There is no question the Golden Globes belonged to Oprah Winfrey, whose stirring acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Life Achievement Award rocked the house and from my vantage point at Table 316 elicited about four different standing ovations during its course. If this was meant to be the kickoff to a presidential campaign, it worked. Oddsmakers BetStar just emailed a release in which it said the odds of Winfrey winning the Presidency in 2020 were just halved from 33/1 to 16/1 (over the likes of Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson, also on the Globes as a presenter, who is at 25/1).
Despite all that unexpected excitement delivered on NBC’s broadcast of the first big awards show of the season, I have to remind you there was still that other race the show may also be affecting — especially significant this year since we have had no Oscar frontrunner to boast about like last year, when La La Land smashed the competition with seven wins. But coming into Sunday night’s Globes, the race for Oscar this time around was deemed wide open. After it was all over Sunday, you would probably still have to say the same thing applies, though there was definitely momentum gained by some and lost by others.
The offbeat Martin McDonagh film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri pulled off a decisive win with four awards including Best Picture Drama, Actress in a Drama for Frances McDormand, Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell, and Screenplay. That’s an impressive haul for the Fox Searchlight film, which was considered a way bit more of a long shot than its Searchlight stablemate The Shape of Water, which took the Director prize for Guillermo del Toro as well as for its lilting musical score from Alexandre Desplat.
On the Comedy/Musical side, A24 and debuting director Greta Gerwig’s small but much loved Lady Bird grabbed Best Picture in that category as well as an Actress prize for Saoirse Ronan which I believes sets up a battle royale contest for the Oscar between previous winner for Fargo McDormand (who is doing this all without lifting a finger to campaign) and two-time nominee Ronan, with Shape Of Water’s Sally Hawkins remaining the wild card there. And on a night that was all about women, it seemed appropriate somehow that the two big winning movies were both strongly female-driven in many ways, as was the big winner on the TV side, Big Little Lies.
These results carry particular weight this year. There can be no question, as Oscar balloting has only been open for two days and continues all week, that these well-timed Globe wins set both of the Best Picture winners as potential frontrunners in a race that hasn’t had any. But that distinction could be short-lived depending on how the Critics’ Choice Awards go Thursday in the next stop on the awards circuit. In fact, as I sit her writing this early Monday morning, I just received an email informing me that CCA movie voting is now open through Tuesday night (I am a member of that group), proving there is no rest, or relief , for the awards-weary.
Should Three Billboards prevail in Critics’ Choice, and a week later at the SAG Awards where it has three key nominations, then it will instantly become the Oscar frontrunner that has eluded us all season long. However, The Shape Of Water has a whopping 14 nominations from Critics’ Choice, indicating it may be the one to beat there. Then of course we have Big Kahuna entries like Steven Spielberg’s The Post and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which both took a hit by being completely shut out last night.
The Post producer Amy Pascal looked a bit shell-shocked when I spoke briefly with her at the Fox party immediately afterwards. “What does that all mean,” she asked as she entered the room, which also happened to have the big winners of the night with Three Billboards and Shape of Water from Searchlight both triumphing, while heavyweight contenders like Spielberg and Nolan had no opportunity to have their considerable attributes pointed out in acceptance speeches as many Oscar voters were watching.
Of course, beginning with host Seth Meyers’ sharp, pointed, take-no-prisoners monologue, this night was about more than winners and losers and who goes home with a statuette. It belonged lock, stock and barrel to women, and if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had feared all those black evening gowns might have turned the night into something resembling a funeral, they should not have worried — it was just the opposite.
From the vantage point of being on the carpet and in the room, and as McDormand also noted in her speech, it was positively inspiring and among the most upbeat and thrilling awards shows I have ever attended. This one had a larger purpose as it turns out. “What a night. We are never going back, it will never be the same,” Meryl Streep told me as she entered the room after the show — by the end of the night she was among many ready to wear Winfrey campaign pins to go right along with their “Time’s Up” buttons that were everywhere, on both men and women.
What also struck me at the event was just how different all those black gowns, both onstage and all over the room, could look. I don’t pay much attention to the fashion angle of these kudofests, but this time I was knocked out. In a year where the actual awards horse race remains shrouded in shades of gray, the starker vision presented by those at this ceremony was striking and moving. “In a way this is kind of like going to the Black and White ball, ” The Post screenwriter Josh Singer observed as he entered the Beverly Hilton ballroom, adding that appropriately Post publisher Katherine Graham had been integral to the first Black and White ball, and a scene was shot for the film re-creating it (it was not used in the finished cut).
The mood at all the (many) after-parties I attended was buoyant as long lines formed to get into soirees thrown by Fox, HBO, Amazon, Focus Features (where Gary Oldman was holding court after winning his first Golden Globe on the inevitable march to Oscar), Warner Bros/In Style, and over at the new Waldorf Astoria for Netflix and the NBC bash. This night is always like going to Disneyland for Hollywood, and if that is the correct analogy then the Fox and HBO parties with all their winners were like trying to get into Space Mountain. Say what you want about the HFPA, they do know how to throw a party, and by insisting it stay in this venue it holds a unique place during the season. In fact, even if you don’t have an invite to any of the after- parties, you can just hang out in the lobby as Golden Globe winners and nominees traverse the landscape.
That’s actually where I ran smack into a very excited Guillermo del Toro, who told me he was beyond thrilled with his directing win for Shape of Water, even if the film itself which has the most nominations coming into last night fell short in the Best Picture Drama category that closed the show. That lobby also started looking like an airport lounge as the night got later and attendees collected their “gift bags,” which were actually heavy suitcases on rollers stuffed with goodies like electric nose-hair removers.
It was there I ran into songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul as we all set off to find the valet stand. In addition to the “gift suitcase” they were holding their brand new Golden Globes. The La La Land lyricists won for the second year in a row, this time for their stirring anthem from The Greatest Showman called “This Is Me.” A more appropriate song to sum up the “fighting back” spirit of the evening I can’t imagine. As Streep said, Hollywood isn’t going back, and if the Golden Globes didn’t provide complete clarity to who ultimately may turn into winners at the Oscars on March 4, it doesn’t really matter. This night will be remembered for so much more.