that's nuts

The Golden Globes Were an Edge-of-Your-Seat Psychological Thriller

Photo: NBC

The Golden Globe for Best Television Series, Drama, went to The Crown this year, despite the fact that it clearly should have gone to the Golden Globes. Never have I been more profoundly anxious and disturbed while watching television than I was during Sunday night’s three-hour stretch of pure, uncut lunacy put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who are famously bad at recognizing good art but apparently incredible at accidentally creating it. The Globes always flirts with chaos — usually by plying their hungry attendees with alcohol and then mocking them in front of an audience of millions — but this year, as said attendees Zoomed in from around the world in various combinations of couture and wrinkled pajamas during an unprecedented global health crisis, the awards ratcheted the anarchy up to 11, unintentionally producing one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve ever seen.

The sense of sheer lawlessness began almost immediately, when winner Daniel Kaluuya began giving a speech on mute, as someone (a producer?) sucked in his breath and said, “Oh, I wish I could hear him!” Presenter Laura Dern, whose long partnership with David Lynch has taught her how to thrive in the midst of the phantasmagoric, placed her glasses calmly on top of her eyes and said, “As you can see, we have a bad connection,” only for Kaluuya to pop back in, looking vaguely insulted. “You did me dirty!” he said, implying that the HFPA — whom Sacha Baron-Cohen later described almost entirely accurately as “all-white” and which is quite famously racist as fuck — might have had it out for him. This moment established the most important components of any good thriller: a motive and a villain.

It soon became clear that this villain had many more tricks up its sleeve, namely, public psychological torture. Before each category was announced, the nominees were forced into smaller Zoom breakout rooms to make small talk among themselves while being filmed and broadcast around the world, creating a rapidly disintegrating illusion of intimacy upon the global stage. Not only was this part of the show never explained or directly referred to, it didn’t even occur during the actual show, just during the lead-ins to commercial breaks. We couldn’t even really make out what the celebrities nervously chattered about — we could only viscerally experience their horror and dysfunction. At one point, Michelle Pfeiffer made a joke in her Zoom breakout room and nobody laughed, which is the first time in her life that this has happened, and it better be the last. Simultaneously, Anya Taylor-Joy bobbed her head to a beat nobody else could hear. Jason Sudeikis, who won the Golden Globe for being the Most High Person to Reference Tolstoy, used one of his Zoom breakouts to express astonishment at the age of Norman Lear.

This portion of the broadcast, in my opinion, served three functions: (1) To force each celebrity to experience ego death, which I think ultimately will be good and character-building for them; 2) To trigger the television audience sitting at home by reminding them that in the next 8-12 hours, they too would be forced into some kind of Zoom breakout room, except not with Al Pacino; (3) To subsequently destroy the very concept of celebrity itself, tearing down the already thin veneer between the famous and the non-famous and forcing us all to confront one another on the great battlefield of the human experience. Mark Ruffalo tried to hint at this nefarious motive during his speech about climate change, but instead he accidentally veered off into making a point about the tragedy of being twins.

The most straight-facedly diabolical thing the Globes did, however, was force the evening’s losers to stay in their respective Zoom breakout rooms for the entirety of the winners’ speeches, keeping their fake teeth visible, their cheeks shaking quietly as they watched their nemeses deliver platitudinal statements about “real heroism” bookended with various thankings of agents. Adding insult to injury to injury to injury was the fact that these losers were sitting in their own homes with their own families, and in many cases their children, precariously perched in thousands of dollars worth of fashion in the least fancy corners of their homes lest they accidentally incite a class war. On top of all of this, the losers had to continue to act normal and casual for the three-hour duration of the show, because sometimes the camera just randomly zoomed in on one of them for 30 seconds while another celebrity (often entirely unrelated to them) was talking. Justice for Viola Davis and her husband, who deserve a Golden Globe for Looking Normal for Three Hours in Front of a White Wall.

Nobody seemed to know what, if anything, was appropriate to consume or export — should they take shots, à la David Fincher, or should they not take shots, like everybody else? This was likely because of a lack of consistency in setting and expectation: Half of the people onscreen were forced to come into Los Angeles and New York studios to stand in front of an otherwise empty stage in front of a bunch of probably exhausted health-care workers who should frankly have been paid $ 1 billion not to attend and also given the celebrities’ homes; 40 percent of attendees got to stay home and stare into their laptops; another 10 percent ditched the event entirely and with no explanation; Gillian Anderson Zoomed in by herself from Prague. Jeff Daniels revealed that he lives alone in a room full of doors. I’ve rarely been made more nervous than I was by watching Anya Taylor-Joy profusely thank Cate Blanchett, who was only present in the most figurative of senses, via unblinking headshot.

In the middle of the show, Sean Penn showed up onstage in what can only be loosely described as hair to tell everyone that the HFPA wasn’t completely evil because they donated money to charities. As anyone who has ever seen a prestige thriller can tell you, Sean Penn was clearly a plant and we should not trust him. Soon thereafter, Rosamund Pike, winning for I Care a Lot, thanked “America’s broken legal system” for “making this story possible,” perhaps in an attempt to divert suspicion from Sean Penn and his head. Aaron Sorkin sat in some kind of underground lair surrounded by dozens of unnamed women and Olivia Munn. Moments or hours later, several celebrities participated in a skit where they asked real doctors to diagnose their symptoms, which ended up being the names of movies. Technical difficulties abounded, adding to the sense that the whole thing could descend even further into abject pandemonium at any moment.

But like all tense and psychotic thrillers must, things wrapped up with a sense of relative catharsis and resolution. Jodie Foster kissed the scheming bisexual documentarian from The L Word while both wore pajamas and held a big dog. Chadwick Boseman won posthumously and deservedly for one of the great performances of his career. Minari won, and Chloé Zhao became the second woman to ever win Best Director, a fact that seems insane to celebrate, but let me remind you that we live in hell. Near the end of the evening, Jane Fonda gently steered the ship away from the iceberg by talking about all of the shows that the HFPA cruelly rebuffed, reacquainting them with their own general malevolence. Before she left the stage, Jane also reminded us of Tommy Tune’s birthday, a non sequitur that is perhaps so random it is meaningful. Perhaps Jane wanted us to know that she sees Tommy Tune’s birth, 82 years ago on a cold (?) night in Wichita Falls, Texas, as the one grounding factor that should hold us all together right now — the thing that unites us in the face of darkness, adversity, and Golden Globes–induced entropy.

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The Golden Globes Were an Edge-of-Your-Seat Thriller