Rebounding from a calamitous public-relations crisis sparked by a 2021 Los Angeles Times investigation, the Golden Globe Awards returned to the airwaves for the first time in two years Tuesday night.
And after months of often blistering controversy surrounding the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the small, improbably powerful group of international journalists that hands out the Globes, the industry collectively signaled it is ready to forgive, if not forget, and get back to the business of receiving awards.
A key stop on the road to the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes was pulled off the air by NBC last year after a February 2021 Times investigation raised concerns about the group’s ethics and financial practices and revealed that not one of its then-87 members was Black.
Under a cloud of scandal, last year’s Globes were handed out in an untelevised private ceremony and announced on Twitter to resounding silence. For months, it was unclear whether one of the industry’s most-watched awards would be able to mount a comeback at all, as Hollywood all but blacklisted the HFPA, choking off its lifeblood of star power over thorny questions of racial inequality.
But in the end, a spirit of acceptance — and the power of awards season promotion — won out.
Celebrities including Margot Robbie, Michelle Williams, Billy Porter and Steven Spielberg once again strode the red carpet in their finery at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Winners — including “Everything Everywhere All at Once” stars Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, “The Banshees of Inisherin” leading man Colin Farrell and the actor who played Elvis Presley in “Elvis,” Austin Butler — smiled and hoisted their trophies in the air, many hoping the award will serve as a springboard to the Oscars.
Spielberg’s autobiographical coming-of-age film “The Fabelmans” won the best picture award in the drama category, while the darkly comic fable “Banshees of Inisherin” won the best picture award in the comedy or musical category. Champagne flowed freely. There were some uncomfortable jokes and a few F-bombs, but no one got slapped. In other words, it was in many ways like any other year at the Golden Globes.
“Everyone deserves a second chance,” actor Richard Jenkins, a TV supporting actor nominee for the Netflix series “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” told The Times at the ceremony. “That’s why I’m here.”
That’s not to say the night long billed as “Hollywood’s Party of the Year” was fully back to its festive self. Although the evening is famous, and sometimes notorious, for its loose, boozy vibe, the mood at the 80th edition of the Golden Globes was more fraught than in years past as the industry grappled on live TV with whether to fully embrace an award that has lost some of its shine.
The Times investigation set off a cascade of criticism unlike anything Hollywood had seen since the #OscarsSoWhite firestorm. Studios and talent publicists banded together in an industry-wide boycott, threatening the Globes’ very survival. Scarlett Johansson urged the industry to “step back” from the HFPA until it undertook reforms. Tom Cruise returned his three Globes trophies.
In recent months, as the HFPA worked to persuade the industry that it had made substantive reforms, the suspense was less over who would be nominated than who would actually show up to the awards, which NBC bumped from its traditional Sunday night time slot to Tuesday to make room for “Sunday Night Football.”
Taking the stage in a far lower key than the typical awards-show emcee, host Jerrod Carmichael leaned into the discomfort of the moment, candidly acknowledging what he called his own “moral racial dilemma” in taking the gig.
“I won’t say they were a racist organization, but they didn’t have a single black member until George Floyd died,” Carmichael said of the HFPA. “One minute you’re making mint tea at home, the next you’re being asked to be the Black face of an embattled white organization. Life comes at you fast.”
Ultimately, Carmichael told the audience he was persuaded by the opportunity to honor excellence in the industry — along with what he said was a $500,000 payday. “Regardless of whatever the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s past may be, this is an evening where we get to celebrate,” he said. “And I think this industry deserves evenings like these.”
Over the last two years, as it has struggled to get back in Hollywood’s good graces, the HFPA has remade itself inside and out. The organization added six Black journalistslast year and brought in 103 nonmember international voters in a further bid to expand and diversify its long closed-off ranks. The group has also banned gifts, instituted a hotline for reporting misconduct and quietly ejected a handful of members whom they have accused of violating its standards.
Despite the uncertainty in the lead-up to the awards, the evening’s show-must-go-on spirit underscored the industry’s deep and enduring ties to the Globes. Historically, studios and networks have spent millions annually to try to win the HFPA’s favor — and at a time when adult-oriented fare like “Tár” and “The Fabelmans” has been struggling to connect at the box office, awards hopefuls need any marketing boost they can get.
“While [the HFPA’s] reform work is being done, it’s also essential for indie films that critical bodies are around to introduce smaller films to a broader audience,” Dean Fleischer Camp, whose “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” earned a nomination for animated feature, told The Times.
For all the razzle-dazzle — and not infrequent controversy — that surrounds them, the Globes are not considered a particularly reliable harbinger for the Oscars. Still, while the Globes’ credibility has often come in for mockery — hosting the awards in 2016, Ricky Gervais dismissed them as “worthless” — the results can provide some sense of which films and performances have the wind at their back and which may be sputtering.
Heading into the evening, the darkly comic “Banshees of Inisherin” led the film pack with eight nominations. One of this year’s Oscar front runners, in the end, it came away with three wins, including for director Martin McDonagh, who won for his screenplay.
The gonzo sci-fi-action sleeper hit “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won awards for Yeoh and Kuan, who are both considered strong Oscar contenders. Cate Blanchett won the award for lead actress in a drama for her turn as a classical conductor in “Tár” but was not in attendance to accept. (A few other winners also were no-shows, including Amanda Seyfried and Zendaya, as was Kevin Costner, who was said to be stuck at home in Santa Barbara due to heavy rain.)
In one of the evening’s sharpest barbs — aimed squarely at the star of last year’s biggest box office hit, “Top Gun: Maverick” — Carmichael came onstage at one point clutching “three Globe awards that Tom Cruise returned.” “I have a pitch: I think maybe we take these three things and exchange them for the safe return of Shelly Miscavige?” Carmichael said, referring to the wife of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Cruise is a member of the religion.
While winners may get a career boost from the award, for the HFPA, the stakes behind this year’s Globes are existential.
Under the leadership of billionaire investor and interim Chief Executive Todd Boehly, the organization is set to be reconstituted from a nonprofit association into a for-profit venture. But as Boehly eyes a potential expansion of the Globes brand to international markets, the future of the awards remains uncertain.
In bringing the Globes back, NBC, which has aired the show since 1996, committed to just a one-year trial. The Globes, which in pre-pandemic times reliably drew an audience of around 18 million annually, saw its viewership plummet to just 6.9 million in 2021. Should this year’s show chalk up similar meager ratings, the HFPA could soon be looking for a new distribution platform, whether on another network or a streaming service.
Speaking to the show’s attendees — and to the entertainment industry at large — HFPA President Helen Hoehne acknowledged the “momentous change” the past year has brought the organization. “We will continue to support groups that amplify a variety of voices and continue to add representation to our organic action from around the world,” she said.
For the moment, though, Hollywood seemed ready to take its relationship with the repentant HFPA one step at a time.
“Let us come here tonight and see if they’re changed,” Henry Winkler, nominated for his performance in the HBO comedy series “Barry,” told The Times. “If their spirit is where their mouth is, we will all be back. If not, it was a pleasure to be here. I hope the food is good.”
At least one attendee seemed happy to tune out the controversy entirely. Asked if he had any thoughts about the HFPA’s reforms, director Tim Burton answered, “Nope. My mind is a blank. That’s the only way I can be here.”
Times staff writers Nicholas Ducassi, Stacy Perman, David Viramontes and Jen Yamato contributed to this report.
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