I wonder if I am alone in my confusion as to what just occurred at the 75th Annual Golden Globes. Because I stared at my television and I waited for a producer to come on stage in a panic and begin whispering in everyone’s ears that there had been a mix up, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Lady Bird were not the Best Picture winners for the night. But that moment never came. So I began racking my brain for all the reasons this decision was made and I came to a conclusion that, while slightly condescending is quite probable.
We all know that towards the end of last year there was an eruption of sexual harassment cases coming out of Hollywood and while this wasn’t really new news, it sparked a movement. Celebrities began sharing their sexual harassment experiences through penned letters and gala speeches. The hashtag #MeToo flooded the timelines and newsfeeds of every social media site, as both women and men shared their stories. Rightfully, women feel they can finally stand up and speak out against the horrors these powerful men have put them through, and while this is a welcomed and much needed change, I couldn’t help but wonder if the movement played a part in the choosing of tonight’s winners.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a beautifully made film by Martin McDonaugh. Its cast is lead by the force that is Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother who buys three billboards and paints a controversial message, questioning the local police who have failed to find the men who raped and killed her seventeen-year-old daughter seven months earlier. The billboards cause her to amass many enemies in the town and she must retaliate when they begin to interfere with the lives of her loved ones. McDormand captivates as surely as the sun shines in the sky, but this is an unusual role for her. While she has played strong characters before, like the brilliant cop in the Coen Brothers film Fargo (1996), here she is playing a character who’s bitter, mean, forceful, sweet, and compassionate all at the same time. Not many actors could pull off a role with such grace and intelligence, but McDormand is a veteran and I applaud her performance. Her Best Actress-Drama award was well deserved.
Its the film itself I take issue with. Three Billboards constantly shifts in tone, and while I understand this is supposed to mirror the various tones of real life situations, it doesn’t work in a lot of places and weakens the film as a result. It can never tell if it wants to be a serious drama or a dark comedy. The uneven tone makes me wonder if it won the Golden Globe for Best Picture-Drama simply because the kind of woman McDormand was playing. McDormand’s character reminded me of Rosie the Riveter, a symbol of feminism and woman’s economic power. Mildred Hayes is a character that is much needed in this political climate. I would never say this film didn’t deserve to win its award, because it truly is a fantastic film. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t believe outside factors had more to do with its win, than its story and technical merit did.
Lady Bird is a similar situation. Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a hilarious coming-of-age story about Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a rebellious student at a conservative Catholic Sacramento high school who wants to escape her family and small town constraints to go to college in New York. The very Irish Saoirse Ronan shows how talented she is with her flawless portrayal of an American teen. Her Best Actress-Comedy award was also well deserved, but that should’ve been the only award Lady Bird won tonight. While enjoyable, this film seemed very familiar. It felt like Gerwig took every coming-of-age trope ever created and strung them together, and while it works, it should not have earned the film Best Original Screenplay or Best Picture-Comedy.
In a year where Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name and Jordan Peele’s Get Out exist, it seems like a mistake to award any other films. Call Me By Your Name is a film about seventeen-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) who begins a relationship with visiting Oliver (Armie Hammer), his father’s research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality and their Jewish heritage. This film somehow manages to activate all five of the senses as it is directed in a way that manipulates sight, sound, smell, taste and touch all through its visuals. This film is so heart wrenchingly beautiful and critically acclaimed that I was stunned when it didn’t win Best Picture- Drama, because it seems like the movie voters usually eat up. But considering Moonlight won this award last year, maybe the voters didn’t want to award two “gay movies” in a row.
Call Me By You Name wasn’t the only film that was robbed. Get Out was the snub of the night, as it didn’t win a single Golden Globe. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut was an instant classic filled with racial undertones. A film about the chaotic experience Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) has when he goes to meet his white girlfriend’s family connected with even the most triggered audiences and earned a 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So why didn’t it win? I have a theory: The film is a scathing indictment of micro-aggressions and casual racism from characters quite similar to awards voters. Would you award a film that made you feel bad about yourself and your ignorance? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean this film wasn’t robbed. People are still talking about Get Out and it came out in February of last year. While it was a fantastic film, I doubt anybody is going to be talking about Lady Bird a few months from now.
This Golden Globes’ ceremony has me wondering if we have just entered an age where timeliness surpasses artistic merit. That thought gives me pause because I would hate for artists to not get the accolades they deserve, because another film just so happens to match whatever hashtag is trending on Twitter. These awards ceremonies lose more of their audience every year and I don’t see this year being any different. While all this year’s nominees are fantastic and I have enjoyed every film nominated, they seem to appeal to only a certain type of film enthusiast. They tend to alienate the average movie goer and make them feel like the films they enjoy don’t really matter. I’m not exactly sure what changes should be made but a change is definitely needed, because one day the voters are going to look up and no one will have tuned in.