9 winners and one really big loser from the 2020 Golden Globes

The 77th annual Golden Globe Awards were a slightly more staid affair than usual. Sure, despite host Ricky Gervais’s requests that winners not give political speeches, lots and lots of the speeches were political in nature, and yeah, plenty of people (from Gervais to award winner Joaquin Phoenix) tossed out bleeped curse words. But if you were looking for the fiery excitement of past Globes ceremonies, this one didn’t offer much. The winners were largely well-behaved, there were few surprise wins, and even Gervais was on better behavior than usual.

Indeed, the host’s opening monologue set the tone for the night. He did offer digs at Hollywood’s corrupt power structure, and a few of them — particularly a choice gag about Jeffrey Epstein — even had teeth. But the laughter in the room felt tepid, and even Gervais seemed checked out. (He kept promising that this was the last time he would host the awards.) The comedian’s gig had caused some consternation and controversy due to his history of transphobic comments, but his monologue didn’t go anywhere near the issue.

So the whole evening went — anything that might have been interesting was subsumed by something vaguely edgy but still pretty safe. Political statements were made about climate change, for instance, but usually via the lens of support for those suffering from the bushfires in Australia. Tom Hanks’s lifetime achievement award speech focused on old Hollywood glamour, while Brad Pitt accepted his award (supporting actor for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) with jokes about his Hollywood pals. It wasn’t the Globes on their best behavior, but it was close. That made for a dull show, but not a wholly unmemorable one.

So here, as always, are nine winners and one really, really big loser from a perfectly nice, kinda boring Golden Globes.

Loser: Netflix

Robert DeNiro in The Irishman.
Despite five nominations, Netflix’s The Irishman managed no wins.
Netflix

Heading into the night, Netflix had 34 total nominations, across film and television. Its projects were among the most-nominated in both film (Marriage Story; The Irishman) and television (Unbelievable; The Crown). Its status as an awards colossus seemed impossible to topple. Surely it would suck up win after win after win.

Instead, Netflix found itself in a position it’s been in far too often at awards shows: winning a couple of prizes, but mostly remaining seated as the envelopes were opened. Yes, it won the supporting actress in a film prize — for Marriage Story’s Laura Dern. And it won Actress in a TV Drama Series for The Crown’s Olivia Colman.

But most of its big titles won absolutely nothing, and the film awards, at least, seemed dedicated to movies that were either big hits in actual theaters (Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) or are better watched in theaters than on TV (1917). Netflix, which focuses on the at-home viewing experience, ended up shut out of most major categories.

Some of this might be because the streaming service is competing against itself. In many categories, it received multiple nominations, sometimes for the same film. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which Joe Pesci and Al Pacino split the vote for The Irishman in supporting actor, for instance, allowing Brad Pitt to waltz in and win for Once Upon a Time. Netflix’s awards dominance sometimes ends up being an issue when it comes time for only one of its projects to win.

Still, this is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group that is famously wine-able and dine-able. If there’s any Hollywood power player that should be able to win over this tiny group of “journalists,” it’s Netflix. The company’s seeming inability to pull off this trick suggests that its awards strategy remains great at getting lots of nominations and lousy at getting wins. — Emily VanDerWerff

Winner: 1917

The night’s biggest surprise wins to everyone — including its writer and director — were for Sam Mendes’s World War I drama 1917. Mendes seemed genuinely shocked when he won Best Director, and even more shocked when the movie won Best Picture in the drama category. (Unlike the Oscars, the Golden Globes make a distinction between dramas and musicals/comedies in many of the film categories.)

That’s partly because the competition 1917 was up against was stiff, including movies like Todd Philips’s Joker (which won the Golden Lion at its Venice Film Festival debut and took home two Golden Globes) and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which has been nabbing critics’ awards left and right in recent months, though it didn’t pick up a single Golden Globe.

And it’s also a bit of a surprise because while 1917 opened in limited theaters on Christmas Day to make sure it qualified for the Oscars, it doesn’t even start showing in most of the country until this weekend. So most Americans haven’t had a chance to see it yet. But the Globes wins certainly won’t hurt its box office potential, as it’s likely to now be seen as a strong contender for Best Picture. That’s especially true given that Oscar voting opened the day before the Golden Globes, and Academy members likely paid attention to Mendes’s big night. — AW

Winner: HBO (of course)

Three different shows tied for the most-awarded TV program, winning two awards apiece. Two of those programs were on HBO — Succession, for drama series and drama actor, and Chernobyl, for limited series and supporting actor. (We’ll deal with the third in a moment.)

In a year when a lot of the headlines were dominated by AppleTV+’s historic first nominations and how many nominations Netflix grabbed overall, it’s a little boring that the TV awards were dominated, once again, by HBO. But HBO makes good TV, and HBO is really good at campaigning for awards.

The wins for Chernobyl have little bearing on the program’s awards future — the miniseries already won its Emmys back in September — but the two prizes for Succession help cement it as an early Emmy frontrunner for next year’s drama series race. It’s an award that HBO has won four out of the past five years, but always for Game of Thrones, which will no longer be eligible for Emmys.

Succession is a worthy Emmy, er, successor for HBO. It has critical plaudits to spare, and though it’s not a hit on the level of something like Game of Thrones or even Watchmen, its ratings aren’t too shabby for what amounts to a high-gloss prestige soap about rich assholes. Two Golden Globe wins won’t hurt when the show begins its long march to September’s Emmy ceremony later this spring.

Plus, that two of its four awards went to Succession — a show that just aired its second season — proves that for HBO, its best awards days aren’t behind it. It’s got a whole new generation of awards contenders to take the place of Game of Thrones. — EV

Winner: Fleabag

Fleabag
How many times can we use this amazing photo of Fleabag?
Amazon Video

Another awards ceremony, another dominant night for Fleabag, which won both the awards for Comedy Series and Actress in a Comedy for star and creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Add those to the six Emmy Awards the show won for its second season at September’s Emmys, and you have one of the most awarded TV seasons in recent memory. (Prizes at the many awards ceremonies hosted by Hollywood’s numerous unions seem assured as well.)

The series deserves the acclaim. Season two’s messy spin on the romantic comedy — in which Waller-Bridge’s self-destructive but charming character falls in love with a priest — took a show that had been a minor cult hit in its first season and turned it into an international sensation, one that made Andrew Scott’s “Hot Priest” a household name. Add in one of the all-time great TV endings (assuming Waller-Bridge sticks to her pledge that this is the end), and you have a recipe for both critical acclaim and tons of awards.

This is probably it for Fleabag, but it’s not it for Waller-Bridge, who is now the toast of Hollywood. Her work includes contributing to the script for the next James Bond movie and an upcoming HBO series. Not bad for a series that began life as a low-budget one-woman stage show. Not bad at all. — EV

Winner: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino’s big, bold, surprisingly affectionate movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood premiered way back in May at the Cannes Film Festival and has managed to hang onto awards frontrunner status ever since. And with its strong showing at the Globes, that’s likely to continue.

The film took home three Globes on Sunday: one for supporting actor Brad Pitt, one for Tarantino’s screenplay, and one for Best Picture in the comedy/musical category. That’s a huge achievement for the film, which was up against widely acclaimed, more recently released movies like Knives Out and Dolemite Is My Name.

And yet, it’s not a big surprise. Critics, on the whole, loved the film, which won accolades for stars Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. It also sparked plenty of controversies about its violence and its treatment of its female characters, particularly Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie. And its twist ending took on the history of the Manson family murders, an event whose fiftieth anniversary coincided with the movie’s release. Plus, Tarantino is often a favorite with cinephiles, and movies about Hollywood tend to do well during awards season.

Whether the film is as much of a hit with Oscar voters as Globes voters remains to be seen. And since the Oscars don’t make a distinction between drama and comedy/musical, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will have to compete with the likes of The Irishman, Joker, Marriage Story, and tonight’s surprise winner 1917 in February when those awards roll around. But three wins made Once Upon a Time the night’s big movie winner, and Tarantino must be very pleased. — AW

Winner: Elton John

For the last few months, it’s seemed like the Elton John musical biopic Rocketman had very little steam in the awards race. Directed by Dexter Fletcher, who was called in to finish one of last year’s big awards season winners, Bohemian Rhapsody, after director Bryan Singer was fired, Rocketman is a bigger, bolder, weirder film, and a much better one, than Fletcher’s previous hit. It’s a jukebox musical about the singer’s life and struggles with addiction that plays with time and chronology in an interesting way. And star Taron Egerton did all his own singing, too.

But the movie wasn’t getting much awards traction, until Sunday, when the Globes rewarded the film with two statues: one to Egerton for his performance, and one for Best Original Song to John and longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, who spoke about their 52-year partnership in his acceptance speech.

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The likelihood of Rocketman’s success continuing into the Oscars seems pretty low, with a crowded field of competitors, though John’s and Taupin’s song is on the Oscars shortlist and will likely nab a nomination. Still, the Globes showed there’s still life in Rocketman, and gave Egerton — and Johna much-deserved boost. — AW

Winner: Awkwafina

The actress and comedian Nora Lum — a.k.a. Awkwafina — made history when she won for her performance in The Farewell. She’s the first Asian woman to win Best Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy in Globes history.

That’s a huge deal for a few reasons. Until last year, no Asian woman had ever been nominated in the category, a streak finally broken when Constance Wu nabbed a nomination for her performance in 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians. (Awkwafina stole the show in that film as well in the role of Peik Lin, a college friend of Wu’s character.)

It’s also a big deal because The Farewell represents a breakout dramatic performance for Awkwafina, who is primarily known as a comedic actor. (The Globes categorized the film as musical or comedy — a move that’s designed to maximize the film’s chances of winning awards — but it’s definitely not a comedy.)

In her acceptance speech, Awkwafina thanked The Farewell’s director Lulu Wang for “the chance of a lifetime,” then thanked her family, including her mother, who passed away when she was a child. “And to my mother, Tia, who I always hoped was watching from somewhere above,” she said. “I hope that she’s watching now.” — AW

Winner: Foreign language films

Park So-dam and Choi Woo-sik sit close to one another on the floor of a bathroom while each stares at their phone in the movie “Parasite.”
The kids from Parasite learn about their Golden Globe win.
Courtesy of TIFF

Nobody was particularly surprised that Bong Joon-ho’s social thriller Parasite picked up the award for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. The movie has been a hit with audiences and critics, and it won the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last summer.

But Bong used the opportunity to make a gentle joke about American audiences’ reticence to watch movies that aren’t in English. “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles,” Bong joked, “you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

The crowd laughed, but the point stuck — and not only because every film in the category could have deservedly won not just best foreign language film, but other awards as well: Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Pain and Glory, The Farewell, and Les Miserables are all major contenders. And Parasite is favored to not just win the same category at the Oscars (where it’s called best international film), but also pick up nominations for screenplay, directing, and even best picture. It’s a big deal for South Korea, which has never even had a nomination for best international feature.

It seems that American awards-giving groups are making baby steps toward rewarding more movies with that “1 inch-tall barrier.” In 2019, the Mexican film Roma was a huge force during awards season, winning best foreign language film and best director at the Globes, then repeating those wins and adding best cinematography at the Oscars. The other nominees in this category won’t fare as well, since Portrait of a Lady on Fire isn’t eligible to be nominated for international feature (each country only gets one entry, and France chose Les Miserables), and The Farewell is disqualified since it was produced by a US company.

Yet, baby steps. Awkwafina won for her role in The Farewell, and Parasite seems poised to continue its triumphant trek through the awards landscape. And with streamers like Netflix giving more space and attention to movies and TV shows with subtitles, maybe American audiences can learn to not just watch movies, but read them, too. — AW

Winner: the conversation around climate change

At the beginning of the night, host Ricky Gervais chastised the celebrities in the Beverly Hilton ballroom by saying, “You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world.”

Gervais wasn’t wrong. Many of the actors and actresses who were present are multimillionaires, some many times over, with all the attendant privileges and opportunities to lose touch with reality. So it was good to see some of the people in the room acknowledge that there are things more important things to worry about right now than winning an award. And the one that came up most often was climate change.

Mentions of climate change began with Russell Crowe, who won the second award of the night. Crowe was not present, but rather in Australia facing the hellish fires ravaging his home country. He sent a message to Golden Globes attendees and viewers about climate change and the very desperate situation facing Australia.

Later in the show, two of Crowe’s fellow Australians, Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett, reiterated the need to address climate change and its direct impact for not just Australia but the whole planet. And Joaquin Phoenix, who took home one of the last awards of the night, used his acceptance speech to suggest that celebrities hold themselves accountable for every action they take in their personal lives that affect climate change. (Phoenix’s call to action received mixed reviews for appearing to dismiss the importance of voting, however.)

To be clear, the Golden Globes were a celebration of movies, television, actors and actresses — a celebration that, as Patricia Arquette asserted in her own acceptance speech, seemed small and unimportant in the face of major crises unfolding around the world. But there were still instances where people took the time to focus on those crises and to shift their perspectives beyond the personalities in the room. — Alex Abad-Santos

Winner: Stellan Skarsgard’s eyebrows

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Stellan Skarsgard is one of those actors who’s always good, but who seems to never win awards for being always good. On the occasion of his first Golden Globe, then, for his work in Chernobyl, he had one very particular person to thank. We’ll let him explain why:

[Acclaimed director] Milos Forman said to me a couple of years ago, “Stellan, I’ve seen so many films with you, but i never remember your face.” I realized it was because I don’t have any eyebrows. Nobody can tell if I’m angry or surprised. It’s not like Colin Farrell. You can tell is he’s angry 20 miles away. For this film, [Chernobyl makeup designer] Daniel Parker made a couple of eyebrows for me, and [thrusts Golden Globe in air].

So that’s the secret to winning an acting award: eyebrows. — EV