If you were an all-star pile-up of celebrity preposterousness, and you happened the night David Bowie died, you picked a pretty terrible night to happen. So sorry, Golden Globes — you were just a tin can floating far above the moon, right before the real rocket went past. But that’s somehow appropriate, since the best running joke all night was how meaningless the Golden Globes are. “Remember, if you do win tonight, nobody cares about the award as much as you do,” host Ricky Gervais announced as the show began. “Don’t get emotional. It’s embarrassing.” Well put — as always, this is the award show where nobody really cares who wins the trophies, or in Peter Travers’ immortal words, the “globe-shaped dildos.” (According to Gervais, that’s exactly how he uses one of the three he’s won.) No, the true spirit of Golden Globes night is watching the Beverly Hills Hilton swarm with underdressed celebrities zonked on the fateful cocktail of free booze and live television.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who hosted the last three Golden Globe blowouts and permanently claimed the franchise as their own personal playground, were missed. But that anarchic spirit was there. You could tell via the Jane Fonda-cam, in the priceless footage of her in the crowd scenes — hoisting a martini up to the camera, doing a little disco dance, schmoozing with Helen Mirren, having a heart-to-heart with Terence Howard and stroking his face while he presumably dropped some math theory on her. She didn’t speak a word on mic all night, but she was the life of this party. Taraji P. Henson celebrating her victory for playing Cookie on Empire by handing out actual cookies to Lady Gaga and Leonardo DiCaprio. Jon Hamm spending his whole speech building up to a Chumbawamba joke. Sly Stallone winning a prize for his acting skills. It all happened.
Ricky Gervais kept boasting about how he didn’t care, and he proved it, since he didn’t exactly bring his A-game. His jokes were a little musty: Caitlyn Jenner is a woman, Charlie Sheen likes hookers, and you can probably guess the Roman Polanski joke. He did drop a clever little bombshell on Matt Damon, introducing him as “the only person Ben Affleck hasn’t been unfaithful to.” But he saved his best and most sincere venom for the hateful-as-ever Mel Gibson, whose attempted comeback/redemption moment (three years after he sat at the table of honor during Jodie Foster’s lifetime achievement award speech). These two really deserve each other, and Gervais needling him about the “sugar tits” incident (just one of many racist episodes in the passion of the Mel) was his highlight as the host. Even if the network bleeped out his question: “What the fuck does ‘sugar tits’ mean anyway?” Gervais held back his funniest line of the night for last, while signing off: “From myself and Mel Gibson, shalom.”
Patricia Arquette was so surprised when Sylvester Stallone won for Creed, she showed the envelope to prove it to those of us at home, in case any of us were skeptical enough to cook up a Jack Palance Theory, although the idea of Sly winning a Best Actor award is considerably more believable than Jon Hamm being into Chumbawamba. Stallone got the warmest and most enthusiastic standing ovation of the night, before thanking his producer for mortgaging his house “to take a chance on a mumbling actor.” He forgot to thank his director Ryan Coogler or co-star Michael B. Jordan; for that matter, he also failed to thank Carl Weathers, Mr. T, Burgess Meredith or Estelle Getty from Stop or My Mom Will Shoot. The most touching moment in his speech: “I wanna thank my imaginary friend Rocky Balboa, for being the best friend I ever had.” Yo Sly, you forgot Lt. Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, even though Cobra remains your finest film. (“Hey dirtbag, you’re a lousy shot. And I don’t like lousy shots!”)
Aziz Ansari had the best sight gag of the evening, reading a book called How To Lose To Jeffrey Tambor With Dignity. (Not needed this year, since the Golden Globe voters in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have decided Transparent is so yesterday and the funniest comedy on television is Mozart in the Jungle.) The fly-as-ever Gael Gabriel Bernal announced “I want to dedicate this award to music.” Jonah Hill did a Revenant bit wearing a bear mask, though it wasn’t as funny as whatever fur was on Channing Tatum’s head.
Taraji P. Henson gave the wildest, loudest, and just plain best speech of the night, explaining that she won because “the world loves real.” Lady Gaga gave a weepy, emotional speech that probably deserved to be saved for winning a real award, though she fully deserved it just for that shout out to Cher. (And also for kissing Christian Slater when he came up to accept his well-deserved prize for Mr. Robot, which also won for Best TV Drama.) There were some hilarious comedy-duet presenters: Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence, America Ferrera and Eva Longoria, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. But the funniest couple was Amber Heard and Jaimie Alexander, even if their “whoa, we have to read?” act was a teleprompter failure, it was comedy gold.
The lifetime-achievement segment is usually a delectably humiliating squirm, except this year it went to Denzel Washington, who proved that he can look cool and dignified absolutely anywhere — his impromptu banter with his wife was incredibly moving as well as funny. (Even if that career montage sadly left out the legend-making “Happy Birthday” scene from Mississippi Masala.) Fortunately, we all got our fix of shocked and embarrassed silence during Ridley Scott’s mind-bogglingly pompous speech. And did the Blade Runner director congratulate Roy Batty on his incept date? Nope. He was so dull, he made Leo look like a funfest when he won for The Revenant, though poor Leo couldn’t catch a break all night, whether he was getting busted by the side-eye-cam when Gaga rushed past or blowing a kiss to his old posse-pal Tobey Maguire. Maybe he was just gratefully remembering Tina and Amy’s line from a couple years ago: “And now, like a supermodel’s vagina, let’s all give a warm welcome to Leonardo DiCaprio.”
And let’s hope Tina and Amy get the urge to come back and host this show again next year, because they should. It’s just like Cookie said: The world loves real.