Well, the Golden Globes just kind of cemented it, didn’t they?
By awarding a record 7 Globes out of 7 nominations the Hollywood Foreign Press Association helped erase whatever doubt there was (and WAS there any?) that La La Land was the one to beat at this year’s Oscars. Usually the comedy/musical category is for the second-tier contenders, but this time that wasn’t the case. La La dominated the 74th Annual Golden Globes with a jaw-dropping command that started with a rare, unprecedented musical takeoff on the movie that not only was expertly done, but set the tone for a La La sweep that also swept the Damien Chazelle-written and directed musical into Globe record books, breaking the mark set by One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in 1976 and Midnight Express in 1979.
For the record Moonlight winning Best Picture Drama (and nothing else), Elle taking Best Foreign Language Film and Best Drama Actress for deserving star Isabelle Huppert, and Casey Affleck landing a predictable Best Drama Actor trophy as Manchester By The Sea‘s sole win also got their moment on the movie side of things but their victories were completely overshadowed by the La La parade.
To say this was a happy bunch of campers would be an understatement, but they clearly haven’t lost sight of what brought them here in the first place, a passionate belief in the first original movie musical to have a shot at the Best Picture Oscar since Gigi in 1958. This is genuinely a nice bunch of talented artists who aren’t letting any of this go to their heads. In fact, they seem hard-pressed to believe it is really happening to them, kind of like the dreams scenario that is at the center of this movie that also recently took eight Critics Choice awards and seems poised to land a near record number of Academy Award nominations when they are announced on January 24. I would venture to guess a minimum of 13 with a real shot at a record-tying 14 (achieved only by Titanic and All About Eve) if it can pick up two Best Song noms instead of just one, a tall order in this extremely competitive year for tunes.
Then there is the prospect of not IF La La Land wins big on Oscar night, but just how many. West Side Story currently holds the record of 10 Oscars out of 11 nominations to be the most ever wins for a musical. And in fact it also took a special award for co-director/choreographer Jerome Robbins to make it really 11 wins. That’s what this film is looking at, a sweep of the proportion we haven’t seen in a while. Of course things can change and the Globes hasn’t had a sterling track record of late in predicting which way the Oscar winds might blow (The Revenant won over eventual Oscar winner Spotlight last year) so the situation may be fluid, but the sheer impressive power of this win is telling, and for the first time in years the Globes may have a significant effect on the Oscar race as those nomination ballots are still out until Friday, a full five days after all the Globes hoopla. That is a much larger amount of time that usual to have Oscar ballots still out after Globes are done.
At an after-party La La Land choreographer Mandy Moore told me she put that Globe opening number together in just the last three days with stars like Nicole Kidman coming in their Globe gown and makeup to participate in the taped piece that would open the show in such a smart way that the Oscar producers must have been crying when they saw it. The Academy Awards don’t like to be upstaged by the Globes, and rarely are, but this dead-on perfect takeoff on the year’s big awards movie was one for the ages.
As for the show itself, I can only speak from the vantage point, to paraphrase Hamilton, of sitting in the room where it happens, and where it happens makes this one of the most fun events of the year, a loose party-like and convivial atmosphere that is anything but pretentious. I know those watching on TV had other opinions, but from my perch it all worked, even if host Jimmy Fallon’s teleprompter didn’t. And that first award for Best Supporting Actor in a Movie to Aaron Taylor Johnson for Nocturnal Animals was a real genuine surprise. Hell, his nomination was a surprise, but certainly a deserved one. The fact that he stopped the Mahershala Ali Moonlight freight train to the Dolby stage, as well as Huppert derailing Natalie Portman for Best Drama Actress adds a degree of intrigue into each of those races.
Globe Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis on the other hand has only to sit back and wait until the envelope is opened February 26th and her name is called as an Oscar winner. I particularly liked her wry comment about this being her fifth nomination despite always going to the luncheons and taking all the requisite photos with HFPA members. Affleck seems pretty safe now too, although Comedy /Musical Best Actor Gosling scored big points with a touching acceptance speech, something for which the platform of the Golden Globes is also so important.
On the TV side of things the Globes did their usual bit in honoring whatever is completely brand new like Comedy and Drama winners Atlanta and The Crown. Given finally the chance to honor a genuine new drama series contender on their own network with This Is Us, the HFPA went with Netflix instead, a real missed opportunity for a fine new broadcast network show that makes NBC proud as a peacock. Also I want to give a shout out to the HFPA for rectifying a terrible wrong on the part of the Emmys (an award that I vote for) which ignored the sterling cast of AMC’s The Night Manager, but at the Globes Tom Hiddleston, Olivia Colman and Hugh Laurie all won deserving honors for their flawless performances. Laurie had a great line, to which Meryl Streep later referred, when he said this could be the last Golden Globes as it has Hollywood, Foreign, and Press all in its title, one of many Trump-bashing moments.
But as is being widely discussed, for me the absolute highlight of this show was that acceptance speech by Streep for the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Life Achievement. Her comments aimed at President-Elect Donald Trump for making fun of a disabled reporter were right on the money, and her observation about all the various actors who may not be out of the cookie cutter mold also hit home. “If all of these Hollywood foreigners get kicked out you will have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts,” she said while calling on the town to support the Committee to Protect Journalists. She also was particularly moving in a brief tribute to Carrie Fisher who wrote the Streep film Postcards From The Edge. “As my dear departed Princess Leia said to me, ‘Take your broken heart and make it into art’.”
In the official program that was at our table there were pages with welcoming remarks from Governor Jerry Brown and President Barack Obama. It’s a good bet after the bashing Trump took on this show that we won’t be seeing that “welcoming” letter from him in next year’s program. But who cares? This year’s GG crop was a very fine group of winners as far as I am concerned and the HFPA should be proud as we move into the Guilds and Oscar final phases of a very long season.