' ' Cinema Romantico: The Meaningless Golden Globes

Monday, January 08, 2018

The Meaningless Golden Globes

When Natalie Portman took the stage with Ron Howard to present the Best Director Award at Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards, the duo concluded their scripted banter and then Natalie Portman leaned into the mic to introduce the introduction of the nominees and said, with emphasis in just the right place, “Here are the five male nominees”, dropping the mic by merely stepping back from it. Any air that was not subsequently sucked from the room was filled with laughter, a little of it uneasy, perhaps, but a lot of it liberated, the kind of unfettered guffaws you sometimes hear when a comedian simultaneously threads the comic and social needles so dexterously that the zero fucks clarity of the truth engenders the laughter. After all, at an awards show where women were wearing black in solidarity after a year of reckoning that was a long time coming in an industry eternally besieged by egregious males and sexual harrassment, no women were nominated for Best Director despite several worthy candidates.

In the wake of Portman going Activist at the Improv, the camera cut to Guillermo del Toro, first nominee, and he had this dazed look on his face, one that sort of said, “Oh. Well. I guess it’s all our [as in, the nominees] fault.” And del Toro, to be fair, was caught off guard, and he directed a fine movie and gave a fine victory speech, but he himself is Mexican, and so I think he must be coming from a place of understanding, and so even in the midst of that taken aback facial expression I would like to believe that deep down and after the fact he knew this moment was, simply, bigger than him. Indeed, if awards shows like the Globes – particularly like the Globes – are often lamented as meaningless, well, Portman, in that ad lib, gave glorious life to that lament. She rendered the Best Director award as meaningless. It felt so good.

It was that kind of night, one where women did not steal the show but assume control of the show from the outset. Women walked the red carpet with activists, like Michelle Williams eschewing Busy Phillips as her All-Time Awards Show Date to bring Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, to transform vapid pre-awards show small talk into conversation. Frances McDormand, who won Best Dramatic Actress, shunned hair and makeup, and in a world where women so often can’t even leave the house for a cup of coffee without applying makeup for fear of the paparazzi snapping photos for the whole world to scroll through and judge in a half-second, probably while stuffing frozen pizza in their mouths and watching Reality TV, this felt like the most radical act of the night. Ashley Judd, bonafide hero, was seated right down front, rightfully taking the role of First Awards Show Guest from Jack Nicholson. Laura Dern won Best Supporting Actress for a TV Series and asked – nay, demanded – that the industry promote restorative justice. Dudes simply wearing Time’s Up buttons, in other words, was not enough. Dern was telling them to give women who were suppressed goddam jobs, and I thought of Judd, whose seat was nice, sure, but who deserves a leading role in a primo movie and deserves it right the hell now.

Ah, but this was still the Golden Globes, and they, to paraphrase Rose DeWitt Bukater, can always be counted upon. When Ms. McDormand took the stage, she said she was going to say some things, which apparently freaked out the lily-liver with the bleep button so much he kept jumping the gun and sort of inadvertently silenced her. Allison Janney won Best Supporting Actress for “I, Tonya”, which fair enough, but the film’s real-life subject, former figure skater Tonya Harding, was in attendance. And if Ms. Harding was unfairly put through the wringer by the media, well, so was Nancy Kerrigan, a victim just as much, if not more than, Harding. Then there was Kirk Douglas, brought on stage in a wheelchair to bask in adulation for the simple fact, I guess, that he is 102. Except that Douglas’s past where women are concerned is, uh, dubious, and even if some of that is, shall we say, innuendo, and even if Douglas has acknowledged his sins, on a night when Oprah Winfrey called upon men to “listen” to women, his appearance came across rather tone deaf. (Recently christened Dame Olivia de Havilland recently turned 101. Was she not available?)

Ah, but Oprah. Her speech took the baton from Meryl Streep’s speech last year, which was fine in its own right, though Oprah’s felt more expansive and considered, talking about Recy Taylor as well as the activism of Rosa Parks beyond merely refusing to give up her seat on that bus, which seemed a moving, necessary reclamation of the legacy of Parks after a certain jackanapse a couple years ago cited her as the person he would put on the ten dollar bill (well, after his daughter) though I doubt he could have even told you anything she did other than refuse to stand. Then Winfrey mentioned Recy Taylor’s death 10 days ago as a means to meld the whole night’s theme with the larger theme. She said: “(Taylor) lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.” With that last line reading Winfrey could have drawn blood.

Maybe she’s right. I hope she is, though I suspect Winfrey would be the first to tell you that for all the positive, if difficult, steps taken in just a few months that the entire guts of the industry must be exhumed and laid to waste, which will not be easy, for true change to unfold. Still, Oprah is a grand orator, and when she spoke of a new day on the horizon, it was hard not to believe.

Oprah, by the way, was there to collect the Cecil D. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, but by the end of the speech, that statue seemed so far beside the point. So did all the awards. And if I have never quite understood those who roll their eyes at the pointlessness of awards season, since the pointlessness is just sort of baked in from the beginning, this pointlessness felt different. At the end, “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” won Best Dramatic Picture, seeming to ignite debate among the pundit ranks, but while I normally loathe the “Who Gives A Shit?” riposte since something so inherently pointless anyway in the so-called Grand Scheme would seem to naturally cancel out that question, in the wake of all these awesome women speaking their minds, all I could think was, Who Gives A Shit?

I turned off the telecast with visions of Portman attending the Academy Awards and putting cherry bombs in all the toilets in the men’s bathrooms. Here’s hoping.

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