Ah, yes, the relatively meaningless Golden Globes. Well, since the shelf life for interest in this first awards show of the season is so very short, I must needs get my thoughts out rather quickly.
Again, the Golden Globes only represent the votes of about 90 international journalists, and is therefore plucking from a relatively small and focused pool. No actors, directors, screenwriters—just journalists. But it has positioned itself to be taken a bit more seriously in the past few years, and tales of buying off votes have diminished. As the first major award of the season, though, it can be a great starting point for Oscar discussions.
There are many weaknesses to the awards, its constituency being perhaps the greatest. But they do divide drama and musical or comedy in many categories, which is great. The downside is the foolishness of categorizing some films as comedy, as 2016’s yuck-fest known as The Martian. The only thing funny about that film was its categorization as a comedy. This year we have three questionable films in that category, but they certainly have more right to be in that category than The Martian: Lady Bird; I Tonya; and Get Out. All are black comedies (no pun intended for Get Out), and have stings that are decidedly dramatic in nature.
The good news for film is that there is attention paid to musical and comedy performances that tend to fade behind the generally more respected dramatic performances. (Was Gary Cooper’s performance in High Noon really better than what Gene Kelly managed in Singin’ in the Rain?) For those eager to look into future Oscar nominations and wins, the division can be confusing. Sometimes the winning actors in the categories are the future Oscar nominees with the best chances of a win (as in this year), and sometimes the most likely winners are all in the dramatic category (as in last year, when nearly all of the musical/comedy nominees in the leading category didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning an Oscar, or even being nominated.)
So we have Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ) and Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) winning in their respective categories, and they are the strongest candidates at this point to win an Oscar. James Franco (The Disaster Artist) and Gary Oldman (Dark Hour) were winners as Best Actors, but I don’t see Franco winning this year—and he may not even be nominated. (I was thinking Daniel Kaluuya would win for Get Out.) Best Picture winners were Lady Bird (a likely contender) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (ditto). Allison Janney (I, Tonya) and Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards…) are strong contenders for future awards (though I was somewhat disappointed that Laurie Metcalf didn’t win for Lady Bird).
In the director category, Guillermo del Toro’s win for The Shape of Water was a legitimate win, though the film left me relatively untouched. I was hoping that Christopher Nolan would win for Dunkirk, admittedly a completely different kind of film with different strengths.
Looking outside the awards themselves, Seth Meyers managed the near-impossible of being funny and bitingly relevant at the same time, wisely recognizing the danger of Trump fatigue and yet not backing away from the socio-political issues of the movie industry this past year.
Movie and television awards are growing more challenging for me over the years, as I am more and more sensitive to the self-importance and self-congratulatory atmosphere in the room. I’ve often joked that physical therapists and chiropractors have their work cut out for them on the day after these awards, as the attendees, and especially winners, have nearly injured themselves patting themselves on the back so hard. Granted, these events are about celebrating the work and the artists who did all that work, but the tendency of most of the participants to wrap themselves in the morality-du-jour can be a bit enervating.
This year was a little different, not in kind but in emphasis. The goal of stopping (or let’s be honest, limiting) sexual harassment, the casting couch, and even the smallest of sexual advances or discrimination is the worthiest of aims. “Time’s Up” is both a much-needed rallying cry and a hope. (Gender equality was another cry, but is unfortunately far from being defined, and “equal pay for equal work” is a slogan that tends to cover over the nuances and complexities of that rather multi-layered concern.)
But Hollywood’s general tendency to know and be better than the rest of us (in their minds, anyway) tended to compromise the worth of last night’s real concerns for putting an end to a genuine systemic problem of harassment; the lecturing and occasional shrillness was a little much by the second hour. Even the solidarity of women all dressing black was undercut by the outfits of several of the women, who managed to expose a great deal of skin and cleavage while wearing said black. Most women knew how to wear an attractive black outfit that complimented them without compromising themselves; some obviously couldn’t or wouldn’t, wanting to have their cake while eating it too. (Of course this raises the other legitimate topic of women who exploit their looks and sexuality for advancement, but given the much greater power of men in positions of influence within the industry, and the greater damage their behaviors have done throughout the decades, that issue may have to wait a while to be legitimately.)
Though this blog focuses on film rather than television, there were a few things to be noted. Sterling K. Brown got the Globe this year for This is Us that he also deserved last year for his portrayal of Christopher Darden in the O.J. Simpson version of American Crime Story. The aura around The Handmaid’s Tale is also worthy of mention. I haven’t seen it, but Elizabeth Moss is a very talented actor and likely deserves her awards, as might the show from a production standpoint. What I have great objection to is the groupthink around the book and series, as if we’re in imminent danger of having this kind of society. Though the author of the book apparently contends that she considers such a society as a perversion rather than an expression of Old Testament ideas (and driven by people concerned with power rather than faith), the unthinking thought “out there” is that today’s crazy Christian evangelicals are what would lead us to such a society if they had their wish. This idea betrays, and please don’t pardon the pun, a fundamental misunderstanding of both evangelicalism and even Christian fundamentalism. For anyone wanting to know more, check out this insightful article on the impossibility of such a thing occurring, and why: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/may-web-only/handmaids-tale-wants-us-to-heed-threat-of-fundamentalism.html
One last comment: Oprah is an amazing businesswomen and humanitarian, a model for many, a decent actress, and a phenomenal communicator. But the worship is a bit much. Can we just dial that down a few notches, please?
The attention paid to the Globes will fade quickly this year, as it always does. It is to be hoped that the real issues addressed within the industry these past few months will not be overshadowed by too many hopes being pinned on one night of sartorial solidarity and even genuine indignation.