Spinning global guilt from the Golden Globes

As Ricky Gervais tears a strip off Hollywood, the stars strive for sincerity at a bash overshadowed by Haiti.

This is a live-to-tape blog. Written in real time offline while watching the Golden Globe Awards and cleaned up (and tarted up) the morning-after so it’s less boring and at least semi-coherent. Gotta love the Globes. Acceptance speeches keep getting undercut by dark hints that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) is one of the more corrupt awards outfits on the planet, a cabal of obscure junketeers who are (ahem) prone to influence, even if it’s just face time with a superstar. But Hollywood has appropriated the HFPA’s event as a party and a publicity orgy. And for the stars, this dress rehearsal for the Academy Awards is way more fun and less formal than Oscar night. They can get loaded on champagne then let the emotions fly on the podium. Plus it brings together film and TV, even though the TV folk get treated like minor league players.

Our host, a TV genius who has made the jump to the big screen with a movie unrecognized by the Globes (The Invention of Lying), is Ricky Gervais. He comes out swinging. Takes repeated shots at Steve Carell, then plugs a boxed DVD set of The Office, his breakout BBC series, which he says is better than Carell’s U.S. spin-off. Carrel mouths “I’m going to kill you,” making a joke of it, but frankly, he looks unamused.

“I will be making the most of this opportunity,” says Gervais. “I’m not used to these viewing figures. Another is NBC.” [This will be the first of many swipes at the train-wreck network. The other constant reference to NBC is in the frequent pleas to donate to the Haiti relief effort. Presenters ritually ask viewers to go to NBC.com. So this morning I did go to NBC.com, expecting some serious hype for charity. What do you know, amid all the glitz ads promoting Jay Leno and various NBC programming triumphs, I found a tiny, unadorned “Donate to Haiti Relief” box , which takes up maybe two percent of the NBC home page.]

Gervais’s nothing-to-lose monologue veers into blue territory as he praises the great work done this year . . . by cosmetic surgeons, then talks about his penis reduction surgery. “Just got the one now. And it is very tiny.  But so are my hands. So when I’m holding it, it looks pretty big. And let’s face it I usually am holding it. I wish I was doing that now, instead of this, to be honest.”

Gervais deflates the glitz with satirical flattery. Actors, he deadpans, are “the most extraordinary people on the planet.….Actors aren’t just loved here in Hollywood, they’re loved the world over because they’re recognizable. You can be in the Third World and you get a glimpse of a Hollywood star and it makes you feel better. ‘You can be a little child, a little Asian child, with no possessions, no money – but you see a picture of Angelina Jolie and you think, ‘Mummy!’ ” Then: “Let’s get on with it before NBc replaces me with Jay Leno.” [Angelina and Brad were not in the room.]

Nicole comes out to present supporting actress and announces George Clooney’s  Haiti telethon. [George, who wearing a beard, seems to be smirking and hiding all night, as if he finds this whole Globes business embarrassing in light of what’s going on elsewhere on the real globe.]

Predictably, Mo’Nique wins Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for her powerhouse performance in Precious. Even as she’s delivering her speech, you know this is the emotional highpoint of the night. After thanking God, with so much conviction it’s as if he was on the red carpet with her, she says, “I am in the midst of my dream,” tears in her eyes from the word go. And when I look into the eyes of the man I stood next to at 14 years old and I said to him, ‘One day we’re going to be stars, and he said, ‘You first.’ ”

Jeez, even I’m getting weepy as Mo’Nique dams up an ocean of emotion with words that seem to be channeling the entire weight of Marin Luther King. As she dedicates her award to all the Preciouses and Marys, the abused and the abusers, she’s like a hard-core Oprah, the Big Mamma Redeemer forgiving and embracing the whole world at once.

Then we’re back in the real world with a bunch of TV people accepting and thanking countless industry people. John Lithgow has a long, long list.

Gervais draws some boos from the audience as he makes a crack about Paul McCartney’s costly divorce. And Paul McCartney introduces himself as Paul McCartney or as I’m now known, that guy from [the video game] Rock Band. In presenting the award for Best Animated Feature, Paul gives a plug for Yellow Submarine and for drugs “Animation is not just for children,” he says. “It’s also for adults who take drugs, so lets take a look at the films that were nominated by drug-taking adults.” And Up wins the Golden Globe. I loved Up. But I like to think I liked ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ more. Up, I guess, had more magic and emotion, if less wit, and that’s what wins awards. The movie’s animation director who nobody’s heard of gives an earnest speech, cut off by the orchestra as he pays ultimate homage the Orwellian master: “thanks to our friends at Disney, you guys really are our greatest adventure.” God save us.

Gervais sips from a beer that he keeps under the podium. He takes a savage swipe at the hand that feeds him: “One thing that can’t be bought is a Golden Globe, officially—I’m not going to do this again anyway—If you were to buy one, the man to see would be Philip Burke.” Nice way to introduce the president of the HFPA, who is further introduced by a hapless Felicity Huffman, who stumbles twice before spitting out that the HFPA has donated a bunch of money to charity.

Philip Burke finally comes on, resembling nothing so much as a vampire, and says the Globes’ 67 years is “an impressive number.” He looks like he’s been undead much longer than that.

Julianna Margulies wins an acting prize for the Good Wife, and takes a backhanded slap at NBC: “Thank-you for [CBS prez] Les Moonves for believing in the 10 o’clock drama.”

Harrison Ford comes on as a presenter, more dazed and confused than ever. His reputation as a stoner precedes him, and he looks positively ripped, teetering on the end of that thousand-yard stare.

Ah, now some real cheesy glamor, the kind Oscar abandoned years ago. Cher and Christina Aguilera come out. Cher says, “We’re shamelessly promoting burleslque. ” Aguilera is in a dress that has a silver swirl across the bodice, exposing one breast which is sheathed in something pink , and Cher in a kind of dominatrix-y lace-up thing. (Sorry, I shouldn’t be reporting on fashion.)

T Bone Burnett comes up, looking dazed and confused in shades, to accept Best Song for Crazy Heart, which is turning out to be the sleeper hit of the awards season, with Jeff Bridges emerging as an Oscar favorite for best actor.

Two producers of HBO’s Grey Gardens give the longest acceptance speech in history, thank a thousand people, including (eventually) Canada’s Patricia Rozema, who co-wrote it.

Despite competing with herself—nominated for two movies as Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical, Meryl Streep wins for Julie & Julia. “I want to change my name to T-bone, T-Bone Streep,” she says. “Oh gosh. I’m going to forget what I wanted to say. What was my first part? Yeah I love Nora [Ephron]. In my long career I’ve played so many extraordinary women that I’m getting mistaken for one.” Her modesty is just warming up: “I’m the vessel for other people’s stories and other women’s lives.” The more regal Meryl gets, the more humble she becomes. And she goes on to deliver a heartfelt tribute to her mother: In playing “one of the most beloved women in America, Julia Child . . . I also secretly got to pay homage to my  my mother, who was of the same generation as Julia and shared her verve and had a real joy of living and had no patience for doom and gloom and doom. I’m not like that. . . . I’m conflicted how to have my happy movie self in face of everything that I’m aware of in this real world. That’s when I have my mother’s voice come to me. . . ‘Put a dress on and put on a smile.’ ”

As the night wears on, the speeches get gushier. Everyone is stepping up to the plate, trying to express emotions that somehow won’t seem puny next to the Haitian tragedy, even if it seems in bad taste to invoke Haiti directly in the same sentence as thanking your hairdresser.

Mums and Dads are also riding high. As Jason Reitman takes the screenplay prize for Up in the Air, he looks over to his pop, Ivan, and delivers a glowing tribute. As for Clooney, he says, “George doesn’t even want to be here tonight,” explaining that he just wants to be on a sound stage preparing his Haiti telethon.

Looking like a stranger-than-fiction living sculpture, a walking talking patisserie, living legend Sophia Loren comes up and draws a standing ovation as she awards best foreign-language film to Michael Haneke for The White Ribbon. Haneke: “I don’t know how to express how I’m impressed.” The camera cuts to Arnold Schwartznegger,  I guess because he, too, is Austrian.

Chloe Sevigny wins an actress award for Big Love, but is almost apoplectic as a guy steps on her dress. “I can’t believe he just ripped my dress!”

Christoph Waltz gives the world’s most over-thought acceptance speech in history for Inglourious Bastards: “A year and a half ago I was exposed to the gravitational forces of Quentin Tarantino, and he took my modest little world and with the power of his talent and his words and his vision he flung it into his orbit…This whole planetary system of collaborators assembled around Quentin Quentin made a big bang of a movie and I wouldn’t have dared to dream that my little world, my globe, would be part of that constellation.” Huh? Was he in Star Wars?

Martin Scorsese’s successive proteges,  De Niro and DiCaprio, pay tribute to their Godfather, presenting him with the Cecil B. De Mille Award. So many De’s.  De Niro is uncharacteristically voluble. “We’re like a married couple,” he says of him and Marty. “We had a great life together, we’ve got great memories, we just don’t sleep together.” De Niro goes onto talk about black and white emulsions and hot 35 mm stock, saying, “I’ve hear there’s even videos on the internet of Marty having sex with film.”  DiCaprio follows it by saying: “Scorsese, sex, film canister, I guess I know who we’re going to be youtubing tonight.”

The tribute montage for Scorsese is brilliant—but marred when it turns into an extended trailer for his new movie, Shutter Island, which was bumped from the awards season and will open this year. Not a good sign.

Ricky Gervais is now openly clutching his beer at the podium, and it becomes a prop for the next gag: “I hope I haven’t offended anyone,” he says. “It’s not my fault. I like a drink as much as the next man, unless the next man is Mel Gibson….”

James Cameron, his hair in a floppy surf do, wins best director for Avatar, and he gracefully thanks his main competition, ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker):  “I’m going to try to make this as brief as I can..I’m not prepared because I thought Kathyrn was going to get.”  Then he starts talking in Na’vi. This man I see you, my brother and my sisters’ – speaks in Na’vi. In Na’vi!  I don’t know about the champagne, but the man has definitely drunk his own Kool Aid.

A positively weird Mickey Rourke, peering out from under a cowboy hat, hands the best actress prize for a movie drama to Sandra Bullock, who is a bit incredulous. “Please don’t make Ricky Gervais be right, do I have to thanks those who bought this for me?”

Robert Downy Jr. accepts best actor in a comedy or musical for Sherlock Holmes, and quotes a Conan Doyle line about blood and art: “Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms. That’s why I would like to thank the Hollywood foreign press because they are a strange bunch and now I’m one of them.”

Kate Winslet presents best actor in a movie drama to Jeff Bridges, who doesn’t seem to have shaken the washed-up country-singer character he plays in Crazy Heart. A good old boy with a Colonel Sanders goatee, he looks more like Robert Altman every day, “You really stirred up my underappreicated status here,” he says, then delivers a heartfelt tribute to his wife, dad and recently deceased mother.

When Avatar wins for best picture, the camera captures a crestfallen  look on the young, eager face of  Jason Reitman.

Cameron is no longer proclaiming himself King of the World. Now, in the earnestly green spirit of his movie, it’s all about the little people. “This is the best job in the world,” he says, “I just want you to give it up for yourselves. What we do is we make entertainment for a global audience.” Then he talks about Pandora as being the gateway to magic. Hey, Disney, watch your back. James has the keys to the new Magic Kingdom

Ricky by now is on cruise control, the barbs blunted by beer. But he delivers one last shot in bidding us goodnight. Says that what he wants more than anything is world peace. Then corrects himself and offers one last satirical plug: “I want everybody to watch The Ricky Gervais Show.”


Some of you who saw an earlier draft of this blog were stunned to read a remark about the black hat worn by Dexter star  Michael C. Hall. Outraged comments began to pour in as soon as it was posted. Mr. Hall recently announced that he was diagnosed with cancer—something I was unaware of when I wrote the blog. My editors immediately removed the reference and the comments to avoid creating further offence. Now we realize we should have offered an explanation and an apology. Even in light of my ignorance, the crack about Mr. Hall was ill-advised. Under the circumstances, it was unforgivable. Please allow me to convey my sincere apologies to Mr. Hall, to the readers who alerted us to the error, and to all those who were affected by it.

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