January 9, 2020 at 4:45 am EST | by Brian T. Carney
Porter’s gown, DeGeneres’ speech among queer Golden Globe ’20 highlights
Golden Globe, gay news, Washington Blade
Kate McKinnon gives Ellen DeGeneres the Carol Burnett Award at the Golden Globes Sunday night. (screen capture via NBC Broadcast/HFPA)

The Golden Globe Awards have become an uneasy inebriated blend of snark and sentiment. The sentiment comes from the winners and the special honorees who tearfully thank their colleagues and promote their latest cause (this year there were lots of shout-outs to the brave Australian firefighters). A few speeches did break through the haze; this year those speeches came from the likes of Kate McKinnon, Ellen DeGeneres, Charlize Theron, Tom Hanks and especially a dazzling Michelle Williams.

The snark was supposed to come from Ricky Gervais who returned to host the ceremony for the fifth time since 2010. Gervais and broadcaster NBC promised a gleeful naughty night of politically incorrect humor, but the British comedian delivered tired toothless material. There were lots of F-bombs (Gervais kept the bleeper on his toes), lame jokes about Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein, and lunchroom whining about the vegan meal (serving vegetables to vegetables), but only one comment (about Apple and Chinese sweatshops) that had any real bite.

Instead, the best line of the evening came from Sacha Baron Cohen who compared Mark Zuckerberg to the hero of “JoJo Rabbit,” a misguided child who spreads Nazi propaganda and has imaginary friends.

For LGBT audiences, the highlight of the evening came when “Pose” star Billy Porter hit the runway in a magnificent white tuxedo with a splendid six-foot-long white feather train. In addition to the Alex Vinash tuxedo, Porter wore custom-made white satin shoes from Jimmy Choo, an Emm Kuo cigarette-box handbag and over $2.5 million in jewelry loaned by Tiffany & Company. On the runway, the Best Actor nominee announced that his gender-bending outfit was a form of activism and that he was wearing white to symbolize new hope and new beginnings.

Unfortunately, Porter did not take home the statue for Best Performance in a Television Series (drama). Overall, there were not a lot of out winners, but there weren’t a lot of queer nominees (either LGBT or “gay for pay”) to choose from this year. There was a similar lack of women and people of color among the nominees. Not a single female director was nominated in any of the directing categories, a lack so appalling that even Ricky Gervais commented on it.

Nonetheless, there were some amazing queer moments during the 77th annual Golden Globes ceremony. Ellen DeGeneres received the second Carol Burnett Award; in her thoughtful and heartfelt (if somewhat rambling) speech she discussed the power of television in LGBT representation and mocked convention by thanking her husband and kids. She was introduced by Kate McKinnon who tearfully praised DeGeneres for being a brave television pioneer while Laura Dern (Ellen’s co-star in the infamous “Puppy Episode where both the actress and her TV character bounded out of the closet) beamed from the audience.

The other honorary award of the evening, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, went to Tom Hanks for his outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment. In his delightfully goofy speech, he looked back over his long career, including a guest appearance on “The Love Boat” and starring in “Bosom Buddies” where he and Peter Scolari dressed in drag to find an affordable apartment.

“Rocketman,” the fantasy biography of queer pop icon Elton John, soared high on Sunday night. Sir Elton beat out Beyoncé for Best Original Song (“I’m Gonna Love Me Again”) and Taron Egerton beat out Daniel Craig, Roman Griffin Davis, Leonardo DiCaprio and Eddie Murphy for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (musical or comedy).

Taron Egerton wins a Globe for playing Elton John in ‘Rocketman.’ (screen capture via NBC Broadcast/HFPA)

Two outspoken LGBT allies won for playing LGBT icons. On the television side, Michelle Williams won for playing Gwen Verdon in “Fosse/Verdon”and on the movie side, Renée Zellweger won for playing Judy Garland in “Judy.” Williams’ acceptance speech was a powerful testimony about reproductive freedom.

No single movie or TV show dominated the evening. As expected, “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood,” “Chernobyl,” “Fleabag” and “Succession” each took home multiple awards.

In some interesting upsets, the World War I drama “1917” took home honors for Best Drama and Best Director (Sam Mendes). Actor Joaquin Phoenix and composer Hildur Gudnardottir won for “Joker” and “Missing Link” won Best Animated Motion Picture over several popular movies from Walt Disney’s collection of remakes and reboots.

The Golden Globes are awarded annually by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), a small and rather eccentric group of movie critics. There are roughly 95 members of the HFPA from over 55 countries; members must retain a primary residence in southern California and work for a media outlet that publishes primarily outside the United States. Every member must be currently accredited by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and must submit clippings to renew their membership every year.

While the Golden Globe ceremony is usually considered the start of the Hollywood awards season, it’s not clear if they are more than a convenient shorthand for critics and publicists to use as an indicator of quality. The small size of the voting pool, the limited number of awards categories (there are no design or technical awards) and the split between dramas and musicals/comedies limit the use of the Golden Globes as crystal balls.

The Golden Globe audience at the Beverly Hilton Sunday night. The Globes are not widely thought by insiders to be much of a prognosticator for the Academy Awards. (screen capture via NBC Broadcast/HFPA)

Instead, the awards presented by the various guilds over the coming weeks may be a better sign of who will bring home Oscar gold. Members of the various unions and associations (like the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America and the Costumers Designers Guild) have closer ties to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Look for the Oscar nominees to be announced Monday, Jan. 13.

This year, the Oscars will be presented earlier than usual (Feb. 9). The Spirit Awards for independent films will be presented Feb. 8 and winners of the Dorian Awards from GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics) will be celebrated on Feb. 2. The SAGS (Screen Actors Guild Awards) are Jan. 19 on TNT and TBS at 8 p.m.

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