Golden Globes: Feeling the love

Posted by · 1:06 pm · January 12th, 2009

Sally Hawkins at the 66th Annual Golden Globe AwardsAs I curled on the couch in the wee small hours of the morning, watching last night’s Golden Globes telecast with only a hot toddy and a handful of chatty IC commenters for company, it occurred to me that I was hearing an awful lot of one word as the evening unfolded. And that word was ‘love.’

Of course, it’s a ubiquitous word in any awards show, weepily applied as it is to innumerable family members, lovers and colleagues as winners rattle names off thank-you lists longer than most films’ scripts. But this struck me as slightly different: the love here was being directed towards film and art itself.

Sally Hawkins, the night’s most endearing (and overwhelmed) winner, set the tone, describing her film, “Happy-Go-Lucky,” as being about love both on and off the screen. Surprise (to some) winner Colin Farrell followed her lead, celebrating cinematic adventurousness with the elegant soundbite: “Curiosity is love.”

Meanwhile, Danny Boyle picked up above all on the affection his awards-sweeping film has garnered within the industry, while Kate Winslet paid tribute to a long-standing love cultivated with her co-star, refracted very differently in two films, eleven years apart.

It struck me as an appropriate motif for an awards ceremony that seemed less calculated and more sincere than usual. Perhaps a year away the Globes has made me –- or them –- soft, but for an institution that takes sustained criticism for being overly susceptible to campaigning muscle and star power, it seemed to me that, in almost every category, the HFPA members had voted with their collective hearts, singling out the performers and films that they themselves loved.

Certainly nobody had instructed them to vote for Mickey Rourke’s heartbreaking performance in “The Wrestler,” a colossal achievement that had hitherto received less than its due in the precursors –- not surprising, since it’s a tiny, tricky film, and Rourke is a prickly figure who doesn’t much like playing the campaigning game. The Globes could have followed consensus and crowned Sean Penn, or played it safe with Frank Langella, but they chose Rourke for seemingly one reason only: they loved his performance the most.

A similar focus on the fundamental principles of awards-giving was at play in the comedy categories, where the HFPA confounded the cynical pundits who assumed they’d cosy up to the familiarity of Meryl Streep or the vapid commerciality of “Mamma Mia!” –- and let their hearts (and brains) lead them once more.

Cue laudable victories for fresh face Sally Hawkins and Colin Farrell (like Rourke, something of a comeback kid) in recognition of subtle, eccentric work in challenging, little-seen films. “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” may have been a moderately more populist choice for Best Comedy, but it remains an unusually intimate, indie-minded winner in the category.

Even the more obvious winners avoided the sour taste of resignation: yes, “Slumdog Millionaire” was the odds-on favourite, but the HFPA didn’t have to embrace it to the extent that they did. As I noted yesterday, it’s not a typical Globe winner, but its generous four-trophy sweep, not to mention the palpable enthusiasm in the auditorium that greeted its every mention, suggests to me that this is a genuinely beloved champion as opposed to a merely fashionable frontrunner.

It’s easy to become jaded with frontrunners as they plow their way through awards season, as “Slumdog” is doing with some vengeance, but actually watching Danny Boyle’s genuinely grateful, faintly befuddled speech last night brought home to me what an unusual and refreshing phenomenon we are witnessing this season: it’s been decades since we’ve seen a film this inauspicious and star-free claim the gold.

That the iconoclastic director of “28 Days Later” and “Trainspotting” should be deemed a shoo-in for Hollywood’s top honours is easy to take for granted as the wheels of awards season start turning, but the grace and humility of Boyle and Co last night renewed my amazement at the weird journey this little film has taken.

There was the odd false note in last night’s proceedings, of course. I find it hard to believe that most voters were genuinely more affected or entertained by Kate Winslet’s performance in “The Reader” than those of her nominees –- as opposed to simply voting for her as a security measure in the event of her more deserving work in “Revolutionary Road” coming up short. (Which, of course, it didn’t.)

But I don’t want to dwell on such details. (In any case, Winslet’s honest, slightly shambolic relief at having broken her awards drought made it hard to begrudge her.) On balance, it was the warmest, most satisfying awards show I’ve seen in some time, so why ruin it?

Any complaints I have dissipate when I think of the openly expressed camaraderie between Mickey Rourke and Darren Aronofsky, Colin Farrell’s evident astonishment at being welcomed back into the fold or the Cinderella breathlessness of Sally Hawkins’ big moment. Draped in diamonds that appeared to cost as much as her entire movie, she looked as enraptured to be there as any one of us would be –- and that spirit of adventure, of new territory being explored, is, for me, what awards shows should be about. Curiosity is love, indeed.

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16 responses so far

  • 1 1-12-2009 at 1:30 pm

    Doug said...

    I always find the HFPA’s choices a little suspect as they seem to have a distinct preference for foreign nominees. Except for Mickey Rourke, all of the winners in the major film categories were foreign (you could argue about VCB, but only a little). HFPA members make their livings covering Hollywood, but enjoy proclaiming filmmakers from the rest of the world (like themselves) superior.

  • 2 1-12-2009 at 1:39 pm

    Matt said...

    I do agree that the Globes felt very satisfying. Rourke and Hawkins won their possibly only trophy of the year, Winslet bagged two and Farrell was a nice surprise.

  • 3 1-12-2009 at 1:54 pm

    Chad said...

    “but the chose Rourke for seemingly one reason only: they loved his performance the most.”

    Just because they voted for your particular choice doesn’t mean that for once, they voted for the deserving candidate.

  • 4 1-12-2009 at 2:18 pm

    Rob said...

    Winslet’s work in ‘The Reader’ was profoundly moving to some of us. I think its a career best performance.

  • 5 1-12-2009 at 2:35 pm

    KING 1 said...

    I agree with you Rob. And I do not understand why some say that her performance is not better than her other (possible) co-nominees: she is better than Cruz, Davis, Adams, and Henson.

    maybe only Tomei and Dewitt come close ot her, but still, Kate is the best in that category. And I happen to think she is much better in the Reader than in Revolutionary Road

  • 6 1-12-2009 at 2:37 pm

    KING 1 said...

    and much more deserving…

  • 7 1-12-2009 at 2:41 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Chad: Not really the point I’m making. I’m saying that I think (and I could be wrong) that they voted primarily on the performance itself, ignoring the precursors and occasional bad publicity.

    Rob and King: We’ll just have to agree to disagree on Winslet’s work in “The Reader.” I think she’s excellent in “Revolutionary Road,” though.

  • 8 1-12-2009 at 2:57 pm

    Chad said...

    But what basis do you have for making that statement? None.

    And there certainly is no truth to the claim that his performance has received less than its due from precursors. By my count (and I have kept count), Rourke has 23 mentions to Penn’s 25.

  • 9 1-12-2009 at 3:16 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Sorry, I don’t want to argue. Let me just say that, in the precursors that really matter, Penn has got most the attention (NYFCC, LAFCA, NSFC, BFCA). Normally I’d expect that kind of momentum to translate into a Globe win, and I was (pleasantly) surprised that it didn’t. That’s all.

  • 10 1-12-2009 at 4:30 pm

    Mark in Orlando said...

    The problem for Rourke (and why I won’t be surprised if this turns out to be his only award from here on out) is Hollywood hates him. I mean really, truly hates him as a person. They see him as a loud, obnoxious, unrepentant pig who didn’t care who he pissed off and his comeback has not included the requisite redemption theme. The movie does for his character, but he’s still loud, obnoxious, unrepentant Mickey which will turn a lot of voters off. He’s made a lot of people angry over the years and it very well may bite him in the ass now.

  • 11 1-12-2009 at 4:34 pm

    Mark in Orlando said...

    I forgot to mention his acceptance speech. One poster on EW said “That’s just Mickey being Mickey.” The thing is “Mickey being Mickey” is what caused his career to collapse when people stopped hiring him. If he’s truly sober and he’s still acting this way then what people hated about him for all those years was not because of the drugs or booze which will not endear him to voters.

  • 12 1-12-2009 at 4:42 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    Mark do they hate him in Orlando, too? Otherwise what the hell do you know?

  • 13 1-12-2009 at 4:50 pm

    Mark in Orlando said...

    Hey Burma, that was a little uncalled for don’t you think? I could very easily ask you the same question. You’re acting like I attack you personally. I’m not repeating anything that hasn’t been reported over his entire career. I have nothing against the man. I just know what I read and I know how the politics of these things work.

  • 14 1-12-2009 at 6:12 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    Things change. Hollywood seems to only care about one thing, which is success. A lot of these guys are assholes and don’t suffer for it. I don’t imagine Mickey will much longer. Did you see the standing ovation last night?

  • 15 1-12-2009 at 8:56 pm

    James D. said...

    If Rourke can repeat his success at the Oscars, it will be great. I have wanted to see Penn go down more than anything since he beat Bill Murray, but Rourke was the best performance I have seen in some time

  • 16 1-13-2009 at 12:16 am

    Tim said...

    The Globes are horrible predictors of the Oscars. SAG will be much more telling of where the actors support is. Though a double whammy Oscar win for Kate Winslet would be amazing and much deserved. Her wins were the best part of last night.