2020 Golden Globes are full of surprises, with ‘1917,’ ‘Succession’ taking home top honors

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In a night seemingly meant to be ruled by Netflix, Netflix came up short at the 77th Golden Globe Awards. While Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” got the most motion picture nominations of the night and “The Irishman” was regarded as a near-sure bet for best drama, the top film honors went to surprise candidate “1917” and Quentin Tarantino’s much-lauded “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Meanwhile, on the television side of things, HBO saw great success with “Succession” and “Chernobyl,” while Amazon won big with “Fleabag.” Also of note were historic wins for composer Hildur Guðnadóttir and actress Awkwafina, even as, for the second year in a row, female nominees were completely absent from the best director category.

Guiding viewers through the proceedings was host Ricky Gervais, whose tiresome, sneery disposition contrasted with the genuine and increasingly political speeches from many winners. This tonal contrast paired with frequent upset wins characterized a show that was entertaining, if a bit rocky, shaking up some awards season predictions while solidifying others.

The show opened with a monologue from the controversial host. Gervais skewered “The Two Popes,” referring to it as a “pedophile movie,” called the Hollywood Foreign Press Association “racist” for snubbing people of color in major categories and joked about the ages of Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriends, among other jabs at Hollywood elitism and swears that were censored for the live broadcast.

Ramy Youssef was presented with the award for best actor in a television series, musical or comedy and Russell Crowe won the award for best actor in a limited series or motion picture made for television, both men triumphing over respective front-runners Bill Hader and Jared Harris. In lieu of an acceptance speech, presenter Jennifer Aniston read a message from Crowe — who could not attend the awards — regarding the fires in Australia and the need to take action on climate change.

After a standing ovation for Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Sofía Vergara and Matt Bomer presented the award for best actor in a supporting role in a series, limited series or motion picture made for television to Stellan Skarsgård from HBO’s “Chernobyl.” The duo then awarded HBO’s “Succession” with the award for best television series, drama, another big win for the network.

Best actress in a television series, musical or comedy went to Emmys victor Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who led her speech with a tribute to co-star Andrew Scott, quipping that he could “have chemistry with a pebble.” The award for best motion picture, foreign language was then taken home by Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” an expected (and deserved) victory.

The hilarious Kate McKinnon subsequently gave a moving tribute to Ellen DeGeneres as she presented the television host with the Carol Burnett Award for Achievement in Television. In her speech, DeGeneres playfully joked about being able to give a lengthy speech because she had received a “special award” and expressed her gratitude for her show’s ability to inspire kindness in others.

The award for best actor in a television series, drama went to Brian Cox for “Succession,” before best screenplay, motion picture went to Quentin Tarantino for “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” “Missing Link” was then given the award for best motion picture, animated, another surprise victory as the film won out over Pixar favorite “Toy Story 4.”

Laura Dern was presented with the award for best actress in a supporting role in any motion picture for her work in “Marriage Story.” In a repeat of its Emmys success, “Fleabag” then nabbed the award for best television series, musical or comedy.

Dakota Fanning and Ansel Elgort presented the award for best original song, motion picture to Elton John and Bernie Taupin after Elgort belted out an ill-advised musical note. The duo accepted the award for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” a song written for John’s 2019 biopic, “Rocketman.” 

Olivia Colman is now 3-for-3 in her Globes wins-to-nominations ratio, winning best actress in a television series, drama for “The Crown.” Saying she was a little “tipsy,” Colman expressed her surprise at winning the award, displaying once again her penchant for excellent acceptance speeches

Charlize Theron offered gentle words in the presentation of Tom Hanks’ Cecil B. deMille Award for achievements in entertainment, saying: “He gives us enough laughter to weather our storms.” Hanks choked back tears while thanking his family and sharing pride for his loved ones. 

The dapper couple of Helen Mirren and Antonio Banderas presented the nail-biting award for best director, motion picture. Sam Mendes stole the show for “1917,” a stunning victory over front-runners and fellow nominees Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.  

Michelle Williams, in her second Golden Globes win, was presented the award for best actress in a limited series or motion picture made for television for “Fosse/Verdon.” In her speech, Williams said, “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose,” referencing the wave of empowerment flowing over the film industry after the #MeToo movement.  

“Chernobyl” took home the award for best television limited series or motion picture made for television right before Hildur Guðnadóttir was presented the award for best original score, motion picture for her composing work on “Joker,” the first solo female nominee to do so. Hollywood favorite Brad Pitt then took home the award for best actor in a supporting role in any motion picture for “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” 

The award for best actor in a motion picture, musical or comedy went to Taron Egerton in another one of the night’s biggest surprises. Egerton spoke of his experience working with “legitimate icons” John and Taupin, thanking John especially for “living a life less ordinary.” 

Best actress in a motion picture, musical or comedy went to Awkwafina for “The Farewell,” with the actress making history as the first woman of Asian descent to win the award. She joked in her speech, “If I fall upon hard times, then I can sell this.” 

In one of the most predictable wins of the night, the award for best motion picture, musical or comedy went to “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” The presentation of best actor in a motion picture, drama was more of a tight race between nominees Joaquin Phoenix and Adam Driver, but ended with Phoenix winning for his role of Arthur Fleck in 2019’s “Joker.” Most of Phoenix’s speech was censored, but his intentions were clear as he reminded the crowd of the sheer talent in the room, no matter who was onstage. 

Upon receiving the award for best actress in a motion picture, drama, Renée Zellweger said, “I just want to thank you for reminding me that the top doesn’t really matter — it’s the journey that matters.” 

In one more wild shock to end the night, “1917” won for best motion picture, drama, beating out “Marriage Story,” “Joker,” “The Irishman” and “The Two Popes.” This win could signal a major shift in the Oscars race for best pictures, which, up until now, seemed to be chiefly between “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story,” “Parasite” and “Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood.” Although Tarantino’s film maintains its Oscar momentum with three big wins, the former three films fell unexpectedly short at the Globes.

Ultimately, through every surprise and every sure bet, this year’s Golden Globes stayed true to chaotic form — serving up shocking wins, drunk celebrities and an uneven start to this year’s awards season. 

Grace Orriss is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @graceorriss.

Skylar De Paul is the deputy arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.