“La La Land” could have a date with history at the Golden Globes on Sunday night, and so could Jimmy Fallon.
But both of them will be in for a fight at the 74th annual shindig, watering hole and statuette dispensary owned and operated by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
First, let’s talk “La La Land.” On paper, Damien Chazelle’s delightful and touching musical should easily win the award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Its stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are clear favorites in the musical/comedy acting categories. The two music categories, song and score, are tailor-made for the film. And Chazelle himself figures to be a Best Director frontrunner on degree-of-difficulty points alone.
But that would give the film six awards, which doesn’t even include a potential seventh for Chazelle’s screenplay. And the fact is, Golden Globes voters virtually never give any movie six awards. They are determined to spread the wealth among different films and different studios, to such a degree that no film has won more than three Globes in any of the last five years.
You have to go back to 2009’s “The Social Network” to find a film that won four awards — and if you want to find one with six, there are only two in the awards’ 73-year existence: 1975’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and 1978’s “Midnight Express.”
That’s what “La La Land” is up against — four decades of Golden Globes history, and a stubborn insistence among these 90-odd voters that it’s best to distribute their awards among a number of different movies.
HFPA members want to be seen as a group that makes the right choices, say those who are close to the much-maligned organization of full- and part-time journalists for international publications. But they also want to service all the studios on whose access they depend, and on whose largess they feast.
So that’s one of the burning questions as this year’s Golden Globes approaches: If voters really want to spread it around, in which categories will “La La Land” lose?
Maybe Gosling is vulnerable, but to whom? Ryan Reynolds in “Deadpool” and Hugh Grant in “Florence Foster Jenkins” are barely credible candidates to stage an upset, Colin Farrell in “The Lobster” and Jonah Hill in “War Dogs” less so.
Stone has tougher competition with the likes of Meryl Streep and Annette Bening — but would voters give the award to the charismatic Gosling and not to his dazzling co-star, who’s gotten even better notices for her singing, dancing and emoting?
Chazelle’s own category may be a likely place for voters to turn their back on “La La Land,” which could result in the seeming injustice of the guy who directed the movie that wins the most awards not getting the one for directing. The scuttlebutt is that these voters really love Mel Gibson‘s “Hacksaw Ridge,” which might well give Gibson his redemptive moment.
Also possible: an even-more-redemptive moment in the form of “Hacksaw” upsetting both “Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea” for Best Motion Picture – Drama, although this would go against the HFPA’s recent tendency to go for the critical favorites more years than not.
A “Hacksaw Ridge” win or two would also be old-style Golden Globes, “what were they thinking?” Golden Globes. And it would give those of us who default to HFPA-bashing the kind of ammunition we really haven’t had too often lately.
Speaking of HFPA-bashing, will there be any of that taking place from the stage? Or have the Globes hired such a snark-free host that they don’t have to worry about it?
Jimmy Fallon, the most jovial and unthreatening of all late-night hosts, could actually make history himself on Sunday night, and become the first snarkless Globes host ever.
Mind you, there’s not a long history of Golden Globes hosts of any kind. The first 51 shows, from 1944 to 1995, didn’t have hosts; after the 1995 show was hosted by John Larroquette and Janine Turner, they went another 14 years before hiring Ricky Gervais for the first time in 2009.
I don’t remember the 1995 Globes, but I assume that Larroquette, at least, probably said one or two biting things. I know that Gervais made snark his trademark during his four memorable years as the show’s host, frequently biting the hand that booked him — and in a milder way, so did Tina Fey and Amy Poehler during their three years at the helm.
But Jimmy does not traffic in snark in the way that Ricky and Tina and Amy do. Jimmy is The Man Who Mussed Donald Trump’s Hair, for goodness’ sake — he’s the guy who makes celebrities feel uncomfortable by playing silly games with them, not by mocking their acting performances, sex lives or drug problems.
Let’s face it: Jimmy is the right guy to have onstage if you want to tell Mel Gibson that all is forgiven. He’s not the guy you want if you’re hoping for another joke that involves the president of the HFPA, false teeth and a toilet.
But Fallon’s quest to be the nicest host ever faces one enormous obstacle: Donald Trump. How can any comedian take the stage of a high-profile event less than two weeks before Trump assumes the presidency, in front of a room full of Hollywood liberals who wouldn’t be caught dead at the inauguration, and not make some snotty and snarky jokes?
So there’s the 2017 Golden Globes. Jimmy Fallon and “La La Land” could both make history, but they’ll both have to beat the odds to do so. It’s reason enough to watch, in my book.