News & Politics

Big Microphones, Cold Moet: Watching the Golden Globes From Europe

Hosts Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg arrive at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Aware that Americans are sick of tuning on the TV to see their president bashed — witlessly — the folks behind the Golden Globe Awards, which aired on Sunday night, promised beforehand that there would be no references to Donald Trump. As far as I noticed, there weren’t. But that didn’t mean the show was politics-free. Far from it. Hollywood folks don’t know anymore how to avoid politics on such telecasts. With few exceptions, they seem, when opening their mouths in front of a camera and without a script, to be incapable of not instantly serving up their PC bona fides.

One thing about the Golden Globes: at least the opening monologues used to be funny. For three years in a row, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made merry fun of their business, their fellow stars, and the Hollywood Foreign Press itself. They were legitimately laugh-out-loud hilarious. When Ricky Gervais hosted, he wasn’t bad either. No more. In the wake of #MeToo, in the era of Donald Trump, it’s a new Tinseltown and a new Golden Globes, at which actual humor is verboten.

So this year, instead of making real jokes, the hosts — lame Saturday Night Live alumnus Andy Samberg and actress Sandra Oh, who always looks as if she’s about to upbraid you for saying something offensive — pointed out celebrities in the crowd, praised them effusively, and pretended they were putting them down. This is a schtick I’ve seen Samberg do before, at some Comedy Central roast, and it wasn’t funny then, either. Then the two hosts listed a bunch of movies from this year that focused on the lives of blacks, Asians, and Latinos, and said that the films were important not because they starred members of minorities but because they communicated universal themes. But of course if that’s what mattered, why make such a big deal about the stars being minorities?

Mentioning the movie Black Panther, Samberg brought up the original Black Panthers, who, he said, had been framed when all they wanted to do was bring about justice and equality. He wasn’t kidding. Well, in his strange way, he thought he was being funny, but at the same time he meant for us to take his total whitewash of the Panthers seriously. Sandra Oh then launched into an over-the-top oration about how it’s a new day in Hollywood, and how she could see as much, looking out over the crowd, and how wonderful it is, because everybody is so “woke” now. She didn’t use that word, but that’s what she meant. Her tone was so sanctimonious that some folks in the crowd, thinking she must be setting up a gag, emitted a few chuckles. But she was serious.

There were some okay moments. Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph, who presented an award, were actually funny. The tribute to Carol Burnett was moving, a pleasant reminder of another era, and her acceptance speech was classy. What are Carol Burnett’s politics? She’s spent a half century in showbiz, but I have no idea. That’s the way it should be. It was nice to see Dick van Dyke, who was there to introduce a film clip, and who, in an apparent ad-lib, said there was actually someone in the audience whom he recognized: Carol Burnett. I felt the same way about most of these people: Who the hell are they? When did these all unfamiliar faces become stars?

Another good thing about the Globes: these days the nominated songs are almost invariably horrible, so on this show, unlike the Oscars, they don’t put you through the torture of listening to them; they just read off the names of the nominees, announce the winner, and hand over the trophies. This year the Best Song award went to Lady Gaga and three guys, who won for some tune from the reboot of A Star Is Born. “As a woman in music,” Lady Gaga said upon accepting the prize, “it is really hard to be taken seriously as a musician and songwriter.”

Much of it was predictable enough. Some woman (was it Oh?) made a “joke” the premise of which is that there are too few female directors. Another woman, Regina King, who looks kind of like Michelle Obama, was giving an acceptance speech, and I wasn’t really listening until she started rattling on about how, when she and other celebrities are on the red carpet or whatever and get into politics, it’s not because they’re into themselves but because they’re aware of “the systemic things that are going on in life” and, hey, “time’s up times two,” and “we understand that our microphones are big and we’re speaking for everyone.” The music had started playing, signaling that it was time for her to get off the stage, but when it became clear that she was making an Important Statement, the music stopped and she was allowed to complete her rant. “I am going to use my platform,” she said, “to say right now that in the next two years … everything that I produce, that it’s fifty percent women.” She challenged everyone else in the business to do the same.

So it went. When the Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón won for Best Screenplay, he made the inevitable remark about how cinema builds bridges, not walls. Another guy, winning an award for The Assassination of Gianni Versace, also made a build-bridges-not-walls comment. Receiving an honorary award, Jeff Bridges was charming and witty and even brushed against profundity in summing up his life and career, but felt compelled to wind up with the usual drivel about saving the planet. Some TV actress, accepting another award, celebrated the fact that her show is a “matriarchy” run by a female producer and with “so many women in leadership roles.” Beating Lady Gaga out for best actress in a drama (why, by the way, did A Star Is Born compete as a drama and not a “musical or comedy”?), Glenn Close, who won for a film called The Wife, talked about how it’s great to be a wife but how you also need to live your own life — but she was so articulate and intelligent and heartfelt that it was authentically moving and didn’t feel remotely like the usual male-bashing.

Of course, the big headline that came out of the whole ceremony was Christian Bale’s statement, on accepting an award for playing Dick Cheney, that he wanted to thank Satan “for giving me inspiration on how to play this role.” Describing Cheney as a “charisma-free asshole,” Bale said that he looked forward to playing another person who fit that description. “How about Mitch McConnell?” he said. But hey, they didn’t mention Trump.