Jerrod Carmichael, Regina Hall and Jennifer Coolidge Kept the 2023 Golden Globes from Playing It Too Safe

Carmichael opened the show addressing the elephant in the room while The Fabelmans and Everything Everywhere All At Once took home the big awards.

Host Jerrod Carmichael onstage at the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10...

Host Jerrod Carmichael onstage at the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.Courtesy of Rich Polk for NBC via Getty Images

The embattled Golden Globes celebrated its 80th birthday on its best behavior. The hushed piano music—provided by Chloe Flower, who stuck around for the rest of the show—set a tone reinforced by the soft lighting and conspicuous absence of boisterousness. It’s as if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association issued a memo warning all in attendance to play it cool, there’s a lot riding on tonight going well, and if you want us to come back next year to give you more awards you’d better not screw it up.

Indeed, there was a lot riding on the night. The Globes had a lot to prove, two years after being plagued by the fallout from exposés concerning the lack of diversity of its voting body and accusations of corruption within the organization. (Which were really only the latest scandals in the Globes long, often sketchy history.) They weren’t even televised last year and this return to the show’s traditional home on NBC (in a new, not-so-glamorous  Tuesday-night time slot) has the air of a probation hearing since NBC only signed up to carry the show for this one year.

Though the show had more nominee absences than past years, the initial attempt at a staid tone eventually fell away in favor of a more raucous, uncensored tone from the presenters and winners that was more characteristic of the historically booze-heavy event. Here are a few takeaways from the last night’s awards.

Jerrod Carmichael Addressed the Elephant in the Room, On More than One Occasion

The Globes has a history of hiring hosts—like Ricky Gervais and the team of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler—that make fun of it, but the jabs have tended to be pretty light. In light of the serious criticism that still could be an existential threat to the HFPA, Carmichael couldn’t really play it light: He began the night addressing the elephant in the room by expressing his own discomfort at being “invited to be the Black face of an embattled white organization.” Over the course of his opening monologue, delivered in part sitting in a relaxed pose on the stairs leading up to the stage, Carmichael let neither himself nor the HFPA off the hook but he did dig into the complexities of his choice and of the issues surrounding the Globes. His light touch kept the audience laughing while neither dismissing the seriousness of the Globes’ troubles nor suggesting its problems had been solved.

Carmichael did let go of the lightness a couple of times, however. A dig that  Will Smith would be receiving the “Rock Hudson Award for Televised Masculinity” didn’t really land but Carmichael unsettled the room a bit later. Appearing on stage with three Golden Globe trophies he claimed to be the ones Tom Cruise returned in protest in 2021, Carmichael proposed exchanging them for “the safe return of Shelly Miscavige,” the wife of Scientology leader David Miscavige, who hasn’t been seen in public since 2007. Though widely viewed with suspicion in much of the world, Scientology remains a third-rail topic in Hollywood, where it counts many adherents including, of course, the powerful Cruise. The crowd greeted the punchline with groans and a smattering of cheers. It felt like a truly dangerous moment rather than the faux danger of the Gervais era.

The Open Bar Was in Full Effect 

The turning point from “dignified” to “Golden Globe-y” arrived around the two hour and twenty minute mark when The White Lotus’ Jennifer Coolidge took the stage to accept the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Limited Series, Anthology Series or Motion Picture Made For Television (the Globes loves to squeeze as many categories as they can into one). Coolidge delivered a funny, rambling, heartfelt, occasionally censored speech recounting her struggles and those who helped her through the lean years, before focusing her appreciation on White Lotus creator Mike White, who couldn’t contain his tears.  

White was still crying when he took the stage to accept the Best Television Limited Series, Anthology Series or Motion Picture Made for Television award for The White Lotus, adding that he wanted to deliver the speech in Italian but was “too drunk.” That moment seemed to give everyone else permission to misbehave, whether it was: Regina Hall laughing her way through delivering Kevin Costner’s explanation for not being in attendance (the flooding kept him “shelter[ing] in place” in Santa Barbara: “Let’s pray, everyone,” Hall snickered); Natasha Lyonne savoring a mischievous intro that underlined her orders to keep it brief before filibustering about the nature of time in her intro (“​​You see time is supposedly empirical, and since time facilitates death, it’s wisest to keep her beat”), pushing the awards even deeper past their scheduled 11pm ET endpoint; or Eddie Murphy ending his otherwise low-key acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille award with his three-step blueprint for a long career: “Pay your taxes, mind your business, and keep Will Smith’s wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!”

Everything Everywhere All at Once Is Officially a Serious Oscars Contender…

The Globes have long served as a bellwether for the more respectable Academy Awards, which will announce their own nominees on January 24th ahead of the March 12 ceremony. Right away, the night made clear that *Everything Everywhere All at Once—*the Daniels’ breakout, multiverse-spanning indie hit—would almost certainly be a part of the conversation. Ke Huy Quan, who had essentially given up on acting after working as a child star in the 1980s, won the Best Supporting Actor prize, beating out, among others, Brad Pitt. He was soon followed to the stage by Michelle Yeoh, who took the Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for the same film.

…And The Fabelmans Will Be Right There Along With It 

Steven Spielberg’s auto-biopic may be struggling at the box office, but that’s never impacted awards season momentum before. The beloved director’s passion project about his own complicated, compromising love for the movies—and how any true artist must endure a similar sacrifice—has been gestating for decades, and is the type of narrative voters love. (And it’s a way more digestible film than some of the other equally acclaimed films on the ballot like say, Tár.) Big Steve nabbing Best Director (beating the Daniels) and Fabelmans winning Best Picture – Drama, the night’s final award, means a strong Oscar run seems inevitable.

Everyone Loves Abbott Elementary

The mockumentary sitcom set at a struggling Philadelphia public school picked up awards for Best Actress — Musical or Comedy for its star and creator Quinta Brunson , Best Supporting Actor — Musical or Comedy (Tyler James Williams), and Best Series — Musical or Comedy. (Nominees Janelle James and Sheryl Lee Ralph fell short in the Best Supporting Actress — Musical or Comedy category.) Abbott Elementary takes over for ABC’s departed Modern Family as the rare network series to claim this kind of awards attention.

The Winners Were a Little Safe By Globes Standards (Except When They Weren’t)

The Globes have a history of baffling nominations and even more baffling winners that dates back past the notorious New Star of the Year award given to Pia Zadora, and extends at least up to 2021, when the HFPA handed multiple nominations to Sia’s little-liked, little-seen directorial debut Music. It’s easy to argue about some of the nominees, winners, and categorization (is The Bear a comedy?) but there’s a logic to most of the choices—but not all of them. With all respect to Kevin Costner, the Best Actor – Drama award should have gone to Bob Odenkirk for his final Better Call Saul season. Saul faced even stiffer competition in the Best Drama category in the form of The Crown and Severance but lost to the difficult-to-explain choice of House of the Dragon‘s intriguing but uneven debut season. The Globes may have changed, but maybe they can only change so much.

Other Highlights

  • Jenna Ortega listing the scores to EraserheadBlade Runner, and Jules and Jim as personal favorites then shaming any in attendance who hadn’t seen the lattermost film. (Which is fair.)
  • Austin Butler seeming to bring the ghost of Elvis with him via his voice that’s still filled with Presley’s inflections.
  • Colin Farrell being his charming self when accepting the Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy award for Banshees of Inisheren, including taking a moment to praise Ana de Armas for her work in Blonde.
  • Spielberg giving an unusually personal acceptance speech for the autobiographical Fabelmans. “I’ve been hiding from this story since I was 17 years old,” he said, seeming relieved to have finally told it.
  • Tracy Morgan introducing Murphy by delivering a dark joke about a horrific incident from his past with a flawless deadpan: “He said ‘Tracy, always do good work. Never take a gig just for money. That’s what Wal-Mart trucks are for.’”
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