For a moment there, we almost took the Golden Globes seriously.
That moment lasted from Dec. 6, when the Globes' diverse and daring list of best dramatic film nominees were announced, to Jan. 6, when we found out who won. For that month in between, the Globes looked culturally tuned-in and surprisingly relevant, having named three movies with black directors and largely black casts — “BlacKkKlansman,” “Black Panther” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” — as contenders for the top prize. Color wasn't the only barrier crossed in that category: “Black Panther,” the kind of popular superhero movie that gets snubbed during awards season, seemed to achieve a new legitimacy for its genre just by being nominated. The message to the Oscars, stinging from years of criticism over racial bias and cultural elitism, seemed clear.
Then came the ceremony. None of those films won, though Regina King earned a supporting actress award for “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Peter Farrelly's “Green Book,” a well-crafted but somewhat safe-feeling drama about the Civil Rights era, became the night's big winner, taking home awards for best screenplay, best comedy (is that what it was?) and Mahershala Ali as best supporting actor. Alfonso Cuarón earned best director — a much-deserved award, though it only highlighted the absurdity of his masterful film, “Roma,” not being nominated for best drama. (It was placed in the mutually exclusive foreign-language category instead, where it won.)
By the time the night was over and the major winners were clutching their awards, we were back to scratching our heads as vigorously as we did in 1982, when Pia Zadora, a little-known actress who appeared in the critically blasted incest-romance “Butterfly,” won the Golden Globe for best new star. Generous souls might say Globes, which are handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, remain a delightfully idiosyncratic and unpredictable institution. Others might say that Sunday's winners show why the Globes will always be considered somewhere between a high honor and a party-prize.
Here are the five craziest moments from Sunday's Golden Globes ceremony:
5. Free Flu Shots for Celebrities?
In one of the evening's weaker skits, co-hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh brought out a team of trained medical professionals to offer free flu vaccines to anyone who asked. The gag seemed intended as a sendup of an Oprah-style giveaway or one of Jimmy Kimmel's Academy Awards stunts, but it fell exceedingly flat as various celebrities tried to look amused rather than merely puzzled. “And if you're an anti-vaxxer,” Samberg said, unwisely delving into the controversial anti-vaccine issue, “put a napkin on your head and we'll skip you.”
4. Christian Bale's Acceptance Speech
While many actors thank God when they win an award, Christian Bale credited Satan for helping him play Dick Cheney in “Vice,” a performance that earned him best comedic actor. Likewise, while most actors who play a real person often thank that real person, Bale did the opposite. Grinning broadly, Bale heaped opprobrium upon Cheney, jokingly explaining that director Adam McKay needed an actor "who can be absolutely charisma-free and reviled by everybody." Bale then mused aloud at who he might play next. “Mitch McConnell?” he suggested. “That could be good, couldn't it?” Sometime thereafter, an unknown wit updated a Wikipedia page to refer to “Satan's Golden Globes.”
3. “A Star is Born” Wins Its Only Award
After a year of breathless reviews, this echt-Hollywood romance wound up being just another flick at the Globes. Bradley Cooper, seemingly a lock for best actor as the troubled singer Jackson Maine — and also a best director nominee — went home empty-handed. Likewise, Lady Gaga, seemingly a shoo-in for best actress as a talented but insecure starlet named Ally, got passed over in favor of Glenn Close in “The Wife." Gaga did win for original song (“Shallow”). Little did viewers know, at that early point in the show, that it would be the night's only bright spot for “A Star is Born.”
2. Rami Malek Wins Best Dramatic Actor
This was the moment the Globes ceremony headed off the rails. Malek, who put his heart and soul into the role of Freddie Mercury, certainly deserved an A-plus for effort, but who among us would argue that he delivered the best performance of the year? As Malek got up to accept his award, you could see in his boyish face a mixture of pride, joy and trepidation. “My heart is pounding out of my chest right now,” Malek said. He thanked Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor for “ensuring that authenticity and inclusivity exist in music and in the world” — though a number of critics felt the opposite about the film — and dedicated his award to Mercury. “This is for and because of you, gorgeous,” he said.
1. “Bohemian Rhapsody” Wins Best Dramatic Film
Really? One of the year's most anticipated but most disappointing movies? A biopic widely criticized for mishandling the tricky issue of sexual identity? A movie directed by Bryan Singer, who was fired partway through production and replaced by the uncredited Dexter Fletcher? A movie that performed decently but not phenomenally well at the box office and currently holds a low 46 percent rating from top critics at RottenTomatoes? Well, a few smart Twitter users had predicted this win, perhaps using this logic: If a rock biopic as bad as this was placed in the dramatic rather than the musical category, it can only be there to win. Still, one of the film's producers spoke for the rest of us when he got up to accept the award: “Now, that was unexpected.”
Does this mean we might see “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the best picture list at the Oscars? Chances of that still seem slim, but we'll find out when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces its nominees Jan. 22.