An upset victory for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and three awards for ‘Green Book’ define an unpredictable Golden Globes

Rami Malek as rock icon Freddie Mercury in "Bohemian Rhapsody."
(Alex Bailey / Twentieth Century Fox)

Providing the latest set of potentially confusing data points in what has already been an unpredictable awards season, the 76th Golden Globes gave major boosts to the racially inflected period road movie “Green Book” and, more surprising, the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” in their pursuit of Oscar glory.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” — a film that had a troubled production, including the firing of credited director Bryan Singer, and was largely dismissed as a major awards contender early on — took home the prize for best picture in the drama category, beating out a field that included presumptive favorite “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther,” “BlacKkKlansman” and “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Though the Globes has a long history of delivering occasional head-scratchers, “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King seemed to speak for many in the crowd when, accepting the award, he said simply, “Wow, now that was unexpected.” Rami Malek also earned the prize for actor in a drama for his turn in the film as the lead singer of Queen.

Neither Malek nor King mentioned Singer in their acceptance speeches. Asked backstage about Singer’s departure from the film, King said, “It’s not something I really wish to talk about tonight.”

Malek added, “There’s only one thing we needed to do and that was to celebrate Freddie Mercury … Nothing was going to compromise us giving him the love, celebration, adulation he deserves.”


FULL GOLDEN GLOBES COVERAGE: Live updates | Winners list | Show highlights

“Green Book” earned the award for best comedy or musical over “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite,” “Mary Poppins Returns” and “Vice,” and won prizes for screenplay and supporting actor Mahershala Ali.

But the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. also spread its love wide, handing out significant prizes to other contenders, even as it left the comic-book juggernaut “Black Panther” and Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” empty-handed.

Alfonso Cuarón’s deeply personal, black-and-white “Roma” — which many expect to earn Netflix its first best picture nomination later this month — earned Cuarón the director award as well as the prize for best foreign language film, the first Globes ever earned by the streaming giant for a motion picture. (Due to the HFPA’s rules, the film was ineligible for best picture in the drama category.)

Taking place against the backdrop of a government shutdown and bitter political debate over immigration, the ceremony at the Beverly Hilton was threaded with references to issues of diversity. Accepting the foreign language award, Cuarón said that films like “Roma” have the potential to help boost people’s capacity for empathy.

“We begin to realize that while [the characters onscreen] may be strange, they are not unfamiliar,” Cuarón said. “We need to realize how very much we have in common.”

Indeed, while the Globes are generally considered the loosest (and booziest) stop on the awards season circuit, this year’s show — like last year’s telecast, which came in the wake of a wave of sexual harassment scandals — showed Hollywood in a reflective mood, addressing thorny questions of gender and racial inclusiveness that have dogged the industry for decades.

Establishing the unofficial theme of the night in the opening monologue, Sandra Oh — who co-hosted the show with Andy Samberg — sharply riffed off the title of Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man.” “First Man is also how the studios look for directors,” Oh cracked. “First man, then if man is not available, pair of man, then team of man — then maybe eventually woman.”

Acknowledging the diversity represented by such films as “Black Panther,” “Roma,” “BlacKkKlansman” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” Oh dropped the jokes to express her sincere hope that Hollywood has finally reached some kind of tipping point.

“I said yes to the fear of being on this stage tonight because I wanted to be here to look out onto this audience and witness this moment of change,” she said. “I’m not fooling myself. Next year could be different; it probably will be. But right now this moment is real. … Because I see you, and I see you – all of these faces of change. And now so will everyone else.”

Regina King of ‘If Beale Street Could’ brings an emotional high point to the Globes with gender parity pledge »

Accepting the award for her supporting turn in Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Regina King acknowledged the Time’s Up movement and laid down a marker for the industry, much as Frances McDormand did at last year’s Oscars when she raised the issue of inclusion riders.

“In the next two years, I am making a vow — and it’s going to be tough – to make sure that everything that I produce is 50% women,” said King, who was nominated alongside Claire Foy (“First Man”), Amy Adams (“Vice”) and two stars of “The Favourite,” Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. “And I challenge everyone out there in a position of power, not just in our industry but in all industries — I challenge you to challenge yourselves to stand in solidarity and do the same.”

When it comes to Oscar prognostication, of course, one needs to be cautious not to read too much into the Globes, which are voted on by fewer than 100 members of the HFPA rather than film industry professionals. (The big winners at last year’s Globes, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Lady Bird,” were ultimately overtaken in the Oscar race for best picture by “The Shape of Water.”)

But, in an unpredictable awards season like this one, the awards can provide some sense of which films and performances have the wind at their backs and which may be losing momentum.

“A Star Is Born” had been seen as a favorite in multiple categories heading into the night but wound up with a single win for the original song “Shallow.”

Glenn Close topped “Star” lead Lady Gaga among others to win the award for actress in a drama for her performance in “The Wife,” potentially bringing her a step closer to winning her first Oscar. Olivia Colman earned the prize for actress in a comedy or musical for her turn as Queen Anne in “The Favourite.”

Ali won the supporting actor award for his turn in “Green Book,” beating out a field that included Timothée Chalamet (“Beautiful Boy”), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman”), Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) and Sam Rockwell (“Vice”).

A night of surprises at the Golden Globes adds twists to the Oscar race »

In a night that was surprisingly light on digs at President Trump, Christian Bale delivered one of the sharpest political barbs when he accepted the award for actor in a comedy or musical for his turn as former Vice President Dick Cheney in “Vice.” “Thank you to Satan for giving me inspiration on how to play this role,” Bale said, just moments after acknowledging that his wife had warned him he could easily torpedo his career by saying the wrong thing in a speech.

Indeed, in the wake of Kevin Hart stepping down as this year’s Academy Awards host after controversy over past homophobic jokes, some winners may have chosen their words more carefully than they otherwise might. (Samberg referenced the motion picture academy’s most recent headache in the opening monologue, joking, “We’re going to have some fun, give out some awards — and at the end, one lucky audience member will host the Oscars.”)

On the television side, the HFPA handed prizes to a mix of veteran shows and newcomers. Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method” earned the prize for best comedy series along with an actor award for its star, Michael Douglas. FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” collected two prizes for limited series and lead actor Darren Criss. The cable network’s “The Americans,” which wrapped its run last year after six seasons, picked up the award for drama series off its first-ever nomination.

Carol Burnett received a new prize named in her honor for her storied TV comedy career, while Jeff Bridges was awarded this year’s Cecil B. DeMille award in recognition of his body of work in film. “We are alive; we can make a difference,” Bridges told the crowd. “We can turn this ship in the way we want to go, man — towards love, creating a healthy planet for all of us.”

But it was Close who delivered the night’s most emotional speech — and the one perhaps most in tune with Hollywood’s mood as it faces up to its history of entrenched inequality.

“I’m thinking of my mom, who really sublimated herself to my father her whole life, and in her 80s she said to me, ‘I feel I haven’t accomplished anything,’ ” Close said through tears. “I feel what I’ve learned through this whole experience is that women … we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, ‘I can do that — and I should be allowed to do that.’ ”

Times staff writer Yvonne Villarreal contributed to this report.

Twitter: @joshrottenberg