Monday, January 7, 2019

76th Annual Golden Globe Awards (Hollywood Foreign Press Association, NBC-TV, aired January 6, 2019)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2019 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Last night when it was 5 p.m. I was ready to watch the blessedly live telecast of the Golden Globe Awards. (Thank goodness for the Internet and the rise of social media, which has led at least some awards shows to reject the way we viewers on the West Coast for decades were palmed off with a three-hours-later rebroadcast instead of getting to see the shows in real time.) Last night’s 76th annual Golden Globe Awards were a relatively low-keyed show — the hosts, Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh, took a self-deprecating line and avoided the slashing insults of previous Globe hosts (can you say “Ricky Gervais”?), making fun mostly of themselves. One of their best bits was when they announced they were going to show emotional highlights from previous Globe shows — but then the only clips they showed were of awards they themselves had won. (Later Oh won another one and had to make a quick and odd transition from host to recipient.) Their best joke, when they weren’t making fun of themselves, came when Samberg announced that the film Vice, about Dick Cheney (Christian “Batman” Bale — who astonished me in his acceptance speech when he spoke with a thick British accent he has totally eradicated when playing Americans) and his role in the administration of George W. Bush (Sam “Moon” Rockwell), was a drama but was nominated in the best comedy or musical film category because “it invaded the wrong category based on faulty intelligence.” (Meanwhile, the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, which was obviously a musical, was nominated for — and actually won — Best Motion Picture, Drama.)

It’s hard to judge an awards show when you haven’t seen most of the products being nominated — virtually all the TV series the Globes nominate these days air on streaming channels so I couldn’t watch them even if I wanted to (I have stuck with a cable connection rather than deal with the world of “streaming” services and the elaborate interfaces between TV’s, computers, smartphones and whatnot needed to watch them, at least partly because I suspect signing up for Amazon Prime and Netflix and Hulu and CBS All Access and all the other ones out there would add up to considerably more money per month than a cable bill and would cut me off from a lot of news and other channels I do watch regularly), and since Charles and I almost never go to movie theatres anymore but wait for things to emerge on DVD (and a lot of the films the “streaming” services produce don’t ever make it to DVD because the companies want subscribing to their services to be the only way you can watch their programs, which just gives me an even sourer view of the “streaming” world than I had before) we haven’t seen most of the movies, either. Charles did get to see the film Green Book when he last visited his family in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it won last night for Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) even though from the subject matter (the great jazz pianist Don Shirley — presented in the film as a frustrated would-be classical piano virtuoso forced to play jazz for a living because he’s Black (that wasn’t my impression of the real Don Shirley at all; I played my poor-quality dub of his first album on Cadence, Don Shirley Trio, for Charles and asked him if what was heard in the movie had any resemblance to Shirley’s actual music, and he said no) — and the film’s focus, his white “minder” who had to drive him on a tour of the Deep South in 1962. Green Book  also won an award for Mahershala Ali (Oakland-born despite his African-sounding name), who played Shirley; and for the writing team of Nick Vallelonga, Peter Farrelly (who also directed) and Brian Hayes Currie — and what I didn’t know before (though Charles did) is that Nick Vallelonga is the real-life son of the white lead Viggo Mortenson (redeeming his career after it suffered from his casting in Gus Van Sant’s insane remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho) played in the film. I guess you’re already two steps ahead of the game when you can base your film on a true story that happened to your dad!

In an era in which “inclusion” has become a fetish word for at least half of America, there weren’t any direct attacks on President Trump the way Meryl Streep did two years ago (and got named in a Trump tweet as “overrated” even though she’s won more Academy Award nominations than any other actor, living or dead, male or female) but there were a lot of veiled references to walls (bad) and bridges (good) and how art is a force that brings people together. Alfonso Cuarón turned his acceptance speech for Roma, a Mexican production that won for Best Foreign-Language Film, into a plea for inclusion as well as a defense of his native country against all the attacks certain people in public power have been making against it and its people. I have no idea what Roma is about — the title suggests either a film about European Gypsies or about the Italian capital (like Fellini’s marvelous 1972 film of the same title) but’s brief synopsis says it “chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family's maid in Mexico City in the early 1970’s.” (I remember seeing the film Seven Women, One Homosexual and Carlos a while back and being amazed that there was a movie out there acknowledging that Mexico has a middle class and isn’t just a handful of padrones and a lot of peons living in dire poverty and aching for the chance to become undocumented immigrants to the U.S.) Like other awards shows, even a relatively apolitical one like this year’s Golden Globes gives me the impression that in this heavily (and, at least according to the closeness of the 2018 midterm election results, just about evenly) divided country, artists generally are part of the group that values inclusion over exclusion and acknowledges the equality of women, people of color and Queers (though Hollywood often talks a better game on that than they actually play — one routine during the show said that when producers are hiring a director they first consider a man, and if no man is available they look for two men, and if no two men are available they look for a group of men, and if they aren’t available they just might consider a woman — and this was delivered in a growling voice that suggested John Wayne as Godzilla and made the point even funnier and more incisive).

It was indicative of how inclusive the entertainment industry has become — this slice of it, at least — that there were an awful lot of African-descended faces accepting awards and three of the films nominated for Best Motion Picture — Drama, Black Panther, BlackkKlansman and If Beale Street Could Talk, had largely Black casts (though the winner, Bohemian Rhapsody, was one of the two, along with the fourth version of A Star Is Born — fifth if you count the 1932 What Price Hollywood, which had essentially the same plot but split the Norman Maine character into two people — that didn’t, though I guess Bohemian Rhapsody counted as at least half a film about a person of color because Freddie Mercury was part-British and part-Turkish). During the show I posted a couple of tweets (aimed, I’ll admit, largely at Charles) praising the two winners who pronounced the “t” in “often” during their acceptance speeches (one of them a woman who made the demand that all employers, not just in the entertainment industry, commit to making 50 percent of their workforces female — it’s indicative of how far we have to go on women’s equality in the workplace that the newly sworn-in 116th Congress is being taken as a model of inclusivity because over 100 members of the House of Representatives are women, but that’s less than a quarter of the House in a country where women are slightly more than 50 percent of the population). Awards shows are lumbering beasts generally, and this one was no exception — it ran 22 minutes over its scheduled three hours, and so I didn’t watch the Lifetime movie I’d planned to turn to after it was over and looked for other stuff on the “tube” instead.