E: But Oprah, seriously! In 8 minutes she reminded us forcefully that she spent 27 years talking for a living, and being adored for it. Oprah took what’s classically the most boring segment of the show, and used her bully pulpit to inspire instead of just blathering on about herself. I didn’t even realize that I missed her, but I know it now; I need more Oprah in my life. (I will add that I’m livid at the cowardly backlash seeking to downplay the truth of what she said by her former, incidental association with Harvey Weinstein. Glad you think Oprah is psychic, boys, but as much as I admire her I don’t really think that greeting him at a party – however enthusiastically – means she knew his secret crimes. But hey, when you’re not brave enough take issue with what she actually said and own your misogyny, I guess sharing a photo is all you can do to try and tear her down.)
There are a couple other non-Oscar related notes I need to share before getting to the meat of this. As this year’s host, Seth Meyers was inoffensive but pretty forgettable; his demeanor has always struck me as too smug and self-satisfied for me to enjoy his comedy, but he could have been worse. He was fine addressing the elephant not in the room, but stole his best joke from Meryl Streep’s Cecil B. Demille speech from last year (Hollywood, Foreign and Press being our presidents least favorite things) and owed his biggest laughs to audience members like Amy Poehler.
Next, the color black. I did see a few women at the start of the night in colors, a pop of gray and another of fuschia, both of whom disappeared as the night went on. Far in the back someone wore red – and no, I don’t mean the Hollywood Foreign Press president. I have to be honest, when I heard about this I wasn’t sure how many women would go along with the idea. (Was it stupid of me to doubt that Hollywood would follow a trend? Maybe. I just thought they’d protest losing their chance to hit the best dressed lists.) I also questioned the choice of color. Wouldn’t red, or some other vibrant color, be more powerful? Did they really want Hollywood’s biggest party to look like everyone was going to a funeral?
What we got, however, was scads of individuality (capes! veils! minidresses! cutouts! trains!). And even more, I think the women achieved what men get with their tuxedos: the focus was on the actresses more than the dresses. Sure, they still looked fantastic, but I wasn’t looking at the dress first. It felt profoundly different for me in a way I didn’t expect, but really appreciated. And that’s from someone who enjoys seeing the dresses; I found myself searching for the clever touches, like Diane Krueger’s cape/veil, and Allison Janney’s butterfly cutouts. Honestly, I wish they’d always wear black.
Oprah wasn’t the only winner to make a powerful speech that flirted with autobiography and focused on advocacy rather than the other way around. Sterling K. Brown and Elizabeth Moss, for the television winners, both gave strong and impassioned speeches about being seen and heard and having the ability to tell our own stories. Laura Dern and Nicole Kidman spoke up as well. When I was a teen in the 80s, I remember people talking about “minorities” and being puzzled by how often women were included in that designation. Weren’t women at least half of the population? Of course, the truth in that term is that women have been treated like a minority: it was thrilling to see the determination to do better on display.
Okay. So. With that out of the way, let’s get to talking about Oscar. How much did the Golden Globes help out the year without a frontrunner? It’s an interesting question. I can make an intellectual case for the two winning movies (Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri) fitting the zeitgeist: the first is the most critically acclaimed film of the year, a coming of age story about a young woman which is both written and directed by a woman, and the second is the story of victim’s advocacy, of a grieving gadfly mother who shakes up the local system to demand justice for her slain daughter. Both seem pretty on target to me. Now, having yet to see either film, I feel like Lady Bird sends a stronger message because it was written and directed and produced by women, and you could hear last night how much value is placed on women telling their own stories.
Does this mean that the winner will be one of those two? I don’t think it’s any guarantee. I honestly thought the HFP was going with The Shape of Water, especially after Guillermo Del Toro won for directing it, but their distribution of awards points to some interesting challenges. First of all, how much did you all love Natalie Portman’s dig about the all male slate of directing nominees? The fact that the directing award didn’t go to Sting-look alike McDonagh (the acclaimed playwright and screenwriter who won the Globe for writing Three Billboards) makes me wonder if the Hollywood Foreign Press regretted their genuinely shocking snub of Gerwig. Either way they chose not to put all their chips on Three Billboards, which has to benefit Lady Bird. Both films are nominated at the Screen Actors Guild, so we’ll see how they do head to head on the 21st – not to mention at the Producers Guild on the 20th. Even this week we might get more clarity when the Directors Guild and the BAFTAs announce their nominations on the 11th and 10th respectively. I will say now that if Lady Bird becomes the clear frontrunner, then Gerwig becomes your likely winner in direction.
As for the acting races, the winner from last night’s show of course become the frontrunners. All year we’ve heard what a lock Gary Oldman was going to be, and yet newcomer Timothee Chalamet has beaten him to the critics awards. The HFP has put veteran Oldman back on track to take that top award as originally expected. Oscar loves to award mature men and female ingenues in the lead categories; thus a normal picture would be Oldman (the long time favorite only nominated once before, who disappears into a historical figure in an astonishing transformation – the story writes itself) and Saorise Ronan, the child actress nominated first for Atonement and more recently for the fantastic and underrated Brooklyn. (If you haven’t yet, SEE IT.) . For Chalamet, its an enormous hurdle just to be nominated; that the youngest ever best actor winner was 29 year old Adrien Brody should tell you what a hurdle it would be for an unknown 22 year old in a gay love story to take the crown from an industry legend. In fact, he’ll be the third youngest ever nominee, slipping in between Mickey Rooney’s nominations at 19 and 23 back in 1939 and 1943, and the first under 25 since John Travolta in 1977. Think about those numbers; that’s how hard it is for a young man to get a lead acting nomination. Still, stranger things have happened, and while Oldman certainly has to be considered the frontrunner, I’m not ready to count Chalamet out. Musical/Comedy winner James Franco ought to receive a nomination, but doesn’t really contend for the win. I loved hearing Oldman laud his make up team for his utterly astonishing physical transformation; in all, the attention paid to the little guy was one of the biggest charms of last night’s award show.
Ronan, too, is no guarantee, especially when paired against the fierce Frances McDormand. (How funny was it that the censors failed to bleep out “shite” and so overcompensated by taking out Fox Searchlight and tectonic shift? I don’t even know what they thought she was trying to say; talk about being itchy to use that button.) We’ll see at the SAGs when the two fantastic actresses are actually up against each other in the same category. Supporting actors aren’t sorted by genre in the Globes, so we have a more clear picture here: neither Christopher Plummer (the last minute sub for disgraced former winner Kevin Spacy in All the Money in the World) nor critics favorite Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) could beat the lovable veteran Sam Rockwell as the racist cop from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Though the Globes often get the supporting categories wrong, I feel more secure in their choices this time. Prognosticators had it down this time to the battle of the tv stars, Laurie Metcalf and Allison Janney. The two are used to winning Emmys, but will contend for an Oscar this year, and Janney’s flashy hillbilly monster took the big prize as most predicted she would. Having just seen I, Tonya (see it!), I wondered whether Janney would acknowledge the elephant in the room – that her character is an abuser. More politically, she highlighted the film’s frank look at class in America. And that’s what I like in a speech, generally – personal thanks mixed with a highlight of the film’s message. Still, it would have been brave to highlight her character’s less than likable actions. Points for the wickedly funny Janney wearing a bird on her should (as her character does) when it was her turn to present, though. I could absolutely get behind her as a potential winner.
So sum it up, I very much enjoyed the night of activism and truth speaking. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the nominees, and enjoying not knowing for sure which way it’s all going to go (especially since I don’t yet have a horse in the race). It was refreshing and unusual for the Golden Globes, and I hope the rest of the awards season shines as brightly, even in shadow.
*I can’t believe I didn’t mention it, but I’m in love with the music of The Greatest Showman, and was thrilled to have “This Is Me” be the winner. I hope several nominations come out of that soundtrack. Like lots of people, I can’t get enough Pasek and Paul these days; their songs have been in my iTunes rotation since Smash.