The Good, the Bad, and the Weird of a Surprisingly Entertaining Golden Globes

Sections: Award Shows, Golden Globe

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If you enjoy watching entertainment industry awards shows at all – I’ve always found them perversely fascinating but I understand why some people write them off completely – the Golden Globes is generally one of the more entertaining ones.

Yes, the awards are unusually meaningless even by awards show standards since they’re given out by some obscure and shady outfit called the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but the Golden Globes broadcast is generally one of the more entertaining or at least weirder ones because a) TV people and movie people in the same room! and b) They’re all drunk. Adding to my mild excitement about this year’s Golden Globes telecast were the hosts: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler! 

I’m happy to report that the combination of the excellent co-hosts (and real life best friends!) and the looser (i.e. drunker) feel of the Golden Globes resulted in one of the most entertaining awards show broadcasts I can ever remember. There was plenty of intentional hilarity from Fey and Poehler as well as a lot of the weird, awkward, unintentionally funny, and bizarre moments that everyone really tunes into these things for. And one of these moments, Jodie Foster’s instantly legendary bizarre, rambling, lengthy speech accepting a lifetime achievement award already seems to be one of those things that will live on forever in pop culture lore alongside the Marlon Brando Sacheen Littlefeather incident.

First, to the good was Fey and Poehler’s excellent opening monologue. They just came out swinging and were hilarious from the beginning. As I posted on facebook as it was going on: “Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are doing what I think is the greatest Awards Show opening monologue of all time. It’s not a great form, but they are doing the best you possibly can with it.” A lot of the jokes were just as mean as the ones Ricky Gervais used to do which put so many people off, but there was something about their delivery which made them go over much better. The first instant classic, and hilariously mean line was Poehler talking about how she hadn’t really paid attention to all the controversies surrounding Zero Dark Thirty “But when it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron.”

A little bit after that came my favorite Fey joke of the opening, when she addressed Anne Hathaway, saying something about how powerful her performance in “Les Miserables” was, how she hadn’t seen anyone so abandoned and alone as her character “since you were with James Franco at the Oscars.” I also enjoyed when they did a sort of meta-comedy bit, which seemed to me to be making fun of what the sort of idiots who don’t think women can be funny probably think female comics are always joking about. Fey joked that “The Hunger Games” isn’t just a movie, “It’s what I call the six weeks it took me to get into this dress.” Poehler responded with something about how “Life of Pi” was what she was going to call the six weeks after she took off her dress. Heyo!

Another great moment was when Fey noted that Julianne Moore was nominated for playing Sarah Palin, something that she herself used to win awards for. She then pretended that she was going to launch into her own Palin impression but somehow was physically unable to do the voice anymore, a situation which both women agreed was “for the best.” See their entire hilarious opening bit below:

If Poehler and Fey’s opening monologue was definitely a highlight of the show, a relative lack of Poehler and Fey throughout the rest of the broadcast was a definite low. They did a few interstitial bits after the opening but really seemed underutilized, especially compared to the amount that other, less funny hosts get to do at other awards shows. A running gag where they pretended to be made up acting nominees  Darcy St. Fudge and Damian Fransisco, (star of “Dog President”) and interjected themselves into the announcements of the real nominees was another highlight. As was this great little bit where they get very direct about the drunkenness of the proceedings, with a hilarious assist from Glenn Close:

At any rate, Fey and Poehler definitely did enough to win almost everybody over and to be invited back to host pretty much every year from here on out. Already there was widespread commentary all over social media that the totally bizarre choice to host this year’s Oscars, Seth MacFarlane, won’t possibly be able to compete, with many wondering if there’s some way Fey and Poehler can somehow be drafted to host this year’s Oscars as well.

Essentially, I think what made Fey and Poehler both unusual and unusually good hosts was that they come from a Second City/Upright Citizens Brigade background of improv and semi-improv sketch comedy. That style of comedy hasn’t really been tried at one of these shows before and it turned out to work great. Another good example was this hilarious Kristen Wiig/Will Ferrell bit. It’s essentially the same as the running Garth and Kit character that Wiig used to do with Fred Armisen on Saturday Night Live, where they would show up as a duo claiming they had a bunch of songs prepared and then obviously make them up on the spot, but somehow much funnier (to everyone except for Tommy Lee Jones) when it’s two people pretending to have seen movies they haven’t seen:

Aside from the excellence of Fey and Poehler as hosts, the other big talking point of the night was Jodie Foster’s strange, raw, and confusing acceptance speech for the Cecil B. Demille award. The weirdness started even before Foster’s speech proper began, with the usually charming and funny Robert Downey Jr. giving his own strange and long intro speech to her speech, when no introduction was really needed. RDJ’s speech was so insidery it was lost on most of the viewing public, especially when he presented Mel Gibson (who was seated next to Foster all night, adding to the weirdness) with a hamster on a silver platter for some reason.

The came Foster’s speech itself, which was one of those rare raw, unscripted, awkward pop cultural moments that’s either refreshingly honest and brave or annoying and self-indulgent depending on your point of view.

Beginning with coming right to the precipice of finally making the official public “coming out” declaration that people have been saying she should make forever, then going on to decry the effects of having been in show business since she was a toddler, attacking Honey Boo Boo, trying yet again to rehabilitate Mel Gibson’s public image, seeming to say that she’s permanently retiring from acting, and giving a moving farewell to her mother who is suffering from dementia, Foster rambled and contradicted herself on multiple points. As Kevin Fallon sums it up perfectly at The Atlantic: “It was baffling. It was nearly nonsensical. It was dramatic. It was amazing. People will be talking about it for years to come, which is something any awards show can hope for.

In addition, the telecast happily wrapped up almost exactly on time, another unheard of feat, after having provided more laughs, memorable moments, and weirdness than any awards show in recent memory.

Stephen Silver’s wrap up of the award winners in most of the major categories can be found here. The complete list of all nominees and winners can be found here.

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