highs and lows

The Highs, Lows, and Whoas of the 2023 Golden Globes

Photo-Illustration: Vulture. Photos: Rich Polk/NBC

Like a Marie Kondo GIF come to life, the Golden Globes returned to television to remind us why anyone ever put up with this insular, too white, ever-so-slightly corrupt organization’s silly awards show. It’s messy! It’s a big, drunk, loose, sloppy party. In spite of host Jerrod Carmichael’s attempts at pulling it into quieter, more introspective territory, the 80th annual Golden Globe Awards could not help but revert to the norm. And the best scenes, from Carmichael, the presenters, and the winners alike, were the ones that leaned into the show’s big, sincere bedlam.

Eddie Murphy yelling “keep Will Smith’s name out your [expletive muted] mouth” at the end of an important honorary award? That’s the Globes. Mike White just sober enough to gloat about how many people passed on his show with Jennifer Coolidge? Globes. A Shelly Miscavige disappearance joke? Globes! On-time award-show endings, meaningful changes to the HFPA, carefully controlled speeches? Not why people watch the Globes! Regina Hall absolutely failing to stop laughing while reading “Kevin Costner is sheltering in place in Santa Barbara”? Globes!

These are the highs, lows, and whoas of the 2022 Golden Globes. First whoa: We’re doing the Globes again.

HIGH: Domhnall Gleeson’s slow-cooker advice. Telling Loni Love to put “any old crap” in a slow cooker when asked for his Irish stew recipe during E!’s red carpet is both a subtle rejection of his The Patient foodie/serial-killer character and also a hashtag life hack.

WHOA: Jerrod Carmichael’s tone-setting monologue. The night’s host took the stage and immediately told the audience to “settle” like they were a classroom of unruly children. It was somehow more transgressive than anything Ricky Gervais said in the five separate occasions he hosted the show. Elsewhere in the opener, Carmichael implicated the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in a legacy of racism, referenced the murder of George Floyd, revealed what he got paid for the gig ($500,000), compared taking the job to being one of the informants who snitched on Dr. Martin Luther King, then called himself “unfireable.” His move to sit down on the stage to calibrate the room’s mood to his demeanor was smart, his material was witty and compelling, and he was charming as always, but he needed more time, or perhaps a different setting entirely, to pull off what he was trying to do.

HIGH: Ke Huy Quan winning the first award of the night. A reminder that this industry can both break and heal your heart. Describing his return to acting in the Daniels’ Everything Everywhere All At Once decades after roles in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies as, “More than 30 years later, two guys thought of me. They remembered that kid. And they gave me an opportunity to try again,” is just really lovely stuff.

HIGH: Courtney B. Vance recording his wife Angela Bassett’s win on his cell phone. It was only a matter of time before a Marvel Cinematic Universe acting turn won one of these awards, so at least it was for Bassett’s unfailingly solid work in the otherwise uneven Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

HIGH: Chloe Flower’s dramatic piano bumpers. It’s nice to cut from commercial to someone doing extremely confident, elaborate jazzy piano numbers. But Flower was also responsible for the show’s all-important play-off music for speeches that went too long, and somehow, a live musician very gently nudging you offstage feels less rude than a full orchestra. (Which is not to say it’s an easy job, especially when Michelle Yeoh threatens to beat you up if you play her off.) Eventually the show switched to recorded, full-orchestra play-off tracks once the speeches started to get out of hand … or was it a pre-recorded track all along, as Carmichael suggested when he came to Flower’s defense? We have doubts!

HIGH: Jennifer Coolidge describing her anxiety about being a Globes presenter. Sometimes complaints about lengthy award shows make good points. Sometimes Jennifer Coolidge gets to stand on a stage and do three full minutes of a description of her own presenter fears, which include tripping on “over-waxed floors,” getting out of sync with the teleprompter, and mispronouncing names, and every single second of it is perfect.

WHOA: RRR taking Best Original Song over the likes of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift. Maybe those “RRR could win Best Picture at the Oscars” theorizers actually have legs, because “Naatu Naatu” — a vibrant song-and-dance sequence in a film full of them — winning over a slew of pop stars is an incredibly surprising upset. Sure, there is no overlap between the HFPA and Oscar voters, but this victory sets a certain narrative that could mean more accolades to come for RRR. (Not great that composer M. M. Keeravani was the first person played off the stage, though.)

LOW: Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s absence. And the absence of a scenario in which Moss-Bachrach yelled “Cousin!” during Jeremy Allen White’s acceptance speech for The Bear.

HIGH: A Quinta Brunson acceptance speech that won’t lead to discourse about Jimmy Kimmel. She thanked her group chat and the two “very white men” who support her Abbott Elementary vision, but one thing she didn’t do? Speak over the pretend-unconscious body of a late-night host, inadvertently sparking an exhausting three-day news cycle.

LOW: Anya Taylor-Joy’s standing ovation for Michelle Yeoh not inspiring a room-wide standing ovation for Michelle Yeoh. Come on, people, she’s an icon! Stand for her!

HIGH: Colin Farrell giving it up for Jenny the Donkey. His acceptance speech for The Banshees of Inisherin was predictably loose and banter-filled. He wasted precious seconds effusively complimenting award presenter Ana de Armas on her work in Blonde, commented on the audience’s confused laughter to this tangent by saying, “It’s not my place to tell you what is appropriate laughter in this world,” waved away the play-off music with an emphatic, “You can forget that piano!” and of course, thanked his animal muse. A perfect way to kick off a long awards season that, by all accounts, will be filled with more rambling Farrell acceptance speeches.

HIGH: Guillermo del Toro’s acceptance speech for Pinocchio. “Some of us are drunk. What can be better!” he said before giving a snappy speech about the film, which he described as a movie that’s not for kids, although kids can watch it if adults help explain it. “See you later!” he concluded.

WHOA: Austin Butler is still doing the Elvis voice. When will this end?! (After this awards cycle, probably.)

WHOA: Jerrod takes a shot at Scientology! Holding three Golden Globes he explained had been returned by Tom Cruise, Carmichael suggested they exchange them for the safe return of Shelly Miscavige, the long-missing wife of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Shelly’s last public appearance was in 2007, and concern about her whereabouts has been raised by former Scientology members including Leah Remini. Many audience members seemed to gasp in shock; Carmichael immediately started grinning.

LOW: Glen Powell debuted a shorter haircut, no longer looks like this. A tragedy for all who liked his grimier, rakish turn, and a setback for the mission to get him cast as Chris Shiherlis in Heat 2.

LOW: Inequitable speech play-off times. What is this thing where they let whoever accepts the first award of the night speak for as long as they want with impunity, then give successive winners shorter and shorter windows so the show doesn’t go too long? Have they never heard John Mulaney’s joke about making a “Happy Birthday” sign? Perhaps this is why so many of the night’s winners ignored the music and finished their speeches anyway.

LOW: Ryan Murphy’s tribute to actors he’s worked with gradually drags longer and longer. Very nice and moving to give Michaela Jae Rodriguez a moment to get applause for Pose! Good to point to Jeremy Pope’s future! And, Niecy Nash-Betts! And … Matt Bomer! And Jennifer Coolidge and Jamie Lee Curtis and Angela Bassett and Evan Peters and look, Ryan Murphy has made a zillion shows and he’s worked with everyone. At some point it stops being a tribute to their work and starts feeling like a man listing all the people he is the boss of, many of them for shows that … well. Hollywood loves itself, but even Hollywood did not love Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood.

LOW: Lydia Tár not attending the ceremony, despite being celebrated for her biopic. Having read this list of true facts about her, it doesn’t surprise us that she’s performatively taking a stand against the HFPA by boycotting the ceremony. But after the awful year she’s had, is she really in a position to be refusing accolades?!

LOW: They let Sean Penn (ugh) introduce Volodymyr Zelensky, huh. Huh.

WHOA: Steven Spielberg’s win reflects a surprisingly low percentage. Spielberg’s prolific career means he’s been nominated a total of 14 times for Best Director – Motion Picture but only won for three films: Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and now The Fabelmans. That’s barely more than 20 percent! It’s a lower rate than peers Clint Eastwood, who has been nominated seven times (including twice in 2006, for Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima) and won three times, and Martin Scorsese, who has been nominated nine times and also won three times (including in 2006, for The Departed). Anyway, The Fabelmans: good movie!

HIGH: Nicole Byer telling Ana Gasteyer to “stunt on them hoes.” From their bit about traveling to the show together in a kayak to their observation that the characters represented in their category represent “man in all his glory and variety,” it was nice to see some good old-fashioned presenter banter. The way Byer says the words “diverse array of male role models” deserves to be clipped for a museum.

HIGH: A tour-de-force Jennifer Coolidge acceptance speech for her role in The White Lotus. After being very rudely played off at the Emmys, Coolidge gave a beautiful, goofy, incredibly sincere speech about the many years she’s been working, the small roles that kept her career going over the past two decades, her appreciation for Ryan Murphy, Michael Patrick King, and the American Pie franchise, and most especially, her love for White Lotus creator Mike White. “This has been a really fucking fun night,” she said at the end. White, seen in audience close-ups, started weeping.

LOW: Mike White being too drunk to trot out his Italian during his Best Anthology acceptance speech. They couldn’t have extended dinner service a little longer to help offset his alcohol intake?! Think how much spicier White’s petty reminders to all the people who passed on the first Jennifer Coolidge show he pitched would’ve been in a Romance language.

LOW: Ben Barnes doing T-Mobile commercials. Is Shadow and Bone not paying enough?

HIGH: Tracy Morgan getting “Your pull-out game is weak, Eddie!” past the overzealous censors. Slickly done.

HIGH: Eddie Murphy reminding Hollywood to redistribute their wealth. His acceptance speech after winning the honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award was humble and austere — a merciful gesture for an audience tiring of a show already going too long. But he did dish out a piece of surefire advice he’d gleaned from his long and illustrious career to help those hoping to follow his blueprint for success. “Pay your taxes.” Eddie Murphy: democratic-socialist king.

HIGH: Regina Hall announcing that Kevin Costner could not attend the award because he’s sheltering in place in Santa Barbara. “This is serious!” she said amid barely controlled laughter. “Let’s pray, everyone.”

LOW: The continued adoration of Brad Pitt. I suppose if he’s right there, you shoot your shot. But it also feels like everyone is just ignoring all the bad stuff, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s a meta homage to the message in Pitt’s movie Babylon about the messiness and grotesquerie and beauty and contradiction of Hollywood, or … maybe more people should pay attention to the news about his personal life that’s very, very available to read.

HIGH: Natasha Lyonne explaining why she had to cut her award presentation short. “We have to be done at 11,” Lyonne said at 11:03 and three awards short of the end. “The only true villain here is time itself: death’s chariot.”

WHOA: Quentin Tarantino yelling “CATE! BLANCHETT!” So loud!

HIGH: Steven Spielberg giving the local-news broadcast its time back. The last winner of the night cut his speech short, because just like film directors, local-news anchors need to tell stories, too!

The Highs, Lows, and Whoas of the 2023 Golden Globes