Ten reasons last night's Golden Globes was the best kind of awards show

As awards shows go, it was a night of surprising self-awareness, when almost everyone seemed in on the joke of their own ridiculousness.

This article first appeared on newrepublic.com

The 2014 Golden Globes made for thoroughly entertaining TV. Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, unsurprisingly, struck the perfect tone, at once sharp-edged and good-natured. But on the whole – as awards shows go – it was a night of surprising self-awareness, when almost everyone seemed in on the joke of their own ridiculousness. So here are the ten highlights of a very meta, very enjoyable show:

1. Fey and Poehler's sneaky you-go-girl humor, i.e:

  • Fey: "Gravity is the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age."
  • Poehler, after labeling Jennifer Lawrence's face with her own name: "It's hard to believe she's a 42 year-old mother of two." 
  • Fey: "August Osage County [proves] that there are still great parts in Hollywood for Meryl Streeps over 60."

2. Fey and Poehler parodying the idea of intra-Hollywood female cattiness: the recurring joke of their fake feud with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, their introduction of Emma Stone ("Our next presenter told us earlier that she isn't looking for new friends.")

3. Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie from The Wolf of Wall Street ad-libbing their way through a teleprompter mistake in which they were showed the wrong script. Said Hill: "Let's be real about it, that was not for us."

4. This wink from Robert Downey Jr.:

5. The charming jitteriness of Spike Jonze's acceptance speech for best screenplay ("...my agent, who gives me advice when I'm being anxious, like right now.") 

6. Jim Carrey: "Dying is easy, comedy is hard. I believe it was Shia LaBeouf who said that."

7. The dumbfounded spoof of an acceptance speech that resulted from Andy Sandberg's genuine shock at his win for Brooklyn Nine Nine: "The crew's really good. The writers kick A. Everyone on my 'team'."  

8. The bit in which Fey introduced her "adult son from a previous relationship" – Poehler in drag, who wandered through the crowd in search of a father, alighting on Idris Elba and Harvey Weinstein.

9. Cate Blanchett's grateful, unaffected speech after winning best actress in a drama: "Can people at home hear this music, or do they just think you are suddenly having a panic attack?"

10. The cowboy swagger of Matthew McConaughey after his Dallas Buyers Club win: "This film was never about dyin' it was always about livin' and with that I say just keep." 

This article first appeared on newrepublic.com

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, hosts of the 2014 Golden Globes. Photo: Getty
Getty
Show Hide image

Will playing a farting corpse allow Daniel Radcliffe to finally shake off his Hogwarts associations?

Radcliffe is dead good in Swiss Army Man – meaning he is both good, and dead. Plus: Deepwater Horizon.

Actors who try to shake off a clean-cut ­image risk looking gimmicky or insincere – think of Julie Andrews going topless in SOB, or Christopher Reeve kissing Michael Caine in Deathtrap. Daniel Radcliffe has tried to put serious distance between himself and Hogwarts in his choice of adult roles, which have included Allen Ginsberg (in Kill Your Darlings) and an FBI agent going undercover as a white supremacist (Imperium), but it is with the macabre new comedy Swiss Army Man that he stands the best chance of success. He’s good in the film. Dead good. He has to be: he’s playing a flatulent corpse in a moderate state of putrefaction. If ever there was a film that you were glad wasn’t made in Odorama, this is it.

The body washes up on an island at the very moment a shipwrecked young man, Hank (Paul Dano), is attempting to hang himself. He scampers over to the corpse, which he nicknames Manny, and realises he could use its abundant gases to propel himself across the ocean. Once they reach another shore and hide out in the woods, Hank discovers all sorts of uses for his new friend. Cranked open, the mouth dispenses endless quantities of water. The teeth are sharp enough to shave with. A spear, pushed deep into Manny’s gullet, can be fired by pressing down on his back, thereby turning him into an effective hunting weapon.

On paper, this litany of weirdness reads like a transparent attempt to manufacture a cult film, if that term still has any currency now that every movie can claim to have a devoted online following. The surprising thing about Swiss Army Man is that it contains a robust emotional centre beneath the morbid tomfoolery. It’s really a buddy movie in which one of the buddies happens to have expired. That doesn’t stop Manny being a surprisingly lively companion. He talks back at his new friend (“Shall I just go back to being dead?” he huffs during an argument), though any bodily movements are controlled by Hank, using a pulley system that transforms Manny into a marionette.

The gist of the film is not hard to grasp. Only by teaching Manny all the things he has forgotten about life and love can the depressed Hank reconnect with his own hope and humanity. This tutelage is glorious: improbably ambitious DIY models, costumes and sets (including a bus constructed from branches and bracken) are put to use in play-acting scenes that recall Michel Gondry at his most inspired. If only the screenplay – by the directors, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – didn’t hammer home its meanings laboriously. Manny’s unembarrassed farting becomes a metaphor for all the flaws and failings we need to accept about one another: “Maybe we’re all just ugly and it takes just one person to be OK with that.” And maybe screenwriters could stop spelling out what audiences can understand perfectly well on their own.

What keeps the film focused is the tenderness of the acting. Dano is a daredevil prone to vanishing inside his own eccentricity, while Radcliffe has so few distinguishing features as an actor that he sometimes seems not to be there at all. In Swiss Army Man they meet halfway. Dano is gentler than ever, Radcliffe agreeably deranged. Like all good relationships, it’s a compromise. They make a lovely couple.

What to say about Deepwater Horizon? It’s no disaster as a disaster movie. Focusing on the hows and whys of the most catastrophic accident in US oil drilling history, when an explosion consumed an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, it doesn’t stint on blaming BP. Yet it sticks so faithfully to the conventions of the genre – earthy blue-collar hero (Mark Wahlberg), worried wife fretting at home (Kate Hudson), negligent company man (John Malkovich) – that familiarity overrides suspense and outrage.

The effects are boringly spectacular, which is perhaps why the most chilling moment is a tiny detail: a crazed seagull, wings drenched in oil, flapping madly on the deck long before the fires start. As a harbinger of doom, it’s only mildly more disturbing than Malkovich’s strangulated accent. 

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

This article first appeared in the 29 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, May’s new Tories