The Hollywood Foreign Press Association always pats itself on the back for throwing Tinseltown’s biggest party, but the 2018 Golden Globes turned out to be quite the protest, too. With last year’s plague of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault allegations against famous men beginning to coalesce into a plan of action—and #TimesUp joining #MeToo as its clarion call—this year’s black-clad ceremony emerged as one of the most compelling to watch in years. Let’s break down the night’s winners and losers (and check out the full list of honorees here.):
The recipient of this year’s Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment” followed in Meryl Streep’s roomy footsteps by bringing the house down. Winfrey’s speech was as multifold as her storied career: a graceful description of the power of representation; a loving tribute to the free press; a thoughtful disquisition on the need to protect women of all classes from sexual harassment and assault; and, finally, an incandescent call to action—to believe women—that glanced back (over the courageous life of Recy Taylor) and forward (“A new day is on the horizon!”) at the same time. Let’s set aside the “Oprah 2020” chatter for a moment and focus on the matter at hand: A black woman in a racist, sexist business, one of the three or four most influential figures in media of the last 40 years, spent nine minutes on national television Sunday night encouraging the silent to speak and the loud to listen. And through it all, she held us rapt.
It’s tough to follow an act like Oprah—even when she doesn’t give a zeitgeist-defining, instant-classic acceptance speech. But the decision to segue into the Best Director category without so much as a commercial break was curious indeed, not least because Greta Gerwig, the director of Best Picture (Comedy/Musical) winner Lady Bird, wasn’t even nominated. With a clumsy “back to regularly scheduled programming” segway, Ron Howard stepped in it first, but it was the brilliant Natalie Portman who drew the point most forcefully: “Here are the all-male nominees,” Portman said, to Howard’s uncomfortable chuckle and the sheepish faces of the five nominees. As Aaron Bady noted on Twitter, the discomfort of decent dudes was the reason the moment was so memorable: “You can’t be male in a structurally sexist system and have your achievements emerge clean from it.”
The Late Night host has found his voice in opposition to the status quo (read, Donald Trump), and his blistering opening monologue—the finest turn as Globes emcee since Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s genu-wine ROAST a few years back—let no one off easy. (Even Meyers himself: “Is this the mansplaining part of the evening?” Poehler interrupted him at one point.) With a prescient nod to Oprah’s political ambitions, jabs at the president, Woody Allen, Kevin Spacey, and many more, Meyers was the one man Sunday to read the mood, though he reserved his most devastating line for Harvey Weinstein. He paused, perfectly, after predicting that Weinstein will become “the first person ever booed during the ‘In Memoriam’ [segment],” as the ballroom responded with a murmur of disbelief—and then ad-libbed, equally perfectly, “It’ll sound like that.”
As more than one observer pointed out on Twitter—Buzzfeed’s Alanna Bennett and The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert, to name two—the work of bringing awareness to the fight against sexual harassment and assault fell, as usual, to women. By the end of the night, not one of the Globes’ male winners had made mention of #MeToo or #TimesUp or sexual violence, even those who literally won for, say, portraying abusers (Alexander Skarsgård, Big Little Lies), or writing and directing a film centered on the rape and murder of a teenage girl (Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). I mean, The Disaster Artist’s James Franco would’ve gone his entire speech without even mentioning a woman had he not closed by thanking his mother… for giving him his brother (and co-star), Dave. We honestly didn’t need a reminder of how far Hollywood has to go when it comes to gender equality, but the industry’s men gave us a really fucking potent one Sunday night. For shame.
Personally, I found McDonagh’s Morality Play of Rural America to be execrable in the extreme, but it clearly captured the HFPA’s wandering imagination: In addition to the writer/director’s aforementioned Best Screenplay award, the film took home prizes for supporting actor Sam Rockwell, lead actress Frances McDormand (a GIF a minute, out there in the audience), and Best Picture (Drama), vaulting it to the tip of everyone’s tongue. Now, the HFPA’s composition is so different from the Academy’s—or any of the guilds—that ascribing Oscar “momentum” on the basis of Globes wins is a fool’s errand, but I do have to say there’s a worrisome Crash parallel here: At a moment of heightened attention to race, class, gender and region in popular culture, it would be oh, so Hollywood to give the year’s biggest honor to a bitter, violent, utterly misconceived punt on systemic racism and misogyny posing as a message movie.
That makes another delicate, lovingly crafted, exceedingly gorgeous gay romance to fill Brokeback Mountain’s shoes—and yes, I know, the analogy is an imperfect one. (For one thing, Ang Lee won Best Director for Brokeback, while Call Me By Your Name helmsman Luca Guadagnino seems increasingly unlikely to hear his own name called on Oscar nominations morning.) CMBYN’s shutout Sunday night would be dispiriting in any circumstance, but it’s especially so after suggestions that voters, having “already done” “the gay thing” with Moonlight (I’m paraphrasing), are flagging in their support. Even more especially so if that means throwing their support to McDonagh’s ghastly opera buffa instead of, say, Lady Bird or the night’s other (baffling) big loser, Get Out. (Both were competing in the Globes’ distinctive “Comedy/Musical” categories, for the record.)
In what amounted to a post-Emmys victory lap, HBO’s superb not-so-limited series nabbed awards for Best Limited Series / TV Movie, best actress Nicole Kidman, and best supporting actress Laura Dern, in addition to Silent Skarsgård, which gave everyone (well, the ladies) ample opportunity to stake one more resounding claim against abuse and for women-centered film and television projects. “I want to thank everyone who broke their silence this year,” producer and star Reese Witherspoon said, vitally. “Time is up. We see you. We hear you. And we will tell your stories.”
In recent years, the Golden Globes have distinguished themselves, at least in the TV categories, as a fresh-faced alternative to the Emmys—as I noted in my nominations preview, one need only glance at the winners in Best Actress (Comedy Series) to know the score. Though Rachel Brosnahan’s well-deserved win for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel continues the HFPA’s ingénue streak, the series itself is too seriously flawed for its Best Comedy/Musical Series win to feel like a resounding one, and as for the rest of the TV awards? Since this is my beat, I feel comfortable calling them an awful bore. On Big Little Lies, The Handmaid’s Tale (which won for Best Drama Series and lead actress Elisabeth Moss), and This Is Us’ Sterling K. Brown, the Globes followed the Emmys’ lead exactly; Aziz Ansari’s win for Master of None felt like the Donald Glover Wasn’t Eligible Award; and Fargo’s Ewan McGregor besting Twin Peaks’ Kyle MacLachlan seemed a missed opportunity—and that’s putting it politely. HFPA: Do better.
From the black dresses and the activists on the arm of influential women to the sheer dominance #MeToo and #TimesUp wielded over the entire night’s conversation, the Golden Globes were—as far as a frivolous awards ceremony goes—a stirring milestone on the road to gender equality in Hollywood, and—as television goes—one of the more compelling telecasts in recent memory. But let’s face it: Besides Oprah, the women given air time to discuss the issues at hand were exclusively white women, performers in series focused on the problems of privilege (Big Little Lies, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) or series that struggled to account for the complications of race (The Handmaid’s Tale, also The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). Until Hollywood—including its awards bodies—follows Oprah’s lead and consistently highlights the stories and struggles of women of color, whatever victory last night’s Golden Globes represented will remain a partial one.
The highlight of the night, for me, was seeing black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross, wearing a gorgeous black turban atop her head, stand and applaud as Oprah worked up a head of steam—and then for camera to cast around the faces of other women of color, nominated and not nominated, beaming with pride at the evening’s clear zenith. Disappointing, then, that Insecure’s Issa Rae, Mudbound’s Mary J. Blige, The Shape of Water’s Octavia Spencer, and Downsizing’s Hong Chau should collectively come up empty when it came to competitive awards. On a night that lent white women the spotlight, it was shocking, but not surprising, to see women of color left largely on the sidelines, with Oprah emerging, as ever, as the exception that proved the rule. That’s not to begrudge Sterling K. Brown, Aziz Ansari, or Coco co-director Adrian Molina (sadly played off before he could add anything to co-director Lee Unkrich’s speech). It’s simply to say that, for all its sense of catharsis after a difficult year, the 2018 Golden Globes ultimately reminded me of a damning and oft-quoted statistic: 53% of white women voted for Trump.
Matt Brennan is the TV editor of Paste Magazine. He tweets about what he’s watching @thefilmgoer.