The Hollywood Foreign Press handed out the Golden Globe awards a few nights ago, which means we are officially in the thick of Oscar season. While the Oscar nominations won’t be announced until January 22nd, last night’s Globe awards may tell us something about which films the Academy will favor this year. He’s my breakdown of the best and worst moments from the show.
- Glenn Close wins Best Actress drama for The Wife. In The Wife, Glenn Close is Joan Archer, a female writer whose accomplishments are overshadowed and outrightly co-opted by her husband, played with a delicious and nefarious flair by Jonathan Pryce. As the film begins, Joseph (Jonathan Pryce) has just learned he has won the Nobel prize for literature. The story uses the events surrounding the award as a lens to explore the complexities of the couple’s 40-year marriage. Joseph and Joan met when he was a professor at Smith College and she was his literature student (and an aspiring young writer herself). The dynamics of their relationship may bear some resemblance to real-life literary couple Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. We as viewers are never quite sure what Joan’s true feelings are about giving up her own career to support her husband’s (until perhaps the film’s closing scene, which I’m still mulling over). I don’t consider The Wife to be a great film, but Close’s performance here is nothing short of a powerhouse and one of the best in her legendary career. I wanted Close for best actress here, but worried a bit she would be outrun by Lady Gaga in A Star is Born (the Globes love a fresh face and A Star Is Born was a movie seen by the masses, while The Wife saw only a short, limited release in select markets). I’m so thankful Close won because she gave the speech of the night, reflecting on women of previous generations, who like her character in The Wife, had little choice but to define themselves in relation to the men in their lives. In her speech, Close articulated what her character Joan could not: “We have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, I can do that and I should be allowed to do that.” There was also a great moment between Close and Michael Douglas (her Fatal Attraction co-star) on the way to the stage. Glenn Close definitely won’t be ignored come Oscar night. Glenn Close is delightful.
- Rami Malek wins for Bohemian Rhapsody. Bohemian Rhapsody is not a great, best-picture worthy film (see my “worst” list), but Rami Malek’s performance in it is nothing short of award worthy. On the surface, Bohemian Rhapsody is little more than a dramatized two hour Behind the Music on the origin of Queen and the inspiration for their extensive catalog of songs, but dig a little deeper and it’s really about Freddie Mercury arriving, over the course of two decades, at his authentic self (and Malek plays every beat of that personal journey with perfection). There are some departures here that may rifle Queen purists, but Malek is the emotional engine and heart of this film. He’s a dyed in the wool chameleon-like character actor who is now on everyone’s radar thanks to last night’s win.
- Patricia Clarkson wins for Sharp Objects. Sharp Objects, HBO’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s expertly crafted mystery/horror novel about a reporter who returns to the small Southern town she grew up in to investigate the disappearance of several children, was my favorite television offering of 2018. Don’t make any mistake about it: Amy Adams as reporter Camille is the core of Sharp Objects, but her performance is augmented beautifully by Patricia Clarkson as Aurora, Camille’s scheming and mysterious mother. Clarkson offers a performance that at times channels both Blanche Dubois and Scarlett O’Hara. It may take you a few episodes to figure out what exactly Clarkson’s is doing with this character, but by mid-season she’ll haunt your nightmares.
- Christian Bale’s acceptance speech. Bale can be a bit brash and off the cuff (remember his early 2000 era on set rant from Terminator), but his awards show speeches are always worth watching. Bale won for his role as Dick Cheney in Vice, where he’s nearly unrecognizable as the titular former vice president and (if you believe the film’s narrative of events) the true architect of the Iraq War. Bale wants us to be angry at this Tarantino-esque, real life “Inglorious Basterd” who transformed the role of the vice presidency by assuming unprecedented power and said as much in his rambling (perhaps a bit drunken) speech. Note to Hollywood: get on that Mitch McConnell biopic with Bale as the lead stat.
- Regina King. If Beale Street Could Talk is an excellent film, every bit as noteworthy as director Barry Jenkins’s previous award winner Moonlight. King is the emotional heart of the film and a standout in a cast of stellar performances. She’s also someone who’s had a long Hollywood career and elevates every role she is cast in, so it’s nice to finally see her rewarded with some Golden Globe (and hopefully Oscar) gold. I strongly feel that Beale Street will be a film that Oscars will love.
- Seacrest on the Red Carpet. Ryan Seacrest has recently fielded sexual harassment allegations of his own, so it’s incredibly awkward to watch him to interview people like Regina King about the Time’s Up movement (while wearing a Time’s Up bracelet himself).
- Bohemian Rhapsody wins best drama. Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t a bad movie, but beyond Malek’s performance/character arc it’s little more than a 2 hour music video that chronicles the origin of Queen songs and glosses over some important elements of the band’s history (the real reason Queen was left off the invite list to LiveAid initially was because they had played shows in apartheid-era South Africa, which did little to endear them to LiveAid organizer Bob Geldoff). There’s also a scene that implies Queen is breaking up in part because of Mercury’s flamboyance, a perspective which has been widely criticized in media dissections of the film. Bohemian Rhapsody is quite enjoyable, but even with Rami Malek’s star-making turn it’s the weakest overall film to win the best drama category a while. It’s nice to see Malek, Brian May, and Roger Taylor onstage together though.
- Peter Farrelly’s acceptance speech. I like Peter Farrelly. I also liked Green Book, which tells the story of a jazz pianist (Mahershala Ali) and his Italian chauffeur (Viggo Mortensen) who go on a tour of the American south together in the 1950s. Green Book is very much a film that looks at issues of race relations from a personal perspective without examining the systemic forces that also contribute to these problems (think Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron in The Blind Side). The film’s story is powerful and Mahershala Ali is perennially excellent, but Green Book adopts a simplistic view of race that was echoed in Farrelly’s acceptance speech. His impassioned plea of “let’s all just get alone better” comes off as a bit naive in a world where there are groups of people who are actively working at keeping down other groups of people to preserve an existing hegemony. Farrelly had good intentions and his speech was earnest, but solving these problems unfortunately isn’t as simple as he portrays.
- Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg as hosts. While I appreciate Sandra Oh’s powerful comments on the importance of representation in Hollywood and the awards circuit, Samberg and Oh were otherwise pretty stale hosts. Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler were a bright spot in a ceremony otherwise populated by people who seemed less than enthusiastic to be there. Please let Rudolph/Poehler host next year.
- Not letting Jeff Bridges talk longer. Yes, I know he talked a good long time in his acceptance of the Cecille B. DeMille award for career achievement, but I always think there’s just too little Jeff Bridges in the public sphere. I’m gonna need a weekly podcast, a blog, something that will give me a more regular dose of the real-life Dude’s thoughts on the universe, Buckminster Fuller, and perhaps selecting the best rug for my living room.
Early Oscar predictions based on the Globes: A Star Is Born looked like a frontrunner in early awards seasons predictions, but the Oscar field has gotten quite a bit more crowded since early October. My prediction is the film probably won’t see Oscar recognition beyond best song for “Shallow” (although Gaga could always pull off a win in the best actress category). Look for both If Beale Street to Talk and The Favourite (with its strong trifecta of female performances) to get a good bit of Oscar love. Widows, a film that didn’t get any Globes recognition but is a powerhouse action film with an arthouse aesthetic from director Steve McQueen, may also make its way into the Oscar fray (in particular Viola Davis’s lead performance as a widow who must answer for the crimes of her deceased husband). Best actor is probably the hardest category to predict right now, but Malek has some momentum going into the Oscars.
Disclaimer: as with all blog posts, views here are my own.