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
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A hatchet job on the Daily Mail: Peter Wilby reviews Mail Men

Peter Wilby on Adrian Addison’s expletive-strewn history of the Daily Mail.

The Ukip leader Paul Nuttall recently claimed that he was among the crowd at the Hillsborough football stadium disaster in 1989 and that he lost close personal friends there, statements which suggest, at best, a flexible relationship with the truth. David English, the Daily Mail editor from 1971 to 1992, went one better. He claimed to have been in Dallas in November 1963 on the day John F Kennedy was assassinated. He was, he told Mail readers 25 years later, “part of the inner press circle which the Kennedys courted so assiduously” and: “We lived and travelled well, we President’s men . . . in brand new special planes.” In Dallas, he “witnessed the whole unbelievable scenario”. In fact, English, then based in New York for the Daily Express, was 1,600 miles away having a coffee break near his office. Adrian Addison’s riotously entertaining book is full of similar stories.

The present editor, Paul Dacre, has never been caught out in such flamboyant untruths. Yet, as Addison explains, the very appearance of the Daily Mail is based on a more subtle lie. Flick through its “human interest” features and you find “typical” Britons talking about their experience of relationships, crime, hospitals, schools, and so on. “Typical” in the Mail’s world means Mail readers as envisaged by its editor – white and middle class, not too fat or too thin, with smart but sensible clothes, hair and shoes, and free of tattoos and nose rings. A story does not, as editors say, “work” unless a picture shows the subjects conforming to this stereotype. If they don’t, make-up artists and hair stylists are despat­ched along with the correct clothing.

Addison, a BBC journalist for much of his career, has experience of tabloid journalism, though not at the Mail. Well over half his book is devoted to the editorships of English and his direct successor, Dacre, with the Mail’s first 75 years – including the familiar but still shocking story of its proprietor’s admiration for Hitler in the 1930s – dismissed in just 150 pages. The paper’s Sunday sister, launched in 1982, is mentioned only briefly.

In many respects, the book is a hatchet job. Dacre emerges, to quote Stephen Fry, as “just about as loathsome, self-regarding, morally putrid, vengeful and disgusting a man as it is possible to be”; English comes out very slightly better, thanks to personal charm and lavish parties; and the Mail Online’s publisher, Martin Clarke, who gets a chapter to himself, is portrayed as a cross between Vlad the Impaler and Fred West, redeemed, like Dacre, by demonic energy and undeniable success in attracting readers.

Like a good tabloid editor, Addison varies the tone, giving us occasional tear-jerking passages to show that even Mail editors have a human side. English befriends an ­office messenger boy, promises to find him a job in journalism if he gets an A-level in English, and proves as good as his word. Dacre, shy and socially clumsy, summons a features editor who had said the previous night, “You are mad, you know, Paul,” and asks, “I’m not really mad, am I?” Addison even deploys that old tabloid staple, the faithful, prescient dog. It belonged to Vere Harmsworth, the 3rd Viscount Rothermere and fourth Mail proprietor, who died in 1998 just 12 weeks after English, some said of a broken heart because the two had become so close. The day that Harmsworth, tax-exiled in France, was leaving home for London, where a heart attack killed him, his dog Ryu-ma refused to accompany the master to the airport in the chauffeur-driven car as it usually did.

The Harmsworths command a degree of admiration from many journalists. Of all the great newspaper dynasties – the Beaverbrooks, the Astors, the Berrys – they alone have stayed the course. The present proprietor, Jonathan Harmsworth, the 4th Viscount Rothermere, is the great-great-nephew of Alfred (“Sunny”) Harmsworth, who co-founded the paper in 1896. The Mail’s masthead hasn’t changed in 121 years, nor have several other things. Just as Sunny had only one Daily Mail editor until his death in 1922, Jonathan sticks by Dacre, allowing him to get on with his fanatical Brexiteering despite being a Remain sympathiser himself. So, too, did his father allow Dacre to denounce Tony Blair while he himself moved to the Labour benches in the House of Lords. Again like Sunny and Vere, Jonathan keeps accountants at arm’s length, giving the editor such generous budgets that the Mail scraps roughly two-thirds of the features it commissions yet still pays higher “kill” fees for them than other papers pay for the articles they print.

Other aspects of the Harmsworth legacy are less admirable. Most papers worried about the militarisation of Germany in the years before the First World War but, Addison writes, the Mail “raged”. Today, it is rage against immigrants, liberals, Greens, benefit claimants, human rights lawyers, the EU, overseas aid and a host of individuals from Polly Toynbee to Gary Lineker that oozes from almost every paragraph of the paper.

Many among what Dacre calls “the liberal elite” will find that Addison has written the exposé of the Mail that they always wanted to read. The inside story, with its unexpur­gated f***s and c***s, is as bad as you thought it was. But remember: the paper sells about 1.5 million copies a day, second only to the Sun. Its faults and virtues (there are some of the latter) owe nothing to marketing constructs, the proprietor’s business interests, party loyalties or anything other than the editor’s judgement as to what people will read. Denounce it by all means, but remember that millions of Britons love it.

Peter Wilby was the editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the NS from 1998 to 2005

Mail Men: The Story of the Daily Mail - the Paper that Divided and Conquered Britain by Adrian Addison is published by Oneworld (336pp, £20)

Peter Wilby was editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for the NS.

This article first appeared in the 16 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit and the break-up of Britain