Politics dominated the 75th Golden Globes Awards on Sunday, as stars used their time at the podium to draw attention to abuse, sexism, and racism. It wasn’t the typically festive and inebriated occasion that usually generates big ratings for the annual show. The Moet may have flowed, but actors and filmmakers cloaked themselves in black to show their solidarity for victims of harassment, and outfitted the labels of their tuxedos with pins that read “Time’s Up,” a call to arms against discrimination.
In this charged atmosphere, Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a show about a dystopian future in which women are conscripted into sexual slavery by a monied elite, picked up a best TV drama award. Elisabeth Moss, who nabbed a best actress in a television series drama for her work in the series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” dedicated her award to women “brave enough to speak out against intolerance and injustice and to fight for equality and freedom.”
The message of diversity and equality was echoed in other acceptance speeches during the broadcast. Nicole Kidman captured best actress in a TV movie or miniseries, while praising her mother, a supporter of women’s rights, in an emotional speech.
“My achievements are her achievements,” said Kidman.
Kidman’s co-star Laura Dern praised whistleblowers who have helped topple Harvey Weinstein and other accused harassers, while accepting a best supporting actress in a TV drama prize.
“May we teach our children that speaking out without the fear of retribution is our culture’s new North Star,” said Dern.
Even the best original song winner, “This is Me” was in keeping with a night celebrating diversity and inclusion. The anthem from “The Greatest Showman” is an impassioned plea for acceptance sung by a “circus freak” (Keala Settle).
The Oscars remain the pinnacle of Hollywood honors. While that show comes across as staid, dignified, and a little self-serious, the Globes plays on television like one big, boozy A-list party. Viewers tune in to see their favorite stars downing flute after flute of champagne, with the occasional presenter or honoree hitting the podium while visibly in their cups. But this year’s ceremony is different and more somber. Instead of a red carpet dominated by journalists peppering actresses with questions about what designer threads they are wearing, attendees were grilled about the gender pay gap.
That’s because this year’s awards are being unveiled against the backdrop of a massive sexual harassment and abuse scandal. In October a series of bombshell reports claimed that indie producer Harvey Weinstein had engaged in decades of alleged assault and harassment. As the number of his accusers kept swelling, Weinstein was fired from his company and now faces possible criminal prosecution. His fall from grace, however, only served to trigger a wider reckoning in the entertainment industry. Since that time, scores of women and men have stepped forward to accuse Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Dustin Hoffman, and Matt Lauer and many other major media personalities of misconduct. Many of the women who spoke up against Weinstein and detailed their harassment by the mogul, such as Ashley Judd and Selma Hayek, were on hand at the ceremony.
Host Seth Meyers wasted no time addressing the harassment scandal that has subsumed Hollywood.
“Good evening ladies and remaining gentlemen,” he said, adding, “It’s 2018, Marijuana is finally allowed and sexual harassment isn’t.”
He also referenced the seemingly endless parade of allegations involving famous men that have dominated headlines.
“For the male nominees in the room tonight this is the first time in three months it won’t be terrifying to hear your name read out loud,” joked Meyers.
Harassment wasn’t the only hot-button issue to surface during the broadcast. Best actor in a TV drama victor Sterling K. Brown used his speech to thank Dan Fogelman, the creator of NBC’s popular sudser “This Is Us,” for writing a role for a black man at a time when minorities are underrepresented on the small screen.
Awards prognosticators and studios are looking to the Globes to make sense of what remains a frustratingly opaque Oscar race — one that lacks a clear front-runner. Guillermo Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” heads into the evening with the most nods, a leading seven nominations, while Steven Spielberg’s “The Post,” and Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” are close behind with six nominations apiece.
Unlike the Oscars, the Globes hand out awards to both television and film. They also split their film awards into different categories based on genre. There are separate competitions for the best drama film as well as the best comedy and musical picture.
To that end, Guillermo Del Toro now looks like a front-runner after scoring a best director award for “The Shape of Water,” an off-beat love story between a mute cleaning lady and a swamp creature. His work triumphed over the likes of Steven Spielberg (“The Post”) and Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”).
James Franco may also see his chances bolstered by handicappers after earning a best actor in a comedy or musical for playing Tommy Wiseau in “The Disaster Artist.” Wiseau is credited with directing the “Citizen Kane” of bad movies, a mess of a flick entitled “The Room.” He flanked Franco as the actor grabbed his prize.
In an upset, Sam Rockwell picked up a best supporting actor statue for his work as a racist cop in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” He nabbed his honor overly the heavily favored Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”). Despite its dark subject matter and a plot that involves rape and murder, “Three Billboards” has been a commercial success, earning an impressive $25.4 million.
“I’ve been in a lot of indies,” said Rockwell. “It’s nice to be in a movie that people see.”
In the supporting actress category, Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) also beat out formidable competition from Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”) and Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”).
Dafoe and Metcalf can comfort himself with some empirical evidence. The Globes predictive powers may be over-exagerated. Last year, the organization gave its top musical/comedy prize to “La La Land” and its best drama statue to “Moonlight,” which went on to pick up the Academy Award for Best Picture. However, it failed to recognize the two previous Best Picture Oscar winners, “Spotlight” and “Birdman” with top honors.
Moreover, there is virtually no overlap between Globes voters and Oscar voters. The Globes are put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a tight-knit group of roughly 90 journalists, whereas Oscars are voted on by film industry professionals. The HFPA is a controversial organization, one that has drawn scrutiny for accepting lavish junkets and meals from contending films and studios — often favoring films or shows that are the most obsequious and ardent in their courtship. The group has made efforts to clean up its ethical guidelines in recent years following media scrutiny and a 2011 lawsuit by a former publicist that accused the organization of engaging in payola schemes in return for nominations and awards.
Other big screen winners included “Coco,” a fable based on the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead, that was recognized as the year’s best animated film, and “In the Fade,” a German film about the aftermath of a bomb attack, that was named the best foreign film.
Yet, the sexual harassment scandal led to a few awkward moments. “Coco” is produced by Pixar, and last fall the animation studio’s leader John Lasseter took a leave of absence in wake of of sexual misconduct complaints from employees.
When asked about the Lasseter situation in the press room backstage, “Coco” producer Darla K. Anderson dodged the question, saying only, “We want to focus on being in solidarity with tonight’s movement.”
On the television front, Globes voters have a habit of rewarding freshmen shows, handing out top prizes to the likes of “Atlanta” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” in their inaugural seasons. This year, HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” a murder mystery set in a posh California community, picked up a leading six nominations.
Continuing the tradition of recognizing new shows, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” an Amazon period show about groundbreaking female comedians that debuted last spring, earned a best TV comedy or musical honor while Rachel Brosnahan picked up a best actress award.
It was a big night for streaming series. Not only did Hulu and Amazon score with “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” but Netflix’s “Master of None” earned a best actor in a TV musical or comedy prize for Aziz Ansari. The Globes may have aired on NBC, a traditional broadcast network, but digital players are becoming a dominant force in prestige TV by promising talent greater creative freedom and big budgets. HBO did manage to strike a blow for premium cable, earning three statues, including a best TV movie or mini-series, for “Big Little Lies.”
Late night host Meyers is emceeing the Globes for the first time this year. Past hosts include Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Ricky Gervais, who famously turned the broadcast into a squirm-inducing celebrity roast.
During the ceremony, the HFPA announced that it was making a $1 million donation to two press groups, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Though this year’s Globes spoke to Hollywood’s tortured present, the broadcast also took time recognize its tangled past. At the three-hour show’s half-way point, the 101-year old Kirk Douglas took the stage as the audience of big names rose to their feet. He was honored not just for dozens of notable performances in the likes of “Lust for Life” and “Detective Story,” but for his role in ending the blacklist in the industry by pushing to get Dalton Trumbo credit for writing “Spartacus.”
And Oprah Winfrey, the recipient of the Cecil B. Demille Award for career achievement, spoke to the power of representation. The talk show host and actress said that as a little girl she remembered vividly watching as Sidney Poitier became the first black man to win a leading actor Oscar.
“I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that,” said Winfrey, adding,”It is not lost on me that at this moment there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman being to be given this…award.”