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While the Golden Globes suffered the fate of far too many awards shows — having to play off the winners the audience most wants to see because of time constraints — it was nevertheless a funny, rousing and swiftly paced affair. Credit in large part goes to hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, plus Cecil B. DeMille Award recipient Jodie Foster, whose enigmatic acceptance speech was, by turns, funny, personal, touching and odd.
Fey and Poehler lightly mocked past host Ricky Gervais and then — with the audience believing this would be a night filled with less stinging sarcasm — turned their attentions to director Kathryn Bigelow. Poehler said, brilliantly, “I haven’t been following the controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty, but when it comes to torture, I trust the woman who spent three years married to James Cameron.”
It was the night’s best and biggest laugh, a well-crafted thing of beauty that will be remembered for a very long time. And it set the tone for the much-loved comedic actresses to host the rest of the awards show (though there were points where they were badly needed back onstage, mostly when there were technical glitches or when the pomposity had reached proportions that needed tamping down). Fey had another rousing joke when she congratulated Anne Hathaway‘s performance in Les Miserables and added, “I have not seen someone alone and abandoned like that since you were on stage with James Franco at the Oscars.”
The duo later would dress up as fake acting nominees, and the celebrities who were announcing went along with the trick, which worked because it was both funny and absurd.
And that’s what you really want at the Golden Globes. You want a party where celebrities can relax (unlike at the Oscars) and drink Champagne and mingle with other stars to the delight of the home viewing audience. The Globes are best when they don’t take themselves seriously, when there are gaffes that are overcome or messy parts that are not given an apology. The Golden Globes can be the best awards show on television (admittedly, a low bar) when people at home feel like cameras have been dropped into a lavish Hollywood party, with schmoozing and gorgeous dresses, cleavage and bright smiles galore.
Although the Gervais hosting years were considered controversial (though he was brought back because he was a magnet for attention and interest), they also were quite funny and gave celebrities a good skewering, which is sometimes (check the economy) a good thing for normal people at home. But along with that, Gervais had become the show, so it was nice to see Fey and Poehler prove that they could be fantastic, funny hosts while also staying out of the limelight.
You can debate the winners and losers somewhere else, but as for the content and how it played as a television event, there wouldn’t be much to change. Former President Bill Clinton made a surprise appearance to introduce Lincoln (leading Fey and Poehler to say with faux giggly excitement that they’d seen Hillary Clinton‘s husband); Paul Rudd worked, comically, through some notable technical glitches and just laughed it off like a pro; singer Adele was the breath of fresh, unpretentious air that she always is (can she be invited to every awards show?); Jason Bateman played straight man to Aziz Ansari talking about the Downton Abbey people and pot; and Lena Dunham from Girls won best actress and fit her character almost too perfectly, wobbling on heels too high for her but then gushing out praise for being able to make a show about people trying to find their place.
In fact, Dunham got up again because Girls won for best show, and she inadvertently gave Poehler and Fey some great material because Dunham said their work helped her get through her adolescence. “Congratulations, Lena, glad we got you through middle school,” Fey joked about feeling old.
There weren’t many bits that flopped, though Sacha Baron Cohen might have qualified enough for some viewers (mocking, among others, Gerard Depardieu with a crude bathroom joke). Mel Gibson‘s presence in the room (guest of Foster) seemed to make people antsy. And Pepsi didn’t do anyone any favors by playing its annoying Sofia Vergara commercial endlessly.
But the show had a forward motion all of its own, which is half the battle with these things. It was moving crisply until Foster’s speech, which was both puzzling and poetic. Believably acting — she is rather good, you know — that she was going to “come out” on television, even though she already has, led to a joke about being single, then some very touching comments about former partner Cydney Bernard and their two boys. But there also were curious diversions into reality television, her age, coming out to close friends and her future as a director, then back to a very moving mention of her mother, etc. Not all of it made sense or seemed coherent, but there wasn’t a moment of the speech that wasn’t magnetic.
Now, the length of Foster’s speech might have put the show’s director and producer on their heels, but whatever time constraints that weren’t addressed on the fly led to the inevitable downfall of all of these ceremonies: playing off winners in the biggest categories. They are at least partly why viewers tune in to the show, and playing them off seems rude while it deprives fans of moments they want to witness.
Is there no producer-director combo that can come up with a plan to avoid this?
Ultimately, however, even that wasn’t enough to dull the night. The Globes were bubbly and entertaining, there were moments to remember, winners and losers to argue about and a pair of hosts who really nailed it. “We’re going home with Jodie Foster” they yelled at the conclusion.
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