Quentin Tarantino took the stage on Sunday night at the 77th Golden Globes. Bong Joon-ho also gave a speech. Shockingly, Martin Scorsese did not. And the three great filmmakers watched and applauded as Sam Mendes first won the director honour and then the best picture drama prize for ‘1917’, a late-arriving war movie that, in a serendipitous turn for Universal Pictures’ marketing department, will open wide in US theatres on Friday.
If anyone was watching the January 5 ceremony expecting to pick up a solid clue or two for this year’s wide-open Oscar best picture race, they likely came away feeling as befuddled as Tom Hanks did during host Ricky Gervais’ wince-inducing opening monologue.
Tarantino’s wistful ode to a lost past, ‘Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,’ was the evening’s biggest winner, taking the best picture comedy/musical Globe along with wins for supporting actor Brad Pitt and Tarantino’s screenplay. You might argue with the Hollywood Foreign Press Associations’ choice to call the movie about the Manson family a comedy, but then you could also take issue with the group bringing Gervais back for a fifth time.
Besides, ‘Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood’ was just as funny as the movie that won the Globe for best comedy/musical picture last year. That would be ‘Green Book,’ and we all remember what happened with that film after the Globes. (If your memory falters, ask Spike Lee. He’ll fill you in.)
So you could make a case for ‘Once Upon a Time’ as the Oscar front-runner. But ‘1917’ might leave the ceremony with the night’s biggest momentum boost. Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins constructed the film to appear as if it’s one unbroken take, following two British soldiers (superbly played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) on a mission to deliver a crucial warning message to comrades about to fall into a trap set by German forces.
It’s an impressive, visceral technical feat, as well as a moving portrait of bravery, fortitude and friendship — just the kind of ambitious, impeccably crafted movie that often wins the motion picture academy’s biggest prize.
The greatest hurdle facing ‘1917” might be Oscar history. A movie can win the best picture Oscar without earning any acting nominations or if it doesn’t pick up a screenplay nod. But you have to go back to the Oscars’ earliest days to find a movie that has prevailed without picking up nominations in both categories. And for ‘1917,’ a nod for either of its two young actors seems unlikely, while it appears to be on the bubble in the competitive original screenplay category.
‘Parasite,’ Bong’s masterful satire and thriller of class struggle, won only the foreign language feature prize from its three nominations. But that’s one more Globe than ‘The Irishman’ took, a stunning development for Scorsese’s mob epic, a movie that pundits have picked as the Oscar best picture winner.
“Once you overcome the one-inch barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many amazing films,” Bong said, accepting the award, reminding academy members that it’d be perfectly OK to make ‘Parasite’ the first foreign language feature to win the Oscar for best picture. “I think we use only just one language, the cinema.”
The film academy moved the Oscars two weeks earlier this year, causing reverberations throughout the awards season calendar. Oscar balloting began on Thursday during the holiday break, a time when most of Hollywood shuts down and traffic in LA is a blessing instead of a curse. This past weekend, Oscar contenders sprang to life again, shuttling among screenings and parties, posing for selfies and courting favour.
Oscar voting ends Tuesday and, because most of the town has been on a break, there’s a feeling that a larger-than-usual number of ballots will be turned in late. “Nobody I know has voted yet,” one screenwriter told me at a screening this weekend. A producer added: “The academy sends out emails every day, but I think a lot of people aren’t paying attention.”
If they started taking notice by watching the Globes, they probably saw a settling of the Oscar acting races, with favourites Joaquin Phoenix (‘Joker’), Renee Zellweger (‘Judy’), Brad Pitt (‘Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood’) and Laura Dern (‘Marriage Story’) all prevailing.
The comedy lead winners were surprising (Taron Egerton for ‘Rocketman’) and historic (Awkwafina became the first woman of Asian descent to win this Globe for ‘The Farewell’), and both would be fortunate to parlay their wins into Oscar nominations.
Globe victories offer the chance to audition for the Oscars’ stage. Of the winners, Zellweger was lovely (“It’s the journey that matters”), Phoenix was edgy and unpredictable and made Adam Driver laugh, no small thing. Dern and Pitt were as eloquent as you’d expect. Pitt took a playful dig at his co-star Leonardo DiCaprio (“Still, I would’ve shared the raft,” he said, referencing the end of ‘Titanic’), and Dern got off a nice joke about divorce lawyers, though perhaps overreached when touting ‘Marriage Story’ as a prayer for global healing.
Dern’s win was the only film prize Netflix took from 17 nominations. On the television side, the streamer also went 1-17. Gervais called out Netflix at the beginning of the show; the awards themselves finished the job.