The Golden Globes used to be the fun awards show. Celebrities and honorees ate and — crucially — drank during the event. Dynamic duos like Saturday Night Live‘s Tina Fey and Amy Poehler channeled all their comedic prowess into one terrific monologue. The very small group that makes up the Hollywood Foreign Press Association would crown young, emerging talent — like Gina Rodriguez, Lena Dunham and Rachel Brosnahan — and make a few baffling awards decisions, to boot.
This year, the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards was largely missing the joy of previous awards shows: Host Ricky Gervais took the stage and immediately announced this was his last year hosting the show and he didn’t give a — well, we don’t know what he didn’t give because it was bleeped out, along with about a third of his jokes throughout the evening. The apathetic schtick didn’t free him from the few limitations he already had to make daring jokes. Instead, it made the whole affair feel rather forced and dismal.
A few moments stood out, though, from Kate McKinnon’s moving tribute to Ellen DeGeneres to Awkwafina making history with her Golden Globe win. Tom Hanks made nearly everyone cry, and Joaquin Phoenix made things all a little weird.
In television, Succession emerged as the clear favorite. The HFPA have now anointed that show as the next great HBO drama. Fleabag also cleaned up at the ceremony, though Phoebe Waller-Bridge has said she has no plans to make a third season of the acerbic and groundbreaking series.
In the film categories, wins and losses will likely impact the horserace towards February’s Oscars — even more so than in past years because the awards season is shorter than usual and the nominations phase for the Academy Awards has already begun. Surprise winners like 1917 and snubs for The Irishman and Marriage Story at the Globes will be top of mind for voters as they submit their ballots for the Academy Awards.
Here were the best, worst and most baffling moments of the 2020 Golden Globes.
Best: Films with subtitles fight for Hollywood attention
The Golden Globes have a dated rule that requires movies to have a minimum of 50 percent of their dialogue in English to qualify for the Best Picture, Comedy and Best Picture, Drama categories. That meant that some of the best-reviewed films of the year (and top Oscar contenders), The Farewell, Pain & Glory and Parasite, were all ineligible for those top honors.
Parasite won for Best Foreign Film, and director Bong Joon-Ho took the opportunity to call out Hollywood for its aversion to foreign-language films. “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barriers of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” he said through a translator during his acceptance speech.
And even though the movie couldn’t contend for Best Picture, The Farewell still took home a statue. Star Awkwafina also made history as the first woman of Asian descent to win the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. Awkwafina said that she would like to thank her grandmother and her parents and joked, “Dad, I told you I would get a job.”
Best: Men who have chemistry with everything
Sadly, Andrew Scott (a.k.a. Hot Priest from Fleabag) did not win a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series. But he did get some time in the limelight when Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag’s creator and star, won Best Actress for a Television Comedy. Waller-Bridge acknowledged that everyone had been praising the chemistry between herself and Scott on the series, but then suggested she contributed little to their flirtatious scenes: “He can have chemistry with a pebble.” Indeed! Scott later got a moment onstage when Fleabag won for Best TV Comedy.
Later in the evening, another Hollywood icon who has chemistry with everyone and everything took the stage to accept the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama: Brad Pitt. Critics have lately identified Pitt as a character actor trapped in a leading man’s body, which is what makes his win as a cocky sidekick to Leonardo DiCaprio’s leading man in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood so gratifying. (He also told Leo, or “LDC,” during his speech that he would have shared the raft with him in Titanic. It was a door, but the sentiment stands.)
As Twitter buzzed about Brad Pitt’s agelessness — seriously, who is his dermatologist? — Pitt gracefully acknowledged his leading man looks. He joked that he had planned to bring his mom to the ceremony, but it would have been awkward because “any woman I stand next to, they say I’m dating.” Bonus points to the camera operator who gracefully cut to a wide shot of the audience that included Pitt’s ex, Jennifer Aniston, to whom tabloids have constantly linked him since their divorce a decade and a half ago. Honestly, it’s impressive these two put up with all of it.
Worst: Tim Allen interrupts Lauren Graham
Tim Allen used his time as a presenter onstage to make a not-funny joke about how he has aged and then went on to interrupt co-presenter Lauren Graham to make a joke that was even less funny about having to Google the nominees for the category he was presenting. Justice for Lauren Graham!
Best: Phoebe Waller-Bridge thanks Obama
President Barack Obama put Fleabag, Season 2 on his list of favorite TV shows this year. Phoebe Waller-Bridge took note. “He’s been on my list for awhile,” she cracked during her acceptance speech. Fans of the show may remember that the first season began with Waller-Bridge’s character masturbating to videos of Obama making speeches.
Worst: Quentin Tarantino implying he didn’t need to thank anybody
Quentin Tarantino may be one of the greatest filmmakers alive today, but pretending like he didn’t have help getting there is not a good look. When he won for Best Screenplay for Once Upon A Time…in Hollywood he insinuated that since he wrote the film’s screenplay alone and directed the film he didn’t really need to thank anyone. That’s a bizarre statement for a movie that is so heavily dependent on movie star performances from its leading men, playing on the audience’s assumptions about Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio as people. He walked back those comments, going on to name-check his cast and crew, but the intro was less than graceful.
Best: Tom Hanks makes a plea for human decency
It wasn’t particularly surprising, but Tom Hanks proved that he’s still a decent guy during his acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Achievement in Film. In his speech, he acknowledged every single person who works on a movie set and pleaded with his fellow actors to simply show up on time to work in order to make the lives of their collaborators easier, more creative and more productive.
Hanks choked up a bit throughout the speech and also took a moment to praise Hollywood icons. “You know, you’re a dope if you don’t steal from everybody you have ever worked with,” Hanks said in his acceptance speech, name-checking the likes of Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan and Sally Field.
Worst: Female directors were totally ignored
There was already a scandal when the Golden Globes nominations were announced and zero female directors were nominated, despite the fact that several of the year’s female-directed films, including Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell and Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, were among the most critically and commercially successful films of the year.
To make matters worse, Gervais made a tasteless joke about how they could solve the problem of female director snubs by returning to the days when studios didn’t hire female directors at all. The joke was met with near-silence in the theater. Hopefully those directors and others are acknowledged at the Oscars.
Best: Political speeches from Michelle Williams, Kate McKinnon and Joaquin Phoenix
Kate McKinnon gave a moving tribute to Ellen DeGeneres, who received the Carol Burnett Award for Achievement in Television. “When Ellen’s show premiered in 1997,” McKinnon said, “I was lifting weights in my mother’s basement and I thinking to myself ‘Am I gay?’ And I was…And I am.” McKinnon went on to praise DeGeneres’ decision to come out as a brave one that derailed DeGeneres’ career for several years when her show was canceled. But, McKinnon argued, DeGeneres paved the way for her and other openly queer actors in Hollywood. That was a gift, as much as her comedy.
Michelle Williams also gave a moving speech when she won for Best Actress in a Television Drama for Fosse/Verdon, imploring women to take to the polls in 2020 and support women’s right to choose. Williams drew from her own life in the powerful moment:
“To choose when to have my children and with whom, when I felt supported and able to balance our lives as all mothers know that the scales must and will tip towards our children. Now I know my choices might look different than yours, but thank God or whoever you pray to, that we live in a country founded on the principles that I am free to live by my faith and you are free to live by yours. So women, 18 to 118, when it is time to vote, please do so in your self-interest. It’s what men have been doing for years, which is why the world looks so much like them but don’t forget we are the largest voting body in this country. Let’s make it look more like us.”
Joaquin Phoenix also made a plea for environmentalism when he took the stage for his Best Actor in a Film, Drama win for Joker. He praised the HFPA for serving plant-based meals at the event and acknowledging meat consumption’s tie to global warming. He also lobbied his fellow Hollywood stars to use their power to better the world. “We don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs,” he said. “We can do better.”
Strangest: The other half of Joaquin Phoenix’s speech
While Phoenix’s speech ended up in a positive place, it started out a bit shaky. It’s always a little off-putting when an actor who has just been given a great honor asserts onstage that he does not deserve it. But Phoenix went even further than that. In an F-bomb-laden acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Drama for Joker, Phoenix said again and again that “he hasn’t been perfect” and thanked his fellow artists in the room for “putting up with him” and giving him multiple opportunities to try and get it right.
The self-deprecating speech rubbed many on social media the wrong way. Phoenix is a cis white man in Hollywood and while those second chances have come for him, other actors who don’t share his background don’t always get another shot at stardom.
Strangest: 1917 is suddenly a frontrunner in the Oscar race
Awards prognosticators did not see this one coming: Sam Mendes’ war epic 1917 cleaned up at the Golden Globes, winning both Best Picture, Drama, and Best Director for Mendes.
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is also cruising into the Oscars race with wins for Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay, Brad Pitt as Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Musical and the top prize of Best Film, Comedy or Musical (though categorizing that film as a comedy is admittedly dubious).
Those two movies surged at the expense of what many thought to be Oscar frontrunners: Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Both movies were largely snubbed at the event (though Laura Dern did snag a Best Supporting Actor Globe for Marriage Story). It’s notable that both movies were released by Netflix.
1917, by contrast, is an extremely cinematic film, in that it is an epic war movie meant to be watched on a big screen with surround sound. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a rejection of the streaming model in its own way too: It’s a fairytale about the golden days of Hollywood, gazing back longingly on the theater-going experience. Is the HFPA trying to say something about where it wants the future of cinema to go? Will the Academy feel similarly?
Worst: Everything Ricky Gervais did
OK, not everything. He did have a good joke about how Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood was so long that by the time the premiere screening ended, Leonardo DiCaprio’s date was too old for him. But for the most part, his jokes fell flat, from a crack about pedophilia in reference to The Two Popes to a bit he could barely get out about Dame Judi Dench licking herself in thankfully bleeped-out places in Cats.
Gervais even admonished the winners before anyone ever took the stage, warning them not to make political speeches because as actors who worked for gigantic corporations like Apple that underpay their workers, they are all hypocrites. There may have been some truth to that. But it’s not exactly the way to get the crowd in the room, and at home, geared up for a fun season celebrating their favorite stars, films and shows.