There weren’t too many upsets at this year’s Golden Globes: Damien Chazelle’s thrilling La La Land dominated the comedy/musical categories, Barry Jenkins’s exquisite Moonlight won best picture, drama – and nothing else – and Casey Affleck won best actor (also drama) for Manchester By The Sea.
But the surprises, when they came, were genuine. Paul Verhoeven’s twisty revenge thriller Elle slipping past presumed front-runner Toni Erdmann to take best foreign-language film was a nice surprise, but Isabelle Huppert winning best actress in a drama was a jaw-dropper, and a nice little reminder that for all of their faults, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is willing to stretch a little more than the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences.
Not always, mind you. The record seven awards for La La Land – including a screenplay prize that felt like a bit of a stretch when one realizes Manchester By The Sea and Moonlight were also on the ballot – feel pretty much like a fait accompli, given how that film is practically engineered to win awards, starting with the people’s choice prize at TIFF. (Again: I really like La La Land.) But if there’d been characters to nominate in the supporting categories, Viola Davis would have been denied her victory for Fences … as would Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Nocturnal Animals, though I’d have been entirely fine with that.
When it comes to television, the HFPA is always more daring, favouring upstart series like Transparent and Mozart In The Jungle and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend rather than older shows. This year the Globes honoured actor/producer/musician/polymath Donald Glover, naming his nifty new show Atlanta as best television series (musical/comedy) and giving Glover himself the award for best TV actor in a musical or comedy.
They threw a little love to Netflix’s Young Queen Elizabeth series The Crown, naming it best dramatic series and star Claire Foy best actress in a drama, and split the limited series/miniseries prizes between The Night Manager, which nabbed awards for actor Tom Hiddleston, supporting actor Hugh Laurie and supporting actress Olivia Colman, and The People Vs. O.J. Simpson, which took awards for series and lead actress Sarah Paulson.
Still, as the evening wore on and La La Land’s wins mounted up, the evening seemed in danger of slumping.
God knows Jimmy Fallon’s pasty presence didn’t do anything to keep the energy up. I wasn’t expecting much from the guy, but his haplessness at the hosting gig was genuinely disappointing; he was flop sweat in a tuxedo. It was as though the HFPA had tried to book Mike Myers, but had to settle for a friend’s kid who could do a half-decent Austin Powers impression.
Fortunately, the night picked itself up when Viola Davis came out to introduce Meryl Streep, recipient of this year’s Cecil B. DeMille award. Davis – who’d already won her Globe for Fences by that point – was relaxed and funny and warm, growing more heartfelt as she spoke of the Doubt co-star who was once her inspiration and now a close friend… and then Streep came up and stopped the show dead with a weary but urgent call to action for artists in the age of a Trump presidency – a speech given an unexpected punchline with a cutaway to the Hacksaw Ridge table, where Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn sat looking puzzled.
(By the time you read this, the president-elect will probably have taken to Twitter to say Streep is overrated because he watched Mamma Mia on an airplane once. Pay him no mind.)
When Moonlight was named best picture, drama, in the last award of the evening – its only win in six nominations – it felt like another upset, even though everyone had been calling it a sure thing for the last month. And maybe that’s a good thing. Accepting the award alongside producer Adele Romanski, director/screenwriter Jenkins said he’s been saying the same thing to fans of the film since it was on the festival circuit: “Tell your friends, tell your friends, tell your friends.”
I’m really glad Moonlight has friends in the HFPA. Here’s hoping they told their friends in the Academy.