Emcees Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg opened with a joke at the expense of the Oscars — and its protracted search for a host, after naming and parting with Kevin Hart — saying that “one lucky audience member” would be chosen to host that show.
Brad Simpson, accepting for FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” also cited the erection of walls and lingering presence of the homophobia reflected within the limited series, urging the arts community to let their voices be heard and “Resist.”
For the most part, though, the presentation’s tone was celebratory, with Oh turning serious — after a comedy bit that actually flattered nominees in the guise of roasting them — to savor the greater inclusion in this year’s lineup of movies, including films headlined by people of color like “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians.”
“Witness this moment of change,” Oh said, triggering an appreciative response from the crowd.
One of the best-received statements came from Meher Tatna, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who spoke of the need for a free and robust press, announcing grants toward that end. (The HFPA devotes part of the millions that NBC pays to televise the awards to philanthropic causes.)
As noted, there were emotional moments, several nostalgic ones and plenty of major surprises, starting with “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Glenn Close, whose stunned reaction spoke volumes.
Still, with its slightly unorthodox hosting tandem, the comedy often veered into silliness, such as a pointless gag that involved giving audience members free flu shots. Samberg’s cleverest line almost slid by in a blur of rat-a-tat banter, saying that “Vice” — questionably nominated as a comedy thanks to the Globes’ drama and comedy/musical split — had “invaded the wrong category based on false intelligence.”
To the extent these awards are viewed as one of the bellwether for the Oscars — despite a mixed track record on that score — the surprising results at best brought a bit more clarity to some key races, but confounded others. The HFPA remain a group that marches to its own drummer, giving the most conspicuous boosts to the period buddy film “Green Book” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
That early joke notwithstanding, the Globes didn’t produce a candidate to host the Academy Awards, but they did provide a sort-of road map for how to navigate the award-show waters, putting the focus squarely on the ebullience of the winners to define the night.
That might not be the most exciting formula for an awards show that, from a production standpoint, felt sporadically amateurish. But it did produce its share of surprises, while reflecting the heart of what these events — at their core — are ultimately supposed to be about.