Well, that was kind of dull, but I guess they saved the best surprise for last. I think we've all agreed that while the Golden Globes were one impetus for this little conversation, there's really not so much left to say about them, and the other ongoing discussions on have been more interesting. For a bit more about the Globes, you can check-out my little live blogging experiment from last night, but otherwise, here's my personal last word on last night's event.
First, let's run down what made me happy versus sad. Wins by The Aviator, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clive Owen, Ian McShane, and Jason Bateman were awesome, with all five of those awards coming as surprises due to my cynical expectations. Wins by Sideways, The Sea Inside, Hilary Swank, Annette Bening, Jamie Foxx, Natalie Portman, Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, Nip/Tuck, Mariska Hargitay and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers were mildly upsetting at best, and absolutely tragic at worst, not necessarily because of who won as who didn't. I have a hard time really being disappointed by the Sideways win because I did love the movie; but the lack of respect shown to Eternal Sunshine, while expected, is very disheartening.
With that said, the most interesting element of the Golden Globes isn't even the wins themselves but what they signify and their influence on the biggest prizes, the Oscars. The Globes used to have a greater effect before the Academy Awards moved its entire process up a month, and the winners were announced before Oscar nomination ballots were due. That's no longer the case, but in these days of Oscar campaigns being more about politics and advertising than quality, a Globes win is sometimes enough to break an otherwise tight race.
That's why the big winner last night was undoubtedly Sideways. Interestingly enough, the Hollywood Foreign Press tends to like spreading its awards around. Including last night, in the last fifteen years the HFPA has awarded its "Best Director" prize to a film also winning "Best Picture" only five times. In fact, this is the second time that Clint Eastwood has won the Golden Globe for "Best Director" and not had his film take him "Best Picture." (The same thing happened in 1993 when he justly won for Unforgiven but lost the "Best Picture – Drama" prize to, believe it or not, Scent of a Woman. "Best Picture – Musical/Comedy" went to The Player.) Two years ago, Martin Scorsese was given the director award for Gangs of New York while The Hours and Chicago took home the "Best Picture" awards. I guess giving The Aviator the big one tonight evens things out for Scorsese.
Now I'm not saying Million Dollar Baby can't win the Academy Award. Hell, this is exactly the same situation as Unforgiven -- the film I personally consider Eastwood's all-time best – and it rightfully went on to bring home both picture and director Oscars. But the momentum has definitely swung Sideways' way, and you can bet your ass that Fox Searchlight will be publicizing the hell out of not just all the critics awards wins but now this prize as well.
My greatest disappointments of the evening have to be all the film female acting awards. The more I think about it, the more I'm bothered by Bening's win for Being Julia. The movie is so very blah and uneven, and while she is very good, her performance essentially services nothing. The film is adapted from Somerset Maugham's novel "Theatre", and I was so appalled at this collection of jumbled scenes that I bought the book. The changes made for the film make no sense. They basically chose a bunch of favorite scenes and pieced them together with no regard for flow. Amazingly enough, the one sequence in the film which is very enjoyable (and that probably clinched Bening's award) is a scene only alluded to in the novel, created specifically for the screen. This was a weak category, and I suppose Bening is the only other person nominated who was deserving, but this should have been Kate Winslet's prize.
On the drama side, I thought Swank was great, but she at best comes in third for me in this category. While I didn't really like the film, Nicole Kidman really did do some incredible work in Birth, but as I've repeated ad nauseam already, Imelda Staunton gave the performance of the year.
And finally, for supporting actress, I really did love Natalie Portman in Closer, almost as much as Clive Owen. But Cate Blanchett channeled Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator and really deserved this award. I wonder, though, if maybe Blanchett was indirectly done in by Laura Linney. I wasn't a huge fan of Kinsey, but I thought Linney was magnificent. In fact, she and the always phenomenal Peter Sarsgaard made this movie for me. If any one performance does compete with Blanchett's, it would be Linney's. Maybe a lot of HFPA members agreed, and Portman snuck in under the wire.
It's silly, really, that the Golden Globes carry so much more weight than any other year-end awards. A group of fewer than 100 people, many ostensibly calling themselves critics but plenty others who really aren't, vote for their favorite films (or the ones which provided them with their favorite swag) and because they throw the biggest televised party, people seem to actually believe they're more important than any other vote or poll. I suppose we (and probably mostly I) have given them more discussion than really warranted, so I suppose I'll leave it at that.