There’s something unsettling about an awards show that begins by actually announcing the winners of two awards.
No introduction of a host, no monologue, no opening number. Just two awards — for best supporting actress, Jennifer Hudson, and best original song, for caught-in-traffic Prince — and then a commercial followed by even more awards.
Most of the three hours spent handing out the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s awards were spent that way. Most of the time, though, was consumed by winners walking to the stage and then talking. As the stars thanked people from lists they pull from their pockets, the audience in the hotel ballroom may have feigned interest, but they made the second two hours of the “24” season premiere seem like a much more engaging option.
That was true until, in the third hour, the stars started to talk about each other’s genitalia.
Introducing Warren Beatty, the recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement, Tom Hanks mentioned Beatty’s nine times. “What balls this man has,” Hanks said, citing Beatty’s work. “And by ‘balls,’ I mean artistic vision.”
Later, Sacha Baron Cohen accepted the award for best actor in a musical or comedy as himself, and said that, when he made “Borat,” “I saw some dark parts of America, an ugly side of America, a side of America that rarely sees the light of day. I refer, of course, to the anus and testicles of my co-star, Ken Davitian.”
After the crowd, Davitian included, stopped laughing, the comedian addressed his co-star and switched to metaphor: “When I was in that scene, and I stared down and saw your two wrinkled Golden Globes on my chin, I thought to myself, I’d better win a bloody award for this.”
That he did, and perhaps he should win an award for best acceptance speech, too. Without losing his audience, Sacha Baron Cohen continued, “And then when my 300-pound co-star decided to sit on my face and squeeze the oxygen from my lungs, I was faced with a choice. Death, or to breathe in the air that had been trapped in a small pocket between his buttocks for 30 years. Kenneth, if it was not for that rancid bubble, I would not be here today.”
Besides such risqué yet entertaining genital references, the real entertainment during the 64th annual Golden Globes came from a mix of self-deprecation and other forms of speechifying.
Beatty used his time on the stage to poke fun at his own inadequacies, rather than self-aggrandize. “How do you think [your success] makes me feel?” Warren Beatty asked prolific director Clint Eastwood. “And you, you, you,” he said, looking at Jack Nicholson. “What is it? You just can’t resist it, can you? Gotta be great. What is it that you want to make me feel? Departed?”
While that was funny, Beatty went on far too long with his routine, even slipping into an unfortunate Borat impression. But that’s live, unscripted television: the great moments are interrupted by a lot of not very much.
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Four themes to speeches
Besides making fun of oneself, there seemed to be four different approaches that resulted in entertaining, rather than dreadful, acceptance speeches.
Slideshow: Fashion favorites Some actors made fun of the idea of awards themselves: Accepting his statue for best actor in a TV mini-series or movie, “Gideon's Daughter” star Bill Nighy said, “I used to think that prizes were damaging and divisive, until I got one. And now they seem sort of meaningful and real.”
“House” star Hugh Laurie mocked the striking similarity of everyone’s speeches. “I know everyone says they have a wonderful crew,” he said. “Logically, that can’t be the case. ... Someone, somewhere, is working with a crew of drunken thieves.”
Others make fun of their friends and colleagues — and themselves. In his introduction, Hanks also made fun of Beatty’s reputation. “It’s no secret that before Warren met his magnificent and beautiful wife, he was an irresistible Romeo,” he said, and then asked the audience for its help. “In fact, ladies, a show of hands.” Hanks counted, and then said, “Guys?”, and raised his own hand.
Slideshow: Globe winners The governor of the state of California interrupted his duties to introduce the final award and close the show — and to reference his most well-known body of work. “Don’t forget next year: We’ll be back,” Arnold Schwarzenegger said, perhaps making fun of “Terminator” persona, perhaps not.
Some stars reference national events. “Thank you to every American who has not sued me so far,” Sacha Baron Cohen said as he left the stage, referring to legal action brought by people upset by the appearance of their behavior in his film, “Borat.”
The director of the winning drama, “Babel,” Mexican-born Alejandro González Iñárritu, made perhaps the boldest political statement, because he addressed it to a politician. “I swear I have my papers in order, Governor,” he said to Schwarzenegger. “I’m scared.”
The most entertaining moments to watch, though, are the ones that come from the actors who cannot conceal their genuine excitement.
They break up the monotony of appearances by stars who babble boringly until the music swells and they’re led off the stage.
“Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes concluded her acceptance of the award for best drama by almost screaming, “I’m staring at Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman in front of me. This is surreal! Thank you — so much!”
And America Ferrera actually apologized for being so visibly thrilled to receive the best actress award for her role in “Ugly Betty.” She said, “I’m so sorry, I’m such a mess right now. I’m still getting over the shock of our first award.”
Because of its far more informal nature than other awards shows, the Golden Globes also features unexpected but revealing shots of the stars: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie cuddling, a bored-looking Donald Trump whispering to Melania as Kyra Sedgwick made the long trek to the stage, the audience chattering as Ben Stiller tried to introduce a clip, Renée Zellweger leading applause for the Hollywood Foreign Press and demonstrating that she’s been taking classes at the Paula Abdul School for Clapping Like a Seal.
Besides the upsets and surprise wins — particularly those awards that the Oscars and Emmys would never give, at least not until a television show or film has slipped into irrelevance — these unscripted moments are the real reason people tune in.
Perhaps there’s something to all of that awards show fluff, preventing the possibility of hours of boredom, of which the Globes had plenty. But when a show just lets its stars be stars, sometimes they aren’t that bright, but sometimes they shine brilliantly.
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