Arts

Golden Globes are Hollywood’s fullest response yet to 2017’s scandals

The emotion in Oprah Winfrey’s speech was reminiscent of last year’s speech by Meryl Streep.
Paul Drinkwater/NBC/AP
The emotion in Oprah Winfrey’s speech was reminiscent of last year’s speech by Meryl Streep.

Sunday night’s Golden Globes ceremony was the first awards show in the wake of the storm that was 2017, famously a warm-up for the Oscars, and host Seth Meyers, as he worked to balance humor with the seriousness of those issues, was the canary in the coal mine. How would he manage to beat up on Hollywood’s sexism problem without diminishing it with jokes, all while honoring its denizens at the same time?

Hosting the Globes for the first time, Meyers was just fine. He didn’t own the night in the way Chris Rock did when he hosted the Oscars during the also difficult #OscarsSoWhite year, when no black people were nominated in major categories. And after his opening monologue, he all but disappeared, an odd choice that ultimately left the telecast somewhat rudderless.

But he jumped right into the jokes at the top of the show with the perfect greeting — “Good evening, ladies and remaining gentlemen” — and he continued to shamelessly slam the likes of Woody Allen, Kevin Spacey, and “the elephant not in the room,” Harvey Weinstein. It was a hit-or-miss monologue, as Meyers imported the “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” segment from his “Late Night” show to mixed results. But his hits were good, including one edgy bit about Weinstein’s return to the Golden Globes in 20 years — to be “the first person to be booed during the In Memoriam.”

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He also slipped in a few Donald Trump jokes, of course, noting that the Hollywood Foreign Press — the group that awards the Globes — is “a string of three words that could not have been better designed to infuriate our president.”

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All of Hollywood was also looking to the Globe winners list, to help narrow down a year of award-worthy movies that has no clear leaders. There seems to be no consensus yet, always worrying for an industry that doesn’t like surprises. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” certainly gained enormous Oscar momentum at the Globes, winning best drama, best screenplay, best actress for Frances McDormand, and best supporting actor for Sam Rockwell. “Lady Bird” also got a nice bump, taking best musical or comedy and best actress, for Saoirse Ronan.

A few others names picked up some Oscar energy, notably James Franco for “The Disaster Artist,” director Guillermo del Toro for “The Shape of Water,” and Allison Janney for “I, Tonya.” In her acceptance speech, Janney introduced Tonya Harding, who was at the “I, Tonya” table.

The TV winners’ list confirmed the Emmys of a few months ago, with statues going to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” its star Elisabeth Moss, and “Big Little Lies” nominees Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard.

The biggest moment of the night was Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille Award. Last year, Meryl Streep accepted the same award with a powerful statement against Trump. This year, Winfrey gave a rousing speech that ranged from the power of seeing people of color win awards, and the value of the press, to her gratitude to the women telling their #MeToo stories. It was stirring — but was followed by a reminder of work to be done. A beat after Winfrey finished, Ron Howard and Natalie Portman came onstage to present the best director award. “And here are the all-male nominees,” Portman noted. Though “Lady Bird” was a big winner, its writer-director, Greta Gerwig, was not nominated.

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On the red carpet, we knew we’d see a stripe of black dresses and suits, a fashion statement against systemic sexism in Hollywood, the reverse of the line of enslaved women wearing red in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” We knew we’d hear Streep and other stars — a few, including Michelle Williams and Emma Watson, were accompanied by activists — talking about #MeToo and the group Time’s Up, an initiative against harassment and inequality in the workplace. We knew we’d see all kinds of black fabrics, from tulle to Viola Davis’s lush velvetas, as well as a black gimmick or two. I’m talking about your black nail polish, Chris Sullivan of “This Is Us.”

As Giuliana Rancic put it, “We’re not asking, ‘Who are you wearing?’ We’re asking, ‘Why are you wearing black?’ ” If you’re a fan of name designers, you were left wondering.

But no one expected Debra Messing to turn the lens of the moment onto E! itself, mentioning a host who had left the network last month. “I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn’t believe in paying their female cohosts the same as their male cohosts. I miss Catt Sadler, so we stand with her. And that’s something that can change tomorrow.” That was some prime time dragging, Gracie. E! asked her why she wore black, and she told ’em.

I spotted only one truly old school red carpet moment, amid all the important talk about power imbalances and inequality. While finishing up with Ryan Seacrest, best song nominee Kelly Clarkson went rogue at the sight of a particular actress. “Oh my God, that’s Meryl,” she yelled. “That’s Meryl Streep! Can I meet you? I’m such a fan.” Clarkson’s wish came true. For a moment like that, some people wait a lifetime.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.