Golden Globes Analysis: All Hail to ‘La La Land’ and Meryl Streep

Damien Chazelle’s musical broke a record and Streep galvanized the room on a night when HFPA members made smart, discerning choices

The opening number was a tipoff. The 74th Annual Golden Globes began with a Jimmy Fallon song-and-dance number based on “La La Land,” and then continued heaping the honors on Damien Chazelle’s musical, breaking a long-standing habit of spreading the wealth until the Oscar front-runner ended the night as the biggest movie winner in Globes history.

And except for the moments when Meryl Streep was on stage and the evening of glitz stopped in its tracks to pay attention to her comments excoriating President-Elect Donald Trump, it was a “La La Land” night from start to almost-finish. The film won the Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy award with more than 15 minutes to go in the telecast, but the drama awards offered an anticlimactic coda to the victories of “La La Land” and the eloquence of Streep.

Sure, those 15 minutes contained some key awards: an acting prize for Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”) over Denzel Washington (“Fences”), which showed that Globes voters aren’t always dazzled by stardom; the best-actress award for Isabelle Huppert, an emotional moment for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to put the emphasis on foreign; and the Best Motion Picture – Drama award for “Moonlight,” honoring a small and eloquent movie that had been overlooked for the rest of the evening.

Those were good, smart and, in Huppert’s case, surprising choices that the HFPA members should be proud they made. But in the end, this was unquestionably a night for “La La Land” and for Meryl.

With its seventh Globe out of seven nominations, Chazelle’s musical broke the record set 41 years ago by “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and tied three years later by “Midnight Express,” the only two films in the Globes’ 74-year existence to win six prizes in one night. (And both of those benefited from the now-defunct “debut performance” categories, which added one to the “Cuckoo’s Nest” haul and two to “Midnight Express.”)

The film has looked almost unstoppable since it debuted in Venice more than four months ago, and it still looks that way, though the tastes of the 90-odd members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is hardly a barometer for anything else that will happen between now and February 26, when the Oscars bring an end to awards season.

And while the first award of the night suggested that these voters were determined to be as perverse as ever — picking the “Nocturnal Animals” co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the supporting-actor category over four actors all thought to be likelier winners by most pundits – they ended up being more discerning than perverse.

So now the Globes are history and awards season moves on. At best (for the HFPA, at least), a few Academy members will watch the show and decide to pick up the screener of “Moonlight” or “Manchester” or even “Nocturnal Animals” before Oscar voting closes on Friday. At worst, nobody whose vote really matters will notice who won, or remember it by the middle of the week.

And, let’s face it: Oscar voters do not need the HFPA to tell them they should watch “La La Land” — or, for that matter, listen to what Meryl Streep has to say.

If they don’t know that already, there’s no hope for them.