If the Hollywood Foreign Press Association ever hoped that Tuesday night’s Golden Globe Awards could be back to business as usual, they picked the wrong guy to host.
But for a needed shot of straight talk, they picked the right guy.
A year after turning the Globes into a private event because NBC declined to telecast it and stars declined to show up, and six months after a reorganization that doubled the number of voters, made marginal improvements in the number of Black members (it’s now more than zero) and turned them from a nonprofit organization to a privately owned, for-profit one, the HFPA returned to a Beverly Hilton ballroom that only superficially resembled the place where they used to hold the Globes.
And the host, comic actor Jerrod Carmichael, pulled the rug out from under them with a somber opening monologue in which he suggested he was hired simply because he was Black, dropped a sobering stat – “I won’t say they are a racist organization, but they didn’t have a single Black member until George Floyd died” – and talked about refusing repeated requests to meet with HFPA president Helen Hoehne prior to the show. As the audience sat quietly at what is supposed to be Hollywood’s “party of the year” – that’s trademarked, you know – he forced people to take stock of what led the Globes to be so desperate for a comeback.
Ricky Gervais might have insulted the stars and mocked the HFPA when he hosted the show, but Carmichael silenced the stars and leveled the HFPA. And in doing so, he set the tone for a show in which nobody could pretend it was business as usual.
It was from that position – battered and bruised and looking for redemption – that the 100-or-so members of the HFPA, plus another 100-or-so international journalists who get to vote but aren’t members, tried to show that the Globes are worth saving and the people who win them are worth honoring.
They did so for the most part by doing what they usually do: spreading the wealth, with 10 different films sharing the 14 film awards and 10 television programs sharing the 13 TV awards. The lackluster show had lots of obvious winners (Cate Blanchett in “Tár,” Colin Farrell in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Evan Peters in “Dahmer,” Quinta Brunson in “Abbott Elementary”) and some mild surprises that weren’t really surprising.
After all, Brendan Fraser might be the Oscar favorite for “The Whale” over Austin Butler for “Elvis,” but Fraser said as soon as he was nominated that he wouldn’t attend the Globes after accusing a former HFPA president of sexual misconduct. And maybe “Everything Everywhere All at Once” went into the night a slight favorite over “The Banshees of Inisherin” in the Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy category, but “Banshees” was always a strong contender in a tight race, so its win was the furthest thing from a shock.
Yes, “Argentina, 1985” wasn’t expected to beat “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “RRR” and “Decision to Leave” in the international category, but it’s hardly monumental when the biggest surprise comes in a category like that.
If the voters were trying to send a message, you could say it came in the first 90 minutes of the show, when nearly every acting prize went to a person of color – though it would be a disservice to deserving winners like Brunson and Tyler James Williams, Yeoh and Quan, Angela Bassett and Zendaya to suggest that they were part of an HFPA scheme to make the winners as diverse as possible. Still, by the halfway point in the show, they’d already topped all previous Globes shows by giving six awards to actors of color, four Black and two Asian.
The Globes’ results never really influence Oscar voters, whose nomination balloting begins on Thursday. But Globe speeches sometimes play as out-of-town tryouts for Oscar speeches to come – and if that’s the case, Steven Spielberg made a good case for “The Fabelmans,” Ke Huy Quan carried on the momentum he already had for “Everything Everywhere” and Angela Bassett might have gotten a little boost for her supporting role in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
At the end of the night, Helen Hoehne took to the stage to say how grateful the HPFA was “to have the support of the industry” and to promise that they’ll continue to become more diverse. By that point, though, the crowd seemed to be chatting amongst themselves and barely paying attention to anything on the stage, so it’s hard to feel as if the message was really delivered.
Or maybe it was just that those opening remarks from Jerrod Carmichael still hung in the air, daring the HFPA to find a way to move on.