That chaotic energy is what distinguishes the Golden Globes from every other awards show, something Amy Poehler acknowledged during Sunday’s broadcast on NBC of the 78th annual Golden Globe Awards. “Those are the messy things we love about the Globes,” Poehler said about midway through the broadcast, after her co-host, Tina Fey, mentioned a few unpredictable incidents that had already occurred, such as Tracy Morgan Adele Dazeem-ing the name of the movie Soul, a word that consists of a single syllable.
A lot of the Golden Globes was indeed messy this year, but not necessarily the good kind of messy. The pandemic forced the ceremony to be a largely remote affair, five months after the pandemic forced the Emmy Awards to be a largely remote affair. The production team behind the ceremony adjusted to the circumstances, bifurcating the event so that Fey emceed in front of a socially distanced crowd of first responders at New York’s Rainbow Room, and Poehler did the same in front of a socially distanced crowd of first responders at L.A.’s Beverly Hilton. Just as at the Emmys, nominees and winners accepted over Zoom while presenters appeared at one of the two locations. Some of it worked just fine, particularly the segments where Poehler and Fey were placed in a two-shot as if they were really in the same place and managed to time their jokes as if that actually were the case. (One notable exception: their slight botching of the introduction of Carol Burnett Award recipient Norman Lear.)
But in other spots, there were hitches. Daniel Kaluuya, the first winner of the evening for his role in Judas and the Black Messiah, was stuck on mute and nearly had his acceptance speech skipped entirely. In an effort to achieve the sort of spontaneity we normally see at the Globes when DiCaprios and De Niros chitchat prior to commercial breaks, the show often cut to Zoom screens filled with nominees from an upcoming category, expecting them to make organic, virtual small talk. Nothing about this felt organic. “Just act naturally!” shouted a member of Team Ozark in a rare honest moment during one of those pre-break teases.
The maddening awards-show tendency to cut to the audience when recipients are speaking — because, you know, GIFs and memes — was even more frustrating in this hybrid realm where the members of the crowd were just hanging at home. Jodie Foster is great, her dog is adorable, and it was wonderful when her wife, Alexandra Hedison, who was dressed in a nice pair of satin PJs, kissed her after she won for her performance in The Mauritanian. But I don’t need to see any of them when Jane Fonda is accepting this year’s Cecil B. DeMille Award.
Fonda’s speech was the most rousing acknowledgment of one of the elephants in the Golden Globes’ many actual and virtual rooms: the fact that, as an L.A. Times piece about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association recently reported, the HFPA has no members who are Black. “Let’s all make an effort to expand that tent so that everyone rises,” Fonda said, using the moment to not only call out the HFPA but to call on the whole industry — for, yes, the eight-bazillionth time — to do a better job of highlighting marginalized voices. Three members of the HFPA also issued a mea culpa for belonging to a group that somehow, apparently, never tried to correct this oversight themselves. “We look forward to a more inclusive future,” said HFPA president Ali Sar, concluding remarks from three of the organization’s members that were delivered with all the conviction of someone reciting a carefully crafted press release while being held at gunpoint.
The Golden Globes organizers always pray for happy, funny, or touching accidents, and despite some of the Zoom mayhem, there were times when those prayers were answered. Chadwick Boseman’s widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, gave a teary and moving acceptance speech on her late husband’s behalf when he posthumously received a Globe for his work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It was also very sweet when Minari director Lee Isaac Chung’s young daughter leapt into her father’s lap when his film won the Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.
To their credit, Fey and Poehler got in some decent zingers during their opening monologue. “TV is the one that I watch for five hours straight, but a movie is the one I won’t turn on because it’s two hours,” Poehler said, finally weighing in on the “Is it a movie or is it TV?” discourse. “The thing I love about Aaron Sorkin’s writing is that he can have seven men talking, but it feels like 100 men talking,” Fey quipped a half hour or so before Sorkin beat both Emerald Fennell and Chloé Zhao for best screenplay. The electricity usually generated between the pair and their audience when everyone’s in the same ballroom was notably absent, but nothing about their performance was cringey or embarrassing, which is the bar we have now set for entirely or semi-virtual award shows.
But the person who may have best captured the mood of the Globes, and perhaps the mood of those who bothered to tune into this affair, was Jason Sudeikis, who won the Best Television Actor, Musical or Comedy Series award for inhabiting one of the more uplifting figures of COVID-era television, Ted Lasso. After telling someone off camera not to swear, Sudeikis — looking relaxed, maybe feeling a little tired, and possibly experiencing the effects of an edible that he absolutely deserved to ingest — fumbled through his speech. “That’s nuts, that’s crazy,” he said a couple of times, pontificating while wearing a tie-dye sweatshirt until fellow nominee Don Cheadle started gesturing that he should wrap it up.
Sudeikis’s speech captured how many people may feel about awards season — which at this time last year was wrapping up, but in 2021, is just getting started — and about pandemic life in general. We are all a little exhausted. We do not have the energy for anything other than sweats. We are grateful for the things we have been given, like Golden Globes, even if our expression of that gratitude might seem a little muted. (Again: tired.) Through our haze, the one thing that seems fully true is that everything is, as Sudeikis put it, nuts and crazy. And in 2021 that includes, but is not limited to, the awards show put on every year by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.