If you were keeping score at home, the correct answer was nine minutes. That’s how long it took host Ricky Gervais to make his first Cats joke during his searing monologue at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards. It landed after brutally hilarious cuts at Felicity Huffman, Joe Pesci and Leonardo DiCaprio. “We got to see James Corden as a fat pussy,” Gervais sniped. Beat. “He was also in Cats, but no one saw that.” Of course, a poke at the much-maligned epic musical fail was as inevitable as a Meryl Streep reaction shot. But the Golden Globes doesn’t do stuffy and predictable. And Cats double-entendres aside, the 77th edition was no exception.
Surely this is the only awards show in which celebrity royalty Beyonce and Jay-Z must tuck themselves inside a roundtable in a hotel ballroom like everyone else. Fellow 21st century legend like Taylor Swift was assigned to present the ho-hum Best Animated Movie category with Amy Poehler — about five years after the Saturday Night Live alum and Tina Fey playfully jabbed her dating life during their own hosting gig. (“Taylor Swift, you stay away from Michael J. Fox’s son!”). And . . . wait, yes, this is confirmed: songwriter Bernie Taupin was on stage two more times than the great Martin Scorsese. Before tonight, I must confess I didn’t even know what he sounded like.
Beyonce, Swift and Taupin with Elton John, along with Tony-winner Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) and the Frozen 2 team, were all nominees in the Best Original Song category — which arrived midway through the broadcast but given the ultra-stacked lineup, could have easily been saved to the end. With no obvious runaway like last year’s “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, we had actual suspense on our hands. The winner? “I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” which plays over the closing credits of the John biopic Rocketman. A rare John and Taupin co-write and win, they both accepted the award with their hearts wide open just a few minutes after they introduced Rocketman for Best Comedy/Musical to a standing ovation. “[The song] deals with our relationship . . . and a 52-year-old marriage . . . which doesn’t happen very much in this town,” said a visibly moved Taupin.
Beyonce and Swift will strike their gold in due time; it was never going to happen for a meh Lion King remake and Cats, respectively. Let the original diva reign supreme.
If “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” was a mild surprise, then Taron Egerton’s win as Best Actor for a Musical or Comedy in Rocketman was a flat-out shock. No doubt he deserved it — just consider that Rami Malek won last year for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury for Bohemian Rhapsody doing a lip-synced performance while Egerton supplied his own vocals (and fit into all those sequined costumes) as the tortured John. But he also beat the heavily favored comeback king Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name). One of the best parts of roundtable set-up at the Golden Globes is that the actors must do an awkward walk-around en route to the stage. Egerton passed Murphy’s table, where he was caught looking crestfallen and doing a polite golf-clap. He knew he was the favorite too. Now Egerton must be considered a Best Actor Oscar nominee contender.
And Renee Zellweger must be considered a Best Actress Oscar winner shoo-in. She triumphed in the Best Actress in a Drama category for her wonderful portrayal as Judy Garland, and I’m telling you, this was cemented way back in early September when Judy premiered at the Telluride Film Festival. Specifically, when we all heard Zellweger launch into an ever-wistful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Accepting her award, she started imparting wisdom about Garland’s legacy and how her humanity should serve as a reminder that the choices we make matter . . . until the orchestra piped in and she scurried off. Eh, she’ll fine-tune it by the time the Oscars arrive on Feb. 9. In the meantime, every actor and actress will call their agents to see which other musical biopics are available.
But do the winners even matter in this context? After all, the Golden Globes are good times, Sunday-night-in-January-must-see because of the A-list party factor. Unlike other awards shows, a stately death montage is eschewed for time. We don’t even hear the Best Original Song performances. In fact, the only person on stage who broke into song was West Side Story star Ansel Elgort, much to the giggly delight of co-presenter Dakota Fanning. All the above is fine by me. I’d rather get the privilege of seeing John chat with Carol Burnett during a commercial break and spend the rest of night guessing the conversation topic. And, lookie! Ageless wonders Jennifer Lopez and Paul Rudd are presenting Best Supporting Actor, and Jay-Z is presenting a drink to his wife.
That said, how fantastic would it have been had the cast of Cats rallied to perform a group number. Serving up an indelible Memory is always the best revenge.
dick clark productions, producer of the Golden Globes, is owned by Valence Media, which also owns Billboard.