In a year that was supposed to reinvent the scandal-hit awards, the Golden Globes played it safe. But with an unfunny host and no entertainment factor, they were “just plain dull”.
It was the truest moment the television cameras captured at the Golden Globes: an unidentified woman sat at a table and let out a giant yawn. This year was meant to reinvent the awards, which were nearly destroyed when a 2021 Los Angeles Times report found lack of diversity and accusations of corruption in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group behind the Globes at the time. But the reconstituted group running things now couldn’t have intended the event to be so earnest and just plain dull, from Jo Koy, the blandest, least funny host in recent memory, to the sober, safe acceptance speeches. There were no political statements, no drunken rambling, no jaw-dropping surprises among winners and losers, all the things that made the old show at least fun to watch. Without the entertainment factor, it’s easier to see the Golden Globes for what they are: a campaign stop on the way to the Oscars.
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A win adds momentum, but doesn’t mean much in itself and never has. As Vox wrote, “The Golden Globes have always felt a bit like the boozy cousin living in the basement of the Oscars”. The Hollywood Reporter put it more delicately, saying that the Globes can boost an Oscar bid, “even if the sanctity of the award itself has never been held in the highest regard”.
But everyone shows up because the publicity and the perception of being a winner are the real victories. Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Emma Stone, Margot Robbie, Oprah Winfrey – no one with even the faintest hope of an Oscar stayed away from Sunday’s ceremony. They and their campaign strategists know that with voting for Oscar nominations set to begin on 11 January, being top of mind as a winner now is especially valuable.
The top Oscars, for best director and best picture, are widely seen as a race between Nolan and Oppenheimer v Scorsese and Killers of the Flower Moon, which did go head-to-head at the Globes. Nolan’s win for director and Oppenheimer’s for best drama would seem to give them the edge. But, reality check: last year, The Banshees of Inisherin and The Fabelmans won in comedy and drama categories and lost the Oscar to Everything Everywhere All At Once. Spielberg won the Globe for directing but lost to the Daniels. The Globes are not always good predictors of the Oscars.
If the mere perception of winning helps a campaign anyway, being labelled a loser can hurt. That is bad news for Bradley Cooper, whose Maestro, once considered a major awards contender, did not win a single Golden Globe. Cooper looked crestfallen at the end of Nolan’s acceptance speech.
And Barbie, which had nine nominations, more than any other film, lost all the big prizes. Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s What Was I Made For? won best original song and the film won a new award the Globes made up this year for cinematic and box office achievement, for a movie that earned more than $150 million. In 2018 the Oscars announced a similar “most popular film” category, which was so ridiculed it was scrapped before it even happened, but the Globes shamelessly went for it. None of that reads as Oscar momentum.
Lily Gladstone’s speech was just the kind of eloquent, heartfelt acceptance that plays well at the Oscars
The box office prize, with nominees including Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour film, did get Swift to show up, but also led to another bad-for-the Globes viral moment. She looked unamused and pointedly sipped champagne when Koy made a lame joke about how often cameras at football games cut to her reaction shots.
There were exactly two good moments in the show, both in the last half hour. Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig did a comic routine, breaking into a silly dance as music kept interrupting them while they named some nominees. It was just a relief to laugh after a two-and-a-half-hour slog and cringe-y banter from the other presenters.
And Lily Gladstone, who won best actress in a Drama, the first Native American woman to receive the award, began her acceptance by speaking a few words in the Blackfeet language. In English, she said, “Native actors used to speak their lines in English and the sound mixer would run them backwards to accomplish Native languages on camera”. It was just the kind of eloquent, heartfelt acceptance speech that plays well at the Oscars.
But those brief moments don’t change the reality that awards fatigue has started early this year. The Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards and the Baftas are all lined up next, ahead of the Oscars. Those awards have nowhere to go but up.
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