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The Golden Globes, that on-again/off-again, red-headed stepchild of the Academy Awards, were presented live and for free at The Frida Cinema on January 7th, 2024. A small band of us gathered in the dark, some coming and going, while the big screen trotted out women in lavish and sometimes ridiculous gowns and loud commentators led us into the evening.
One might ask: why watch such a program in a theater when you can just watch it at home? (Assuming you have a television; I don’t.) For the same reason I would argue it’s generally more fun to watch movies in a theater: community and shared experience. Communal cheering and booing. It’s fun to be in an environment where you can do these things loudly and feed off the collective energy of the other people in the room who might be doing the same. Also, at least where cinema is concerned, a much bigger screen can make all the difference in terms of visuals and general impact.
Though the Oscars are like my version of the Super Bowl — I’ve been watching them every year since I was seven and remember writing out the names of the nominees and categories as a child in color-coded markers, making my own score card in order to follow along — I don’t necessarily watch the Golden Globes annually. I watch them when the opportunity for community viewing presents itself. The other major viewing memory I have is of watching it several years ago at a small private viewing party in the church where they shot John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness! I kept going outside during the breaks, imagining Alice Cooper shuffling menacingly down the alley. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you can read my longer piece on the glories of Darkness here.)
Some thoughts for the night:
It was interesting to watch the variety of presenters: some serious and awkwardly reading off the teleprompter, others having genuine moments onstage with their co-presenters. The latter was so much more satisfying as a viewer than the former that studying the wide array of attempts as they succeeded or failed became like its own mini drama.
A bit between Keri Russell and Ray Romano, who co-presented the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series, about truth-telling was particularly well played — they acted and emotionally reacted off of each other — while I’ll refrain from calling out every presenter who was merely staring into the camera while reading (Orlando Bloom).
One wonders if these exchanges are rehearsed or worked out between co-presenters in advance. Their presentation in many cases would certainly benefit.
The host, comedian Jo Koy, who one pre-show commentator claimed everyone knew (I did not know him), was overshadowed when later on Jim Gaffigan took the stage to present the award for Best Performance in Stand-Up Comedy on Television, and it was easy to imagine him being a more successful host. (One of the better moments of Koy’s opening monologue, later panned by critics, was actually Martin Scorsese’s visible slightly off-put reaction to it, veiled by a thin smile.)
In a moment of truth-telling, Jim Gaffigan had this line about the category he was presenting, which was brand new as of this year, “For 80 years, good-looking people threw a party, right? And then you guys finally decided to invite the talented people.” The fact that even reading back this line makes me laugh in a way that none of Koy’s jokes did, is also telling. But it’s a tough gig, the poor fellow.
This year’s other new category, the award for Cinematic and Box Office Achievement, was given to Barbie. This felt a little hollow, and one wonders, is making 1.4 billion dollars not sufficient enough, that there needs to be an award for this? No offense meant towards Barbie specifically, but isn’t wild financial achievement and the opportunity to make more movies this brings already its own reward?
Succession cleaned house with Best Television Series and acting nods to Kieran Culkin, Sara Snook, and Matthew Macfadyen, the latter two who act in very convincing American accents on top of their wonderful performances and as a result sound nothing like their characters, being from England and Australia, respectively. Macfadyen had a poetic description of his character: “The weird and wonderful human grease stain that is Tom Wambsgans.” It’s also ironic and fitting that Jeremy Strong, who was not present, was passed over as his onscreen “siblings” were rewarded. He’s exquisite on the show, but this somehow comically fits in with the martyrdom of his onscreen character. And veteran child actor Kieran Culkin, also terrific on the show, brought with him the added bonus of his always awkward and funny acceptance speeches, mentioning his own indigestion within the first 10 seconds of this one.
That the Golden Globes are broadcast before Academy Award nominations are even released makes this program sort of an early predictor of those nominations. One can already see things like Oppenheimer and Emma Stone’s performance in Poor Things — both awarded here — sliding to the forefront as obvious contenders. And one wonders how Barbie will come out in the wash. It received the most nominations, nine, of this year’s ceremony, but won just two: the aforementioned Box Office award and one for Best Original Song.
Yet one large reason to watch this show, or really any awards show, is for the spontaneity that the format of live television can bring. Speaking as someone who worked in live television years ago: things can go wrong. But the lack of polish that is created in post and the inability to hide imperfections can be the most compelling part of the show, because these tears in the glossy media fabric can give way to a greater humanity. Imperfection can be what makes other human beings — especially those being put up on pedestals — most relatable.
The unplanned snafus: Cillian Murphy, who won for Oppenheimer, pausing after his wife kissed him on the face, frantically wiping at it before he mounted the stage. He asked the audience immediately upon his arrival up there, “First question, do I have lipstick all over my nose?” At another point in the show a loud crash was heard in the background — from the kitchen perhaps? And Ryan Gosling was seen casually chewing gum when standing onstage alongside his Barbie compatriots.
Then there were the unpredictable remarks. One of the creators of Beef, Lee Sung Jin, mentioned the series was inspired by a real-life road rage incident and gave a shout out to his on-the-road nemesis: “Sir, I hope you honk and yell and inspire others for years to come.”
Another notable spontaneously unexpected moment was when Yorgos Lanthimos went to accept the award for Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his film Poor Things (which raises the question: was Poor Things actually a musical or comedy?), and upon arrival onstage immediately spoke to Bruce Springsteen, who was in the audience, instead. “I just wanted to speak to Bruce Springsteen the whole night,” he gushed. Then addressing Bruce, “We have the same birthday, 23rd of September!” Springsteen gave Lanthimos an awkward thumbs up, and Lanthimos confided to the audience, “He’s been my hero since I grew up.”
The pleasure of seeing those championed by the film community in a more down-to-Earth light could be one reason why images of Paul Giamatti, post-ceremony, dining inside an In-N-Out Burger in Westwood with his Golden Globe for his role in The Holdovers went viral. People connect to these more human elements in this larger-than-life industry when they are revealed.
However, live television can be infuriating in terms of which camera the director in the booth chooses to cut to at any given moment. The biggest example of this was when Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig did a dance while presenting the award for Best Male Actor Musical or Comedy and they cut away from 50% of the dance to instead show audience reaction shots. Wildly frustrating if you weren’t in attendance and wanted to actually see the material that people were laughing at.
Lily Gladstone became the first indigenous woman to win a Golden Globe for Best Actress, which, upon later reflection, conjured up memories of one of the most famous unexpected snafus of an awards shows in the early 1970s: that time when the late Sasheen Littlefeather famously accepted (or rather declined) Marlon Brando’s Oscar for The Godfather on his behalf at the 45th Annual Academy Awards. (In an interesting twist, Littlefeather’s native heritage was later called into question.)
We see little to no representation of indigenous actresses in awards shows, or in Hollywood in general, so it’s an interesting barometer for how far we’ve come.
It’s also a reminder that while no one remembers who presented what while woodenly reading from a teleprompter in 1973 (or might it have been cue cards way back then?), Littlefeather’s unexpected acceptance speech is an incident that remains a cultural landmark 50 years later. Underlining the fact that the anticipation of the unexpected is ultimately what will keep us watching.