If the Golden Globes airs on a weeknight and no one watches it, does it still matter? That was the question posed when the Oscars’ boozy cousin returned to television on Tuesday evening after a one-year absence.
The awards show, a cash cow for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — a strange band of international journalists from obscure publications with loose ethics who love asking celebrities for autographs and pictures at press junkets to the puzzlement of nearly everyone else — was booted from the airwaves last year, and only announced its awards via Twitter, in rather embarrassing fashion, following a series of high-profile controversies.
Among these were an investigation revealing the HFPA had no Black members; its former president Philip Berk calling Black Lives Matter “a racist hate movement” and standing accused of groping actor Brendan Fraser, who sat out this year’s ceremony in protest even though he was nominated for The Whale; and comically shameless allegations of bribery, such as Netflix treating HFPA members to a luxurious Paris vacation for Emily in Paris that resulted in a number of Globes noms for the oft-ridiculed series.
And now it’s back, proving there is absolutely nothing that will stop Hollywood from awarding itself at a glitzy party with free booze and snacks.
Broadcast live on NBC from the Beverly Hilton in tony Beverly Hills, California, the 80th annual Golden Globes were hosted by Jerrod Carmichael, an uber-talented Black comic who recently came out in his powerful stand-up special Rothaniel.
During his opening monologue, Carmichael joked that he was “unfireable” as the Globes’ first Black host and confronted the organization’s racism controversy, explaining the HFPA’s rationale for choosing him — and why he chose to accept the mostly thankless gig.
“Hello. Welcome to the 80th annual Golden Globe Awards. I am your host, Jerrod Carmichael. And I’ll tell you why I’m here. I’m here ‘cause I’m Black,” he began.
“This show, the Golden Globe Awards, did not air last year because the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — which I won’t say they were a racist organization, but they didn’t have a single Black member till George Floyd died, so do with that information what you will.”
After comparing himself to Black FBI informants who spied on civil rights leaders in the 1960s, Carmichael ultimately said that he accepted the hosting gig because of its $500,000 paycheck and that “the industry deserves evenings like these,” whatever that means.
That was mostly it for Carmichael, save a few semi-amusing interstitial jokes about how Rihanna should ignore the haters and take her damn time on that new album (the Queen was in attendance with her partner A$AP Rocky), a dig at Tom Cruise the Scientologist for his performative display of returning his Golden Globe trophies (who was not present, which dulled its impact), and a crack aimed at Steven Spielberg about bringing Kanye West to a screening of The Fabelmans and having it change his entire perspective on Jews — as well as an incredibly ballsy one implying that Will Smith is closeted, a la Rock Hudson. Carmichael, who’s known more for his emotionally raw and perceptive brand of comedy, appeared out of his comfort zone throughout the night, and more focused on fostering a general sense of unease than landing haymakers.
It was not without its pleasurable moments. Jennifer Coolidge hilariously fumbling through her own reasoning for presenting before delivering a moving acceptance speech about hitting it big in middle age, and Colin Farrell cursing amid thanking his tiny donkey co-star, Jenny, after winning Best Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical for The Banshees of Inisherin. Michelle Yeoh tearfully recounted her decades-long journey navigating Hollywood, and all the barriers she broke through, while accepting the award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for Everything Everywhere All at Once – before telling the Globes, “Shut up, please! I can beat you up,” when they attempted to play her off.
Another major show highlight was the large number of Black actors who took home awards, including Best Supporting Actress for the legendary Angela Bassett (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series (Abbott Elementary) to Tyler James Williams, Quinta Brunson winning Best Television Actress Musical/Comedy Series (Abbott Elementary), Zendaya for Best Television Actress — Drama Series (Euphoria), and Brunson’s Abbott Elementary taking home Best Television Series Musical or Comedy. Eddie Murphy was also given the Cecil B. DeMille Award for his career achievements. Though all these winners were clearly deserving, the Globes has a lot more work to do to compensate for its racist past.
Meanwhile, fellow comedian Tracy Morgan introduced Murphy and proceeded to call his “pull-out game weak” for fathering ten children, earning some of the biggest laughs of the night. In a brief acceptance speech, Murphy gave the audience three tips on how to get far in life.
“There is a definitive blueprint that you can follow to achieve success, prosperity, longevity, and peace of mind. It’s a blueprint, and I’ve followed it my whole career,” said Murphy. “Pay your taxes, mind your business and keep Will Smith’s wife’s name out your motherfucking mouth!”
Well-played, sir. Ryan Murphy spotlighted LGBTQ+ performers like Billy Porter and MJ Rodriguez while receiving the Carol Burnett Television Achievement Award, calling them “examples of possibility,” and a teary-eyed Sean Penn showed up to introduce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who interrupted the glamorous gala event to deliver a message to those watching at home about Russia’s war on Ukraine. (This is happening at almost every major awards show now.)
“The war in Ukraine is not over yet, but the tide is turning. And it is already clear who will win,” he said. “There are still battles and tears ahead, but now I can definitely tell you who were the best in the previous year: it was you. The free people of the free world. Those who united around the support of the free Ukrainian people in our common struggle for freedom, democracy. For the right to live, to love.”’
House of the Dragon took home Best Television Series Drama, while Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin won Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical drama The Fabelmans was granted Best Motion Picture Drama. In a classy move, Spielberg shouted-out all the movie PAs during his acceptance speech.
“I was John Cassavetes’ PA on one of his movies,” said Spielberg. “I got him coffee. I got them anything they wanted. I ran around that set, which was like a 16mm camera and a lot of noise, and whatever they wanted I ran out to delis and go them stuff. And that’s why I treat my PAs so kindly, because I know what it feels like.”
There was, of course, the aforementioned cloud hanging over the proceedings — and I’m not just talking about the HFPA’s racism controversies, or its bribery schemes, or the fact that it failed to nominate any women in the Best Director category (another of its historical issues, and something McDonagh pointed out during his acceptance speech). I’m talking about Brendan Fraser.
As previously mentioned, Fraser sat out this year’s Golden Globes even though he was nominated in Best Actor for his career-best performance in the film The Whale (he lost to Elvis’ Austin Butler). In a 2018 interview with GQ, Fraser first opened up about how former HFPA President Philip Berk groped him during an HFPA luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2003.
“I felt ill. I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry,” Fraser said. “I felt like someone had thrown invisible paint on me.” (Berk called the incident a “total fabrication,” while Fraser contends the HFPA framed it as a “joke” in a written apology.)
Fraser told GQ in November of last year that he would not be attending this year’s Golden Globes should he be nominated for The Whale.
“I have more history with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association than I have respect for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” Fraser said. “No, I will not participate.”
He added, “It’s because of the history that I have with them. And my mother didn’t raise a hypocrite. You can call me a lot of things, but not that.”
It would have been nice to see more (any?) actors and other members of the Hollywood community stand in solidarity with Fraser, or at least name-check him and why he’s absent during the night. But Fraser’s ordeal went virtually unmentioned.
Historically, the Golden Globe Awards ceremony was a night of revelry — your favorite actors in eye-catching frocks and tuxedos hopped up on booze, getting roasted by the likes of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler or the more flame-throwing Ricky Gervais. The 2023 Golden Globes had none of that. The stars in the crowd and presenters appeared on edge, even unsure of why they were there in the first place. There were precious few jokes taking these A-listers down a peg (save Regina Hall’s wonderful riff on winner Kevin Costner’s excuse for his absence, bless her), and even less memeable reaction shots. It ran nearly 30 minutes overtime. And Carmichael, as host, failed to not only maintain momentum but also address the HFPA’s laundry list of controversies in clever ways. So, if the Golden Globes is just going to be another boring awards show, what purpose does it serve?
Perhaps it’s time to let it die.