Credit Where It’s Due: The Golden Globes are not (entirely) Irrelevant

globes

Credit Where It’s Due:

The Golden Globes are not (entirely) Irrelevant

It is often very easy to discredit the Golden Globes for being one thing or another, or for not being one thing or another. It is not that these are all false: the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are not cinematic or television authorities, and it is often very clear in their choices that their criteria is both highly erratic and highly suspect on most occasions. The 2009 Golden Globes were in part a testament to this particular part of their mystique, with a variety of winners which felt like they were entirely unrelated to the film or television series beside their name.

But we have to admit that there are certain points where this type of crass favouritism can actually intersect with what we as both award show viewers and as appreciators of good film and television considering to be something approaching justice. While I could easily speak to how Slumdog Millioniare’s numerous wins are a result of its international production (Always a big thing with the HFPA, see Babel defeating The Departed), or how Tina Fey’s victory is only the result of her time in the mainstream as Sarah Palin, does this really override the fact that I loved Slumdog Millionaire and that Tina Fey is a comic sensation on 30 Rock?

While the sheer cynicism with which we view the subjectivity of the Golden Globes is not wholly unique within the major awards circuit, I nonetheless feel like it is sometimes overstated in the case of the Globes for the purpose of focusing on those winners that we don’t like while choosing to view good decisions as the exception to the rule. This isn’t going to stop me from attacking the HFPA for being irrelevant with some of their choices, especially as it relates to nominees, but when it comes to the winners I think it’s safe to say that they might have actually paid attention to what they were watching in the past year.

Even if it was, per usual, for the wrong reasons in some instances.

[For a complete LiveBlog rundown of the show, click here!]

First and foremost, the Golden Globes are really fun to watch – say what you will about who wins or loses, but there is something wonderful about an awards show where Ricky Gervais is able to present a clip with a drink in his hand. Gervais was one of many presenters who made the most of the night’s loose atmosphere, killing with a reference to Kate Winslet’s episode of Extras (another show on my list of things to watch) and making a lovely string of inappropriate jokes of how he gets on the good side of the HFPA. It’s a sign that he needs to host an awards show (Emmys, September, please!) some time in the near future, and that the Globes bring this out in people. Yes, every now and then the jokes bomb (the room was not kind to Sascha Baron Cohen picking on Madonna and Guy Ritchie), but when we get multiple cocaine jokes (who knew cocaine was so funny?) and a general sense that these people are enjoying themselves it makes for better television.

This isn’t to say, though, that an awards show with more awards than it can reasonably fit into three hours wasn’t also about those who won or lost. On the television side, there were two clear patterns, with John Adams and 30 Rock sweeping every category they were nominated in. As far as HFPA trendfollowing goes, I don’t know if anyone but fans of pure spontaneity and surprise would be upset with these decisions: they performed the same at the Emmys, and they are both highly critically acclaimed. Yes, I would have rather seen Neil Patrick Harris beat out Tom Wilkinson, and I really enjoyed Recount, but can we really begrudge what is considered such a well-made piece of television?

As for 30 Rock, Tina Fey won this year based mostly on her hype (Baby Mama, Palin, etc.), but let’s remember that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association gave her the award last year as well, so it’s not as if they are only jumping on the bandwagon now…they’re just clinging onto it really proudly, is all. Baldwin, meanwhile, makes it back to the stage after losing to Duchovony last year, his second win in the role of Jack Donaghy – when the show won, it was basically a foregone conclusion, although having Tracy Morgan give the acceptance speech (as part of the spread of the Obama era) was a nice touch.

Where the TV surprises came were in the one category in which John Adams was not eligible and the two categories where the Golden Globes fell back into its more frustrating patterns. In the one true pleasant surprise, and one where the HFPA’s tastes are actually preferable to the Emmys, Laura Dern defeats some esteemed competition to take home the award for Supporting Actress. She was great in Recount, and it was nice to see the film get some recognition where it was not going to be able to defeat John Adams later in the night.

The other two awards, though, were an HBO sweep, and a bit of an odd one. Gabriel Byrne is no suprise: he is highly regarded in the role, and is deserving of recognition. The real shocker, of sorts, was Anna Paquin in True Blood. This really shouldn’t be shocking, but the Globes’ tendency to reward young stars of hip new shows has been more on the nose in the past (See: Garner, Jennifer Re: Alias). The problem is that I don’t really know if True Blood is the kind of show that the HFPA are making it out to be: everyone sells it as this kind of big new series, but I never got that feeling from it. Maybe when I go through the whole thing it’ll become clear, but a bad accent and a somewhat campy show does not a Best Actress Drama make for me.

But that was really it: out of all of those awards, only one that I could really say caused me problems. Combine this with the fact that Mad Men manages to repeat for Best Drama Series, a rare feat for the Golden Globes that reflects the show’s quality in a strong second season, and I really can’t say I have much to complain about.

The film side, ultimately, has more room for error, but even here the night’s two biggest trends are extremely hard to argue against. Yes, I am among those who fell to Slumdog Millionaire’s charming fairy tale, but that doesn’t change the fact that its ascension to success was enjoyable to watch as the evening went along. They were all so happy to be there, happy to be a part of this experience, and extremely excited to even be there yet alone winning all those awards. As they went on to sweep every category, which was pretty clear the second that Simon Beaufoy won for Best Screenplay, the celebratory nature of the film began to bleed through the proceedings themselves: as score (for A.R. Rahman), director (for Danny Boyle) and Picture (Drama) came and went, it did get predictable but never stopped being kind of uplifting to watch.

Similarly, Kate Winslet has forever been an awards show bridesmaid, so can we really begrudge the HFPA for giving her two awards in the same night? Yes, there were other actresses who could have used the boost (especially in Best Actress Drama, where Anne Hathaway needs as much ammo as she can get against Meryl Streep come Oscar night), but Winslet is so radiant and both of her speeches reminded us of her quick wit, her tremendous talent, and how good it felt to see her finally getting to play bride for an evening. I’m not sure if she can take that momentum into an Oscar win, but if the HFPA’s lack of originality in awarding Winslet twice helps her in Supporting Actress in particular then I have to say that I’m fine with that.

Rounding out the Drama side, Mickey Rourke’s victory was fairly textbook by Globes standards: they like his performance not because of its grit but because it’s a comeback story, something that catches their attention based on sentiment and sentiment alone. Rourke was smart, for his own sake, to play the circuit like he has, and I’m glad to see that an actor who seemed like he would never get another chance has most certainly gotten himself one. He’ll have a tougher time with Penn come Oscar time, no doubt, but this is going to be an interesting race.

On the Musical/Comedy side, there was more room for movement, and on paper some viewers might be confused by Hawkins’ win for the mostly unseen Happy-Go-Lucky, or Colin Ferrell winning Best Actor for his work on Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, or even Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona taking Best Picture. But in a year when the Musical/Comedy genre is almost entirely irrelevant to the main acting/picture races, I kind of like that they spread the love around: safe choices would have been with Streep and Hoffman here, in acting, but Hawkins is apparently quite great and Ferrell totally surprised me in a role that first lent itself to his blend of sarcasm and eventually morphed into something more mature than I could have expected. While all of these films were either low profile or released earlier in the year, the Globes attention is applying deserved relevance more than antiquated praise.

And no one can really complain about the Globes beginning what will be a dominant series of awards for Heath Ledger’s incredibly powerful performance as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. While the show oddly forced in a clip so as to help memorialize Ledger, what really hit him was how Chris Nolan clearly had some practice at the Critics’ Choice awards: his speech was simple, eloquent, and reflective of the very surreal nature of the performance and the kudos it has received thus far. It is hard to give an award to something so tragic, yet its definitive qualities for an actor of a generation are more powerful than whatever grief may play a role.

All in all, it’s a Golden Globes where people won because they were buzzworthy, because they had a good story, because they didn’t win in the past (Paquin’s win could easily be seen as making up for her loss all those years ago in The Piano), or because they were highly interestional or highly lavish in their production. But considering that the show was kind of fun to watch, and that in many instances those stories and reasonings coincided with what I would consider to be good film and television, I can’t claim that this year’s Golden Globes were irrelevant.

But don’t think I won’t be quick, next year, to moan about their nominations and, should this year’s intersection prove an anomaly, be right there to call them on it. But, maybe it’s three hours of liveblogging getting to my head, but for tonight I’ll give them a pass.

Cultural Observations

  • Proving he is no orator, Steven Spielberg seemed to overrehearse his big “model train” speech in a way that felt like he was too aware of its meaning. It never felt natural, which was a shame: the video package was solid, and it’s great to see Spielberg recognized even if I’m pretty darn certain he has a lot of good filmmaking left in him.
  • Of my favourite speeches of the night were both of Winslet’s for being so charming, Rourke for thanking his dogs, and Tom Hanks, who accepting for John Adams was so enormously excited about life that I swear he was the inspiration for Ferrell and Rogen’s cocaine jokes.
  • I’m frustrated that January Jones didn’t win for Mad Men, but was downright angry that the little blurb about her character was “Disappointed Stay-at-home Mom.” That doesn’t go nearly far enough in describing the depth of Betty Draper, or the show for that matter: I get they’re loglining complex characters, but at least give us “immature” in there or something!
  • The other awards not mentioned above were unsurprising: Wall-E waltzes off with Animated Film, Waltz with Bashir walls off Foreign Language, and Bruce Springsteen wrestles Best Original Song. Not aired: someone punching me in the face for those awful puns.
  • If you want dozens more quippy remarks, just dig into the LiveBlog from the event.
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