As 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.