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

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

A night of surprises at the Golden Globes adds twists to the Oscar race
Sandra Oh backstage at the 76th Annual Golden Globes at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 6, 20
Photographer: los angeles times

LOS ANGELES — Golden Globes co-host Sandra Oh got choked up seeing the diverse sea of faces in the Beverly Hills Hotel’s ballroom. A Netflix movie won a Golden Globe for the first time. And Christian Bale thanked Satan in his acceptance speech.

So, yes, the 76th Golden Globes on Sunday night proved to be an evening of inclusion, a night of historic firsts and a largely enjoyable mix of the boozy humor and star power that have helped it lap the Oscars in recent years as an evening of entertaining, watchable television.

With Oscar balloting beginning Monday, it provided the night’s winners a podium to make their case to film academy members, and several of those honored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — Glenn Close, Regina King and the aforementioned Bale, who comically hailed Satan for inspiration in playing former Vice President Dick Cheney in “Vice” — took that opportunity and ran with it.

Voted on by the 88 active members of HFPA, the Golden Globes often diverge from the Oscars in many key categories, including best picture. Last year, for example, eventual Oscar winner “The Shape of Water” lost the Globe for best drama picture to “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” “Birdman” stands as another recent movie that came up short with the HFPA but went on to win the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ top prize.

That history could provide a measure of solace to “A Star Is Born,” Bradley Cooper’s update of the often-told story of show business mythmaking. Nominated for five Globes, including best picture drama and nods for Cooper as an actor and director, the commercial hit won only for its ubiquitous song, “Shallow,” co-written by Lady Gaga, who stars with Cooper in the film.

The night’s big winners — “Roma,” “Green Book” and, improbably, the critically reviled box office hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” — received definite momentum boosts from Sunday’s ceremony, winning multiple Globes and further splintering a best picture Oscar race that has no front-runner, a situation unlikely to change before the Academy Awards are handed out on Feb. 24.

Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” a glorious, intimate drama that combines the filmmaker’s gift for visual poetry with a story that is delicate, mysterious and full of surprises, won for foreign-language film as well as a prize for its director. Distributed by Netflix, “Roma” provided the streamer with its first Globe victories.

Now with the Globes, a bevy of critics group prizes and a Producers Guild picture nomination, “Roma” seems assured of bringing Netflix its first-ever Oscar nomination in the best picture category.

“Green Book,” Peter Farrelly’s tear-jerking road-trip movie about a crude, resourceful hustler (Viggo Mortensen) hired to drive Don Shirley, a cultured, black pianist (Mahershala Ali), on a concert tour through the Deep South in 1962, earned Globes for picture, comedy/musical, Ali for his supporting turn and for motion picture screenplay.

The feel-good film won the People’s Choice prize at the Toronto Film Festival, establishing its crowd-pleasing bona fides, which have been slow to translate at the box office — though the Globes wins could help boost its commercial prospects. “Green Book” has also been dogged by criticism from Shirley’s family over the way he was depicted in the movie.

“My job is always the same,” Ali told reporters, responding to the family’s complaints. “I have to look at what I’m responsible for doing. All the prayers and energy … I’m not one who is going to necessarily throw that all away over things I have no control over. I have a job to do and I have to continue doing it. I respect the family. I wish them well.”

“The story … gave me hope, and I wanted to share that hope with you,” Farrelly said, accepting the award, “because we’re living in divided times, maybe more so than ever.”

The night’s biggest upset came at the very end, when the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won best picture, drama over “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther,” “BlacKkKlansman” and “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Moments earlier, its star, Rami Malek, who portrays Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, won the Globe for lead actor, drama, putting him, along with comedy/musical lead actor winner Bale as Oscar favorites.

It might be the first time a movie has won top prizes at the Globes without a single mention made of its director — in this case Bryan Singer, who was fired from the film before its completion. Singer retained sole directorial credit. Neither Malek nor the movie’s producers cited Singer from the stage.

The long-gestating “Bohemian Rhapsody” has grossed nearly $750 million worldwide, while earning generally negative reviews for its formulaic and, at times, fictional storytelling. If it managed to earn an Oscar nomination for best picture, it would make some dubious history — and not just because it was directed by Singer, who was accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old boy in a recent lawsuit. (Singer has denied the allegations.) With a 49 score on movie review aggregation website Metacritic, it would be one of the lowest-rated films to ever earn a best picture nod.

Of the evening’s winners, no one may have boosted their cause more than Close, who seemed shocked when she took lead actress, drama for her nuanced turn in “The Wife.” Through tears, Close, 71, delivered a rousing speech, paying tribute to her mother, speaking to gender inequity and moving the audience to a standing ovation.

“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,’ and it was so not right,” Close said. “What I’ve learned through this whole experience is that women, we’re nurturers, that’s what’s expected of us. We have our children and we have our husbands, if we’re lucky enough, and we have our partners. But 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.’ ”

With six nods — “The World According to Garp” (1982), “The Big Chill” (1983), “The Natural” (1984), “Fatal Attraction” (1987), “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988) and, most recently, “Albert Nobbs” (2011) — Close stands as the most nominated living actor to have never won an Oscar. Her work in “The Wife” should earn her a seventh nomination and, possibly, her first trophy.

One other Globe win seems to point toward eventual Oscar glory. Taking animated feature, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” continued a remarkable run for the hit Sony Pictures Animation movie, a joyful, inventive and inclusive renewal of the superhero movie genre. “Spider-Man” earlier won prestigious prizes from critics groups in Los Angeles and New York, and the Globe gives it a decided leg up over early favorite, Pixar’s sequel “Incredibles 2.”

“Anyone can be behind the mask,” said co-director Peter Ramsey, who grew up in Los Angeles’ Crenshaw District, referring to, among other things, the movie’s central Spidey, a black-Latino teen.

In a night full of surprises and inclusion, it served as a fitting sentiment.

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