the director’s statement because Scorsese was too short to actually meet the height requirement to ride in one. (Note: Har, Har?)
Joaquin Phoenix, who won a Globe for playing the nihilistic title role in Joker, did try to be real and modest and world-aware. Yet he managed to end his speech by saying it wasn’t enough to simply urge the Globes’ worldwide audience to “vote” their issues at the ballot box or voice concern about Australian climate change the way that others who came before him onstage had done. No, what he proclaimed from the podium was that what each one of the affluent in that room should do was to pledge to stop flying private jets to Palm Springs!
Well, you gotta start somewhere, right? And no, I am not paraphrasing.
Yes, of course, there were lovely moments. Michelle Williams’ win for playing Broadway legend Gwen Verdon in Fosse/Verdon urging women to use their voices and votes to make the reality of the country better reflect its 51% female population. Kate McKinnon’s tearful tribute to Ellen DeGeneres as the role model of what could be possible for her young lesbian self. Tom Hanks on the true wonder of being a working actor who is nothing more than a small part of a larger team who must deliver in that moment to make each shot or the scene any good at all.
Still, at the end of the evening one couldn’t help but think that our en masse feelings about the Globes/Globe, both in the ballroom and for those watching at home, were best captured by Mr. Gervais’ in his not very encouraging but thankfully closing line of the night to us:
Get drunk, take your drugs, f-k off.
This being a Hollywood production, needless to say that very last phrase was bleeped.
Complete list of the 2020 Golden Globe Winners
Sam Smith ft. Renee Zellwegger – “Get Happy”