The Golden Globes Approach Legitimacy — but at What Cost?

There are a few elements of the Golden Globes that, while relevant to only people in Los Angeles and the wider entertainment industry, explain the show’s lasting appeal to the town’s starriest names. It’s often billed as LA’s drunkest night (or, as last night’s show attempted to rebrand it, “Hollywood’s biggest party”).

That’s been the grin-and-bear-it aspect of this awards show at its height: Suffer through courting favor with the often offbeat and invasive former Hollywood Foreign Press Association; gain access to a genuinely fun night on the town. (All after-parties used to take place onsite at the Beverly Hilton, allowing attendees to start the night at the rooftop celebrating one studio, head down to a ballroom celebrating another, and end the night by the pool at the organization’s official after-party.)

The trophies themselves? Almost a consolation prize, one that can market select dramas, musicals, and comedies as must-sees in theaters before the Oscars, rather than serving as a reliable barometer for where Academy voters’ heads are at.

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Jo Koy hosts the 81st Annual Golden Globe Awards, airing live from the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California on Sunday, January 7, 2024, at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT, on CBS and streaming on Paramount+. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2024 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Jo Koy at the 81st Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California.

In recent years, the awards body came under fire for its conduct and lack of diversity, faced a couple of ownership changes (resulting in the dissolution of the HFPA), and found a new (one-year) network home at CBS. It seems as if the Golden Globes has gained some legitimacy — but at what cost?

Ballooning from 90-odd members to a more diverse 300 potentially made the Golden Globes a better bellwether for the Oscars, as both voting bodies have become increasingly international in recent years.

In the ballroom on Sunday night, seeing Justine Triet and Arthur Harari win Best Screenplay for their film “Anatomy of a Fall” — over some heavy hitters like “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer,” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” — was a key moment the Neon film needed, if only to show it will still have plenty chances at awards this year (despite the Palme d’Or winner not being chosen as France’s submission for Best International Feature Film).

As the film collected Best Non-English Language Movie as well, there were whispers in the room that Sandra Hüller could pull off an upset and win Best Actress in a Drama (instead, “Killers of the Flower Moon” star Lily Gladstone became the first Indigenous person to receive that award).

Justine Triet at the 81st Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California.
Justine Triet at the 81st Golden Globe AwardsMichael Buckner

As the wins rolled in, they seemed to signal where the Oscars and the Emmys (uniquely scheduled after the Globes this year, due to the WGA and SAG strikes) are headed. This was not the quirky Golden Globes that gave Aaron Taylor-Johnson a Best Supporting Actor win for “Nocturnal Animals” or “Mozart in the Jungle” their Best TV Series — Musical or Comedy trophy.

Talking to longer-term Golden Globes voters over the weekend, there is some pride in their nominations making room for performers like Finnish “Fallen Leaves” star Alma Pöysti, and the increase in transparency has made them feel more legitimate. But with 300 members, there is no more time to meet every month. There is less drama behind the scenes, because the Globes voters don’t get to communicate with each other the same way they used to.

The pro of that? It’s obvious: They avoid controversy. However, it also feels like these changes sanded off the group’s edges and more quirky picks. It’s boring.

The less said about the actual telecast, the better. Walking into the Beverly Hilton Sunday evening, it was clear things were already off to a rough start thanks to a last-minute rollout of tickets. A change to seating norms pushed talent to the front and everyone else (even studio executives) to the back of the ballroom. What may have played well on TV (and, seemingly, not even then) did not play at all to the in-house audience. If there were any funny jokes salvaged from Jo Koy’s ill-fated monologue, most attendees could not hear them; in the room, it didn’t sound like the microphones were on at all.

The two moments that got the most applause were “The Bear” star Ayo Edebiri’s thank you to her “agents and managers’ assistants” that made the whole room take notice, plus Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig pulling off a winning bit with music that cued in attendees to the fact that something interesting was happening onstage.

It didn’t hurt that Ferrell added the line, “The Golden Globes have not changed!,” which spoke to some of the frustration people felt during the show. Looking straight at a stage where presenters are purposely in profile so the cameras can get a different angle of the room felt awkward. Afterward, it did not seem like Glenn Weiss, the director of the telecast whom the Golden Globes triumphantly poached from the Academy Awards, was happy about the show’s end result.

Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell at the 81st Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California.
Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell at the 81st Golden Globe AwardsRich Polk

In terms of parties, the place to be was Universal’s celebration, which hosted both the Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy winner Paul Giamatti and the Best Actor in a Drama winner Cillian Murphy, and Supporting Actress and Actor winners Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Robert Downey Jr. Focus Features’ comedy “The Holdovers” is famously a three-hander, so really only the aforementioned winners, plus breakout star Dominic Sessa and director Alexander Payne, were on hand to represent. But “Oppenheimer,” the biggest winner at the Globes, showed up and showed out in full force, with co-stars all the way from Emily Blunt to Jack Quaid and Josh Peck joining their elusive auteur Christopher Nolan in merriment.

It also happened to be the only studio besides Netflix throwing a party that night. Both were offsite from the awards show, serving as another reminder of one of the biggest past appeals of the Golden Globes — one that this year’s attendees did not get to experience. It’s not so fun anymore, either in the ballroom or freed from its clutches.

Has the Golden Globes changed? This year, the show did an amazing job of setting the tone of this awards season but also lost the very eccentricities that made it an enduring event. What’s the point?

The 81st Annual Golden Globe Awards were held Sunday, January 7 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. They aired on CBS and streamed via Paramount+. Dick Clark Productions, which owns and produces the Golden Globes, is a Penske Media company. PMC is also IndieWire’s parent company.

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