Golden Globes 2015: A surprisingly mature broadcast

Mary McNamara
Contact ReporterLos Angeles Times Television Critic
Known for boozy antics, Golden Globes this year incorporates larger social messages

The Golden Globes is all grown up.

As the first gathering of Hollywood in the wake of the Sony hacking scandal and the terrorist attacks in Paris, the awards show known for boozy outrageousness admirably balanced humor with meaning, self-congratulation with larger messages of significance.

At the 72nd Golden Globes, awards were dedicated to the transgender community and AIDS victims, and tribute was paid to those who sacrificed their lives in the civil rights movement, survivors of rape and the many strong women whose performances serve as universal role models.

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Presenter Jared Leto and lifetime achievement award winner George Clooney pledged solidarity with the victims and survivors of last week's massacre at the offices of the Parisian magazine Charlie Hebdo with the words that have united many worldwide — "Je suis Charlie."

Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. President Theo Kingma gave a brief and powerful speech promising to oppose enemies of free speech. "We stand united everywhere," he said, "from North Korea to Paris."

Every awards show features a speech by the institutional leader. It is usually a snooze. This one got a standing ovation.

The telecast was also the last in a hosting trilogy by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, whose wit and insider/outsider insight have done much to improve the show's entertainment value and status. On Sunday night, however, it wasn't the hosts that set the tone so much as it was the winners.

To be sure, Fey greeted her audience as a group of "despicable, spoiled, minimally talented brats," a reference to some of the emails made public after the hacking of Sony studios, and said she looked forward to honoring "all the movies North Korea was OK with."

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North Korea became a running joke throughout the show, with Margaret Cho appearing as Cho Yun Ja, editor of the magazine "Movies Wow" and the "newest member of the HFPA." Grim-faced and goose-stepping, Cho's uniformed character at one point demanded a selfie with Meryl Streep. (Whether this mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un or last year's Oscar's host Ellen DeGeneres is unclear.)

But there was no freedom-of-expression speechifying from Fey and Poehler, who trained themselves instead on their colleagues, taking light shots at attendees, including Joaquin Phoenix ("He's not here, of course, because he's said all awards shows are complete and utter bull — oh, hey, Joaquin") and Wes Anderson ("Wes arrived, as per usual, on a bicycle made of antique tuba parts"), and, more brutally, at Bill Cosby.

Sleeping Beauty was described as someone who "just thought she was having coffee with Bill Cosby," and the hosts also offered competing impersonations of the embattled comic saying "I put the pills in the people."

The two then went on to play a light, bright and utterly hilarious version of "Would You Rather," which produced, among many great lines, Poehler's admission that "I like it Ruffalo."

Following such a fast and funny opener, the emotional and even inspirational moments that followed felt more powerful and more organic. As with most awards shows, there were many surprises, but the tone of the broadcast was the biggest.

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Far from the profane free-for-all it once was, this Golden Globes was so mature that a joke by Jeremy Renner about Jennifer Lopez's breasts fell flat not just because it was tasteless, but because it was so out of key.

Joanne Froggatt, winning a best supporting award for her role in "Downton Abbey," spoke directly to the rape survivors who wrote her after her character suffered an attack; Gina Rodriguez, winning best performance by an actress in a television series comedy or musical, said her award represents "a culture that wants to see itself as heroes."

Accepting the award for best TV series, comedy or musical, "Transparent" creator Jill Soloway thanked her "moppa" — her own transgender parent — "for telling your truth and helping me tell mine." That sentiment was echoed later in the show by Jeffrey Tambor, who won for his lead performance in the Amazon series and dedicated his performance and award to the transgender community.

Winning best song for "Glory" along with John Legend, Common called his experience with the film "Selma" "an awakening of my humanity," and reminded the world that "Selma is now." Matt Bomer, winning for his supporting performance in "The Normal Heart," dedicated his award to "the generation we lost and continue to lose" and thanked HBO for making films on topics that need to be heard.

The tone of tolerance and creative activism culminated with Clooney's acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille Award. Well known for his humanitarian philanthropy, Clooney spent much of his speech expressing gratitude for his success and acknowledging his new marriage to international human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin.

But at the end, he paid tribute to those killed in the Paris attacks, and those who marched Sunday in a massive show of unity.

"They were Christians and Jews and Muslims," he said. "They were leaders of countries all over the world. And they didn't march in protest; they marched in support of the idea that we will not walk in fear. We won't do it. So: Je suis Charlie."

Twitter: @marymacTV

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