At last year’s Golden Globe Awards, host Seth Meyers made a bold prediction: “It’s 2018 − marijuana is finally allowed and sexual harassment finally isn’t. It’s going to be a good year.”
Mr. Meyers had the unenviable task of fronting a glitzy Hollywood gala two months after the industry was roiled by the Harvey Weinstien allegations. Nominees and presenters had to mix professional obligation with an air of cultural solidarity, mostly by donning black on the red carpet. And television network NBC had to balance some façade of social responsibility with marketing “Hollywood’s biggest party of the year!” How could they know that 2018 − the year of Les Moonves, of Louis CK, of Brett Kavanaugh, and so many others − would only get worse?
But 12 months after the Golden Globes went all in on #MeToo, it’s as if the entire conversation has been lost to the sands of time. The red carpet on Sunday night reverted back to a colourful parade of haute couture, the funereal tone of last year’s black-on-black attire evidently a one-off gesture of allyship. The social-justice activists invited in 2018 by the #TimesUp movement were sitting at home like the rest of us, their invitations seemingly lost in the mail. And co-hosts Andy Samberg and Canadian Sandra Oh went deliberately, disappointingly out of their way to avoid mentioning most anything that might constitute topicality or provocation.
“We’re about to scorch some earth!” Samberg proclaimed in the monologue, before taking mock aim at BlacKkKlansman director Spike Lee. “Well, if it isn’t Spike Lee, Mr. Do the Right Thing. I’ll tell you who does the right thing: You! As a director! I can’t wait to see what you do next.”
Added Ms. Oh, to A Star Is Born director and star Bradley Cooper: “Bradley Cooper … you are hot.”
The approach may have made sense on paper − leave the hard work to Ronan Farrow, let’s just have a laugh and celebrate us! − but it felt both toothless and spineless. There were a few all-too-brief, merciful exceptions − mostly courtesy of Ms. Oh. In addition to her heartfelt acceptance speech for winning best actress in a dramatic TV series (for Killing Eve), she brought the house to its feet with her line in the opening monologue about the power of seeing all the “faces of change” in the room thanks to the presence of Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther. It was a genuine moment, albeit one whose power was pierced by titters from those in attendance who thought she was doing a bit.
Maintaining an air of superficial awards-season frivolity is one thing − the Globes are run by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), after all, whose 88-person membership is populated by the fluffiest of celebrity acolytes − but one year after the outspoken ceremony, and by extension the industry at large, implicitly promised to pay serious heed to immense concerns, the silence was deafening.
The evening was all the more disheartening given that Ms. Oh and Mr. Samberg − who were booked by the HFPA after the duo made a brief but sharp impression as co-presenters at last year’s Emmy Awards − clearly enjoyed each other’s company, and displayed a potent chemistry. It would have been a riot to see how fierce they could have been had they let (or were allowed to let) themselves loose.
A handful of winners reminded everyone of reality. “The reason why we do this is because we understand our microphones are big and we’re speaking for everyone,” said Regina King, who won best supporting actress in a motion picture for If Beale Street Could Talk. “I just want to say I’m going to use my platform to say that in the next two years, everything I’m producing is going to be fifty-per-cent women. And I challenge everyone out there who is in a position of power, not just in our industry, to stand with us in solidarity and do the same.” Sharp Objects star Patricia Clarkson, who won for best supporting actress in a series, miniseries or motion picture for TV, was shorter in her sentiment, but equally pointed: “To my director, Jean-Marc Vallee, you demanded everything from me except sex − which is exactly as it should be in our industry.”
The proceedings were generally so wan, though, as to almost − not quite, but almost − pine for the days of host Ricky Gervais, who somehow persuaded the HFPA to let him spit directly in Hollywood’s face not once but four times. There is real anger out in the world, and within Hollywood itself, and you simply wouldn’t know it from this bubble-wrapped gala.
So now the real question: Will the 2019 Oscars somehow top the Globes in their terribleness?
With its 91st annual ceremony less than two months away, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has yet to announce a host − well, at least a host who can decide whether he wants to stick around or not (a plea to Kevin Hart: Please stop talking). Compounded by the Academy’s especially ugly 2018 − complete with a “most popular movie" stumble and an allegation of sexual harassment against its own president, John Bailey, which has since been dismissed after an internal review − the show promises to be its own unique dumpster fire.