Golden Globes Analysis: The Stars Ignore Ricky Gervais on a Night of Surprises

Quentin Tarantino is cruising, Martin Scorsese is sweating and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has no use for consistency or predictability

The 77th Annual Golden Globes were focused, insistent and consistent, speaking with a unified voice during the three-hour-plus show on Sunday night at the Beverly Hilton.

And when I say that, I’m talking about the winners, many of whom ignored host Ricky Gervais’ demand that they shut up about politics (or “f— off” about politics, as he put it), to deliver countless, pointed and well-received declarations of purpose on a variety of national and international issues.

As for the awards themselves, the 87 voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association weren’t focused or consistent at all — instead, they were all over the map, confounding the critics and the pundits as they delivered a bewildering slate of winners that at times resembled one from Column A, one from Column B, one from Columns C through Y.

(I didn’t say C through Z because they only gave out 25 awards, not 26.)

Three years after giving seven awards to a single movie, “La La Land,” the voters spread the wealth with a vengeance, giving seven different films one Globe each before finally giving a second award to one of them, Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” at the two-and-a-half-hour mark.

In the end, “Once Upon a Time” led with three wins, while Sam Mendes’ “1917” picked up two of the biggest ones, Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director.

But to be so egalitarian, with eight different movies splitting the 14 film awards, required the voters forgetting about their time-honored habit of giving awards to the biggest, most glamorous stars they could find, with Jennifer Lopez losing to Laura Dern for Best Supporting Actress, then reviving that habit a few minutes later when Brad Pitt beat a quartet of legends for Supporting Actor.

It meant awarding craftsmanship by giving the directing prize to Mendes, then getting downright adventurous by giving the score award not to “1917” but to “Joker.”

And it meant confounding anybody who thought they knew what HFPA liked or how they might vote, picking the pre-awards favorites in only about half the film and categories.

So for every expected winner — Renee Zellweger for “Judy,” Joaquin Phoenix for “Joker,” Brad Pitt for “Once Upon a Time” — there came an upset victor: Taron Egerton over Leonardo DiCaprio and Eddie Murphy for actor in a musical or comedy, Mendes over Tarantino, Bong Joon Ho and Martin Scorsese for director, “Missing Link” over “Toy Story 4” for animated feature …

But hey, it’s the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We don’t know what they’re thinking (and by we, maybe I mean I, because I did miserably with my predictions). And sometimes you have to wonder if they know what they’re thinking, too.

This is the group that for much of the last decade seemed to be looking to reward the films that would make them look credible — “The Social Network,” “Boyhood,” “Moonlight” — but then last year defiantly threw credibility out the window and proclaimed that “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the best dramatic film of 2018. (If you go by Rotten Tomatoes scores, it was the HFPA’s worst best-drama winner in 49 years, since 1969’s “Anne of the Thousand Days.”)

“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and “1917,” though, are eminently credible winners. The Globes results won’t persuade any Academy voters to see “Once Upon a Time” before the Oscar polls close on Tuesday — if they haven’t seen it by now, they’re not going to — but they will sustain the perception that the film is one of the Oscar front-runners.

For “1917,” on the other hand, the two wins just might get a few more voters to watch the late-breaking film, as well as a few more viewers. Its biggest rival for the drama Globe, “The Irishman,” went home empty-handed — and while Martin Scorsese’s three-and-a-half-hour Netflix film should still coast to lots of Oscar nominations, it’s not a good look for it to have come into the new year as the biggest contender to be shut out.

Netflix also didn’t do as well as it might have hoped with Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” though that film’s supporting-actress award for Laura Dern put it in the winners’ circle and dealt a blow to her “Hustlers” competitor Jennifer Lopez, whose best shot at an award had probably been with the sometimes starstruck Globes voters.

We’ll know a lot more about the Oscar race on Tuesday, after nominations have come in for BAFTA and for the Writers Guild, Producers Guild and Directors Guild. For now, Quentin Tarantino is cruising, Martin Scorsese is sweating and nobody else has to worry too much about what happened on Sunday.

On the television side, the winners were, as usual, all over the map. Sometimes the voters went for new shows (“Ramy,” “The Loudest Voice”), sometimes they seconded the awards attention received by other shows (“Chernobyl,” “Succession”), and often as not they went for dark horses rather than favorites.

In the end, eight different shows split the prizes in the 11 TV categories, an even more dramatic example of spreading the goodies than in the film categories.

So yes, the winners may have found ways to be unified and consistent, at least in their resistance to their host’s entreaties. But the voters have no use for consistency. They’re the HFPA, dammit, always ready to go their own way.

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