“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” dominated the 75th Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, picking up a leading four awards, including a best drama statue. The revenge tale centers on a tough-as-nails woman who takes matters into her own hands after her daughter is raped and murdered.
It wasn’t the only big winner to focus on steely female protagonists. “Lady Bird,” a perceptive coming-of-age story about growing up in Sacramento, was named best musical or comedy while nabbing a best actress prize for Saoirse Ronan for playing a sardonic teen. On the television front, 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, while HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” a look at domestic abuse in a posh seaside community, earned a leading four awards including one for best TV movie or miniseries. Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a period show about pioneering female comedians in the 1950s, earned two statues, including a best TV comedy or musical honor.
This year’s awards were unveiled against the backdrop of a massive sexual harassment and abuse scandal. As the list of big-name actors and power brokers continues to sweep, politics was front and center during the three-hour telecast. 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 been flowing, but actors and filmmakers dressed in black to show their solidarity for victims of harassment, and outfitted their dresses and tuxedos with pins that read “Time’s Up,” a call to arms against discrimination and inequity. The unifying theme of the evening was that it was time to value women and to end a corporate culture that rewards abusers and silences their accusers. That message was reflected both in the choice of presenters (reuniting “Thelma & Louise” co-stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, for instance, or tapping Barbra Streisand to hand out the best film prize), as well as the performances, films, and shows that were singled out.
In this charged atmosphere, 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.
Frances McDormand, who captured a best actress prize for playing a vengeful mother in “Three Billboards,” sauntered up the steps to claim her prize, looking like a gunslinger entering a saloon.
“The women in this room tonight are not here for the food,” she said during remarks that were bleeped when she thanked Fox Searchlight — the network apparently was fast on the trigger and expected her to say f–k. “We are here for the work.”
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 usually 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 was 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.
There’s a reason guests weren’t feeling as celebratory. In October a series of bombshell reports were published claiming 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.
Weinstein’s fall from grace has 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.
In the past, Weinstein was a constant figure at the Globes, frequently thanked by actors for his role in promoting their work. In contrast, this year’s host Seth Meyers predicted that Weinstein’s eventual “in memoriam” appearance will elicit boos. Many of the women who spoke up against Weinstein and detailed their harassment by the mogul, such as Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie, and Selma Hayek, were on hand at the ceremony.
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.
“I’m being seen for who I am, and being appreciated for who I am, and it makes it that much more difficult to dismiss me and to dismiss any one who looks like me,” said Brown.
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. To that end, “The Post,” “Dunkirk,” and “Call Me By Your Name” must be feeling less confident after being shut out by Globes voters. “The Shape of Water,” a fantasy romance between a mute cleaning lady and a swamp creature, also got a cold reception. Despite a leading seven nominations, it only managed to earn one statue — a best director prize for Guillermo Del Toro.
But as some stocks fell, others rose. Gary Oldman solidified his status as the leading actor to beat after nabbing a best actor in a drama award for channeling Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.” Oldman paid tribute to the Prime Minister’s gift for oratory and his ability to rally the British Empire in the fight against fascism.
“Words and action can change the world,” said Oldman, “And boy, oh boy, does it need some change.”
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.”
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 over the heavily favored Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”). In the supporting actress category, Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) also beat back formidable competition from Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”) and Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”).
Dafoe, Metcalf, and other Oscar aspirants can comfort themselves with some empirical evidence. The Globes’ predictive powers may be exaggerated. Last year, the organization gave its top musical or 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 after facing greater 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.
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, 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 greater creative freedom and bigger budgets to talent.
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 rose to its 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.”