Last night's Golden Globes Awards ceremony was a study in diplomacy the UN might envy. It wasn't a sweep for any one of the front-running films in contention. Instead, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association doled out individual kudos with even-handed precision—sometimes to a surprising degree.
Biggest surprise of the evening was probably Martin Scorsese winning Best Director for Hugo, even though Hugo did not go on to win Best Picture in its category. (The Globes split the top nominees—Picture, Actor and Actress—into two categories, Drama and Comedy Or Musical. And the divide between the two is often, um, tenuous, as it was this year with the fanciful, slapstick-laden Hugo nominated in the Drama category, and the bittersweet My Week With Marilyn relegated to the Comedy list. Still, semantics aside, I liked Hugo a lot, and a Scorsese win for this love letter to early moviemaking is okay by me.)
Anyway, The Descendants won for Best Picture (Drama), which means its director, Alexander Payne, was shut out. Ditto director Michel Hazanavicius, whose film, The Artist, won Best Picture in the Comedy/Musical category. But I guess it was just their bad luck to be up against Scorsese, who is so beloved by the HFPA that he also won Best Director in 2007 for The Departed, even though something else won the Best Picture award that year too.
(Look out, George and Shailene. Someone might be gaining on you...)
As to this year's winners, looks like it's game-on for a showdown between The Descendants and The Artist for next month's Oscars. Both films scored multiple wins at the Globes, including Best Actor awards for their respective leading men, George Clooney (Drama) and Jean Dujardin (Comedy/Musical).
The Artist also picked up an award for its Jazz Age/romantica musical score by Ludovic Bource (an especially crucial element in a silent film), despite his controversial use of Bernard Herrmann's love theme from Vertigo (all rights legally purchased, Hazanavicius contends).
(The Artist gets ready to muscle into the Oscar nominations.)
Best Actress winners Meryl Streep, for The Iron Lady (Drama) and Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn (so-called Comedy/Musical) also seem poised to duke it out at the Oscars. Meanwhile, the HFPA doled out small, considerate appeasements to some of its other multiple nominees. The Help picked up a Supporting Actress award for Octavia Spencer. Woody Allen won a best Screenplay award for my favorite film of the year, Midnight In Paris. In what might have been the nicest surprise, Christopher Plummer won the Supporting Actor prize for the under-nominated Beginners—and delivered an excellent, eloquent acceptance speech into the bargain.
Less happy surprises of the evening: how did Scorsese fail to mention Georges Melies in his acceptance speech about the history of movies and film preservation? (Most of the Hugo film clip featured Scorsese's re-creation of Melies' sequences.) And how did Clooney fail to mention his teenage co-star and fellow nominee, Shailene Woodley? Sure, he thanked his "whole cast," but a lesser actress in the pivotal role of Clooney's eldest daughter would have made the entire film less persuasive.
But overall, I'm content with this year's Globes. Nothing really egregious won in any major category. (Well, I'm not sure about that tinny dance-mix pop tune Madonna wrote for her Edward VIII/Mrs. Simpson movie, W. E., set in the elegant 1930s.) And, for once, a lot of my favorite movies of the year seem ready to make a splash at the Oscars. Those nominations will be announced Tuesday, January 24. Stay tuned ...
(Top: Martin Scorsese. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill.)