The Golden Globes’ Anxious Return

Gabriel LaBelle in Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans (2022)

Light on set-’em-up and knock-’em-down jokes, the opening monologue that comedian Jerrod Carmichael delivered as host of the eightieth Golden Globe Awards ceremony set the tone on Tuesday evening. Relaxed, even taking a seat on the edge of the stage for a spell, Carmichael calmly explained how it came to be that he had been “invited to be the Black face of an embattled white organization.”

Two years ago, a Los Angeles Times investigation into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization behind the Globes, revealed not only a series of fairly galling ethical and financial lapses but also—and ultimately more damaging—a blatant lack of diversity. Of the eighty-seven members at the time, zero were Black. The HFPA scrambled to announce a set of reforms, but reaction from the industry was swift.

Netflix, Amazon, and WarnerMedia announced that they wouldn’t be working with the HFPA until the reforms were implemented. Tom Cruise handed back his three Golden Globes, and NBC canceled its broadcast of the 2022 ceremony. Over time, as the HFPA took on new members, including six Black journalists, the stars and dealmakers who had been distancing themselves from the organization began to reverse course.

As Brooks Barnes puts it in the New York Times, “Hollywood has dropped any pretense that the Globes are meaningful as markers of artistic excellence. The Globes are about business, plain and simple.” Barnes points to a recent study showing that a Golden Globe win adds—on average—$16.5 million to a film’s ticket sales. For a movie like Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, which cost $40 million to make but has so far only taken in $13.4 million at the domestic box office since it opened last November, winning Best Motion Picture (Drama) and Best Director may give its run a much-needed second wind.

Spielberg seemed genuinely, “really, really happy” as he sincerely thanked cowriter Tony Kushner for prompting him to tell the story that had obliquely informed such past films as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). At the core of The Fabelmans is the impact of his parents’s divorce on the budding filmmaker. “In Spielberg’s hands,” writes Film Comment’s Devika Girish, “every story becomes a parable: even his historical films evince the hyperreal texture of plot, rife with signs and symbols weighted with unambiguous import. For some, this mythmaking is the rub—his stories are always a little too good to be true—and for others, myself included, it is the joy: too good to be true is, in a certain sense, more an indictment of the truth than of the telling.”

Colin Farrell delivered probably the most winning speech of the evening when he accepted his award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), one of three Globes for The Banshees of Inisherin, including Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) and Best Screenplay for writer and director Martin McDonagh. Farrell complimented presenter Ana de Armas for her lead turn in Blonde—she was nominated but didn’t win—before thanking McDonagh, professing his love for costar Brendan Gleeson, and joking endearingly about his fellow cast members, Jenny the Donkey included.

Like Farrell, Michelle Yeoh, who won Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for playing a multiverse-hopping laundromat owner in Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Everything Everywhere All at Once, was one of many winners to shut down pianist Chloe Flower, who had been assigned to play off anyone who spoke longer than what seemed like a minute or two. “Shut up, please,” Yeoh shot in Flower’s direction, “I can beat you up, okay? And that’s serious.”

Other top winners of the evening included leading actors Cate Blanchett (Tár), who wasn’t there, and Austin Butler (Elvis), who was. The full list is here, and in the meantime, the HFPA will be keeping an anxious eye on how the night will be discussed over the coming days—and on the ratings. After all, NBC only agreed to broadcast the eightieth-anniversary show as a one-off trial.

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