Golden Globes: 'La La Land' Waltzes Away With Trophies, but Meryl Streep Stole the Show

'Moonlight' was named best drama, while acting honors went to Isabelle Huppert, Casey Affleck, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

The all-singing, all-dancing La La Land easily waltzed away with the 74th Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night, capturing a record seven trophies, including best musical or comedy motion picture, while Moonlight, the intimate study of a young man, both black and gay, struggling to find his place in the world, was named best drama.

But if La La Land's victories looked as if the Globes were embracing light-hearted escapism — albeit an escapism tinged with regret — and celebrating a return to an earlier genre of moviemaking, that wasn't the big story of the night.

For, really, the evening belonged to Meryl Streep. She was called to the stage to accept the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual Cecil B. DeMille Award, yet another career achievement honor to add to her overstuffed trophy shelf. But rather than reflect on her own career or launch into the expected litany of thank-yous, she spoke directly to the moment. Although her voice sounded strained, her words spoke forcefully as she channeled Hollywood’s distress at the election of Donald J. Trump — without ever mentioning him by name, she said the moment when he used his public platform to ridicule disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski “broke my heart and I still can’t get it out of my head.”

She called on her fellow actors to counter the fact that such “disrespect invites disrespect” by using their art to promote empathy for others, “to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like.” She pleaded for the press to call power to account and urged the black-tie crowd gathered at the Beverly Hilton Hotel’s International Ballroom to join her in supporting The Committee to Protect Journalists. In her parting words, with her voice catching, she quoted her friend Carrie Fisher, exhorting the crowd to “take your broken heart, make it into art.”

As for the business of handing out awards, which seemed a bit anticlimactic in the wake of Streep's address, the members of the HFPA clearly swooned over the modern-day musical that writer-director Damien Chazelle crafted in La La Land. The NBC broadcast began with host Jimmy Fallon singing and dancing his way through an elaborate La La Land parody number — and the movie also saw awards go to its lead actors Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, the directing and screenplay trophies go to Chazelle, the prize for best score go to Justin Hurwitz and the award for best song go to “City of Stars” composer Hurwitz and lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

Moonlight, which entered the evening with six nominations, looked like it might be facing a shutout, but at the last moment, Sylvester Stallone and his old Rocky sparring partner Carl Weathers announced the prize for best motion picture, drama — and the pic prevailed. Writer-director Barry Jenkins, who drew on his own upbringing in the film, including the fact that his mother was once addicted to crack, thanked his mother saying, “Mom, you gave me my life, and I hope being on the stage right now is the fulfillment of the life that you gave me.”

The top drama acting prizes were awarded to Casey Affleck, playing a grief-stricken man who re-establishes contact with his family in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, and French actress Isabelle Huppert, starring as a woman who confronts her rapists in unexpected ways in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle.

“I don’t have enough time to say what I want to say about Kenny,” Affleck said of his director, while also adding that he wished his co-star Michelle Williams, who’d been nominated in the supporting category, were on stage with him. Huppert, who said her heart was beating wildly, also expressed thanks to her director, the often-iconoclastic Verhoeven, saying, “Thank you, Paul, for being what you are. Thank you for letting me be what I am.”

While Elle surprisingly didn’t make the shortlist for the Academy Award for foreign-language film, the HFPA also gave the feature its best foreign-language motion picture award. Accepting that honor, Verhoeven admitted, “The movie doesn’t really invite you to sympathize with the character, so I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press for being so open-minded,” before lavishly praising Huppert for what he called her "audacity and authenticity.”

When she was called to the stage to accept the award for best actress in a musical or comedy, La La Land’s Stone began by thanking “my amazing mom” and went on to say, “This is a film for dreamers, and I think hope and creativity are two of the most important things in the world, and that’s what this movie is about.”

Gosling used his moment at the podium, picking up his best actor in a musical prize, to acknowledge both Stone and Chazelle, saying, “Damien and Emma, this belongs to the three of us,” but he reserved most of his time thanking his partner Eva Mendes for supporting his work on the film while she also raised their daughter, was pregnant with their second and cared for her older brother, who was fighting cancer, to which he ultimately succumbed. “If I may,” said Gosling, “I’d like to dedicate this to the memory of her brother, Juan Carlos Mendes.”

The La La Land bandwagon got rolling earlier in the evening when the best score award went to Hurwitz. And, immediately following that, the best song prize was claimed by Hurwitz and lyricists Pasek and Paul. “This is beyond our wildest expectations,” Pasek exclaimed. “This is for musical theater nerds everywhere, thank you for this.”

Viola Davis proved once again that she knows how to give an emotional acceptance speech when she was hailed as best supporting actress for playing the long-suffering wife in Fences. She thanked those who made the movie, based on August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, possible: “It’s not every day that Hollywood thinks of translating a play to screen — it doesn’t scream moneymaker, but it does scream art, it does scream heart.” Davis singled out the movie’s star and helmer, Denzel Washington, “for being an extraordinary leader, great actor and great director.” And she pointed out how much the movie’s main character Troy Maxon resembled her own father, born during the Depression, who didn’t learn to read until he was 15, but, she concluded, “he had a story and it deserved to told and August Wilson told it!”

The evening started with an upset when instead of giving the best supporting actor award to Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali, whose name appeared to draw the biggest round of applause, the HFPA voters instead bestowed the trophy on Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who plays a psychopathic killer in Tom Ford’s thriller Nocturnal Animals. The British actor thanked Ford for the opportunity to play the part and his wife, director Sam Taylor-Johnson, admitting that he’d probably been “not very pleasant” to live with while he was inhabiting the role.

And, as further evidence that many in the room shared Streep’s concerns, director Byron Howard used the opportunity of Zootopia’s win as best animated feature to say that the Disney film, while designed for kids, also was intended to speak to adults “about embracing diversity even when there are people who want to divide us by embracing fear.”

Thanks to La La Land’s runaway success, Lionsgate, which produced and distributed the film, could claim a stake in seven Globes; Sony Pictures Classics, which is releasing Elle in the states, had two; and A24, Amazon/Roadside, Disney, Focus and Paramount had one each.

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