Okay, so not all of the North Korea jokes connected. But the mere fact that they existed made this year’s Golden Globes an unusually political ceremony.
First, there was the opening monologue, in which hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler left no doubt as to their feelings of culpability regarding the charges against Bill Cosby. Then there was the Cecil B. DeMille Award presentation, in which recipient George Clooney announced “Je suis Charlie.” In both those memorable moments, and elsewhere, the awards trended towards social commentary. Presenter Jared Leto and nominee Helen Mirren both made tributes to slain employees of the French publication Charlie Hebdo, the latter by pinning a pen to her dress. Fey and Poehler also made light, at exhausting length, of the crisis around the release of the North Korea-mocking film The Interview.
Some prizes were as political as the ceremony at large. Jeffrey Tambor’s win for best actor in a comedy for the Amazon series Transparent, in which he plays a transgender woman, caught the attention of politically-minded viewers. (He dedicated his award to the trans community.)
But there were few real surprises, but for Wes Anderson’s win for best comedy or musical, with The Grand Budapest Hotel trumping Birdman. (Anderson charmingly announced he would not thank a long list of collaborators, all of whom he mentioned by name.) Real-world politics tended to give way to Hollywood politics, as when Clooney’s speech tended to be far more about happiness in a camera-friendly marriage than about anything else in the world, or when Julianne Moore, winning Best Actress in a Drama for playing an Alzheimer’s patient in Still Alice, seemed cut off from saying all she’d have liked to as the show ran over time.
In the absence of real hosting, as Poehler and Fey ceded their jobs midshow to Margaret Cho as a North Korean soldier (for better or, largely, worse), the burden of entertainment fell on winners. Tambor was a welcome but unsurprising star; so, too, was Gina Rodriguez, winning for her role in Jane the Virgin and fulfilling the Globes’ mandate of anointing a new TV star each ceremony. And Best Director winner Richard Linklater was certainly very sympathetic in explaining the process by which his eventual Best Picture, Drama Boyhood came together. It wasn’t glamorous, as a winner, but it was something.
Fulfilling his own mandate was Best Actor in a Comedy Michael Keaton, in his own world as he paused throughout thanking his parents, his son, and in between everyone he’d ever met for getting him his role in Birdman. Theatrical though his speech may have been, it was a healthy reminder that the politics that matter, at this ceremony, aren’t necessarily playing out on a world stage. Keaton was campaigning for something greater, and disconnected from world affairs. The Oscars are only next month.