The Golden Globes, as everyone knows, are the “fun Oscars.” It’s the awards show that’s less important than the Academy Awards. It mixes movies and TV. There’s less literal show-stopping montages. It’s the one where the hosts are mean, especially if they’re Ricky Gervais. There’s booze.
This year saw a bit of a change-up. Instead of someone like Gervais insulting Bruce Willis and Robert Downey Jr., we got the guy who playfully ran his hands through the diseased fox that sits atop our president-elect’s head. Jimmy Fallon took the stage at this year’s Globes, bringing his brand of harmless, sanitized fun to a show that’s best when it has claws.
Despite his shameful normalization last year of our incoming fearless leader, Fallon’s opening monologue boasted no fewer than three Trump disses. He called the Globes “one of the only places left in America that still honors the popular vote.” Regardless, he was his usual self throughout: Overly-excited, perpetually grinning, more Up With People droog than cutting wit. Even his (not inaccurate) quip that “Manchester by the Sea” was “the most depressing thing from 2016 that wasn’t 2016” seemed very Bruce Vilanch. (He also did an extended and uneasy impersonation of Chris Rock, for reasons we can’t quite divine.)
Fittingly, the awards portion of the evening got off to a bumpy start. The first award, for supporting actor in a film, was supposed to go to obvious favorite Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight,” as it has with every other awards body thus far. Instead, it went to Aaron Taylor-Johnson for “Nocturnal Animals.” Ali brilliantly played a paternalistic drug dealer who was both charismatic and all-too-human. Taylor-Johnson did a Foghorn Leghorn accent and sat on a toilet while naked.
Things picked up, though. Far as surprises go, there was “Atlanta” triumphing over “Veep,” “Transparent,” “Mozart in the Jungle” and (again) “Blackish” by nicking Best Comedy Series. Co-creator/co-star Donald Glover — who later won for actor in a comedy series — delivered a humble speech, in which he admitted of his unusual program, “We didn’t think anyone was going to like this show.”
Also nice: Billy Bob Thornton’s speech for his “Goliath” win, which included both a dorky classic film reference and a moving tribute to a crew member who passed. The lovable Tracee Ellis Ross won for “Blackish” over the considerable powerhouse of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Rachel Bloom, Gina Rodriguez and more. Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle” scored for foreign language film (over the even better “Toni Erdmann”), despite being a movie (about a woman, played by Isabelle Huppert, who’s raped) that no one feels comfortable seeing.
Most of the time, though, the Globes reminded us of the monotonous dirge that is the awards season, with the same people and titles getting feted. “La La Land” nabbed the most wins, for movie (comedy), Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, two for writer-director Damien Chazelle (for writing and directing), plus both Best Song and Best Score. Gosling spent his speech largely singing the praises of Eva Mendes, thus ensuring that his “hey girl” dreamboat image won’t die anytime soon.
Also totally expected: Casey Affleck, looking very Jared Leto circa “Dallas Buyers Club,” winning for “Manchester by the Sea,” and Isabelle Huppert stole Natalie Portman’s award for her “Elle.” We’re OK with both of these; we basically agree Affleck and Huppert gave the two best leading performances of the year. Ditto “Moonlight” taking the trophy for best drama film — its only win of the night, insanely.
Here’s where we do some entirely un-scientific Oscar prognosticating, where we wonder if the Best Picture Oscar will go to the nice, distracting confection (“La La Land”) or the stark reminder of the world’s ills (“Moonlight”). We’d rather it go to the latter, and not only because it’s not even a contest between the two. (We’re of the “‘La La Land’ is fine but troubled and definitely not great” school.) Without getting into spoilers, “Moonlight” — about a poor, bullied black kid who ages into a hard drug dealer — manages, in the end, to find hope in its heart-wrenching scenario. Honestly with hesitant optimism would be a great way to honor 2016 as we head into a possibly even scarier year.
But let’s close out this piece with some light distractions (before getting into stark reminders of the world’s ills). Some random miscellany: Goldie Hawn acted epically batty while presenting an award alongside her future “Snatched” co-star Amy Schumer. The upside to Jimmy Fallon hosting was it meant Questlove spinning killer jams (ESG!) in between awards. And the Internet nearly melted when a dreamily shaggy-haired Dev Patel showed up on stage with his pint-sized “Lion” co-star Sunny Pawar to basically stand there and look devastatingly adorable.
The John Travolta Award for Epic Mispronouncing Names went to Michael Keaton, who meant to say “Hidden Figures,” confused it with another black movie prominently featured at the Globes, and wound up saying “Hidden Fences” instead. If this is the lowest moment of the Keaton-aissance, then at least the Internet got a meme out of it.
The award for best speech should go to Hugh Laurie, one of the best awards speech givers ever. Nabbing yet another trophy, this time for “The Night Manager,” the “House” alum cracked, “I’ll be able to say I won this at the last ever Golden Globes.” Referring to his arms dealer character on the show, he added, “I accept this award on behalf of psychopathic billionaires everywhere.”
Or maybe it should go to Viola Davis, who got two: She was reliably awesome when she won for “Fences,” and even better when she introduced Meryl Streep, who received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for a lifetime of Meryl-ness. Davis’ speech was heavily stylized, disarmingly theatrical, brilliantly and thrillingly unpredictable.
Streep chased it with a speech that found her holding back tears, as she reminded us, again, that we’re about to be taken over by a horrible demagogue who makes fun of disabled people. Queen Meryl harped on that shoulda-been-low-point, as if to embarrass any viewers watching at home who voted for him. No doubt the right wing trolls are staying up late writing their anti-Streep screeds about preachy celebs. Well, this is what they voted for: four-to-eight years of actors making passionate awards speeches, which now don't seem tacky or even embarrassing, but inspiring and right on. Streep's speech will be the last of its kind before innauguration, and it was reminder of the tough, grim road ahead of us.