Sunday night was intended to mark a new era for the Golden Globes. The Globes have long been positioned as the chaotic, boozier cousin of the Oscars—the former hasn’t always been a useful precursor for the rest of awards season, but it tends to make up for it by packing a bunch of A-listers together with an open bar. (Drunk Globes acceptance speeches are their own kind of category.) Starting this year, however, the Globes are under new management. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association—a small, select group of international entertainment journalists—was finally dissolved after years of being mired in scandal over corruption and an appalling lack of diversity within its ranks. In the HFPA’s place, the Globes were acquired by Eldridge Industries, a holding company whose properties include trade magazines like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. As for the Globes’ new voting body—which includes some overlap with the old HFPA—it’s now made up of 300 international journalists representing 75 countries, with a greater emphasis on diversity.
The Globes appear to have made some meaningful changes behind the scenes, but did that translate to a new and improved ceremony? Below, we break down the biggest takeaways from the Globes, and what the awards might tell us about this year’s Oscars race.
Jo Koy Tries to Roast Oppenheimer, Bombs Accordingly
With all the bad publicity the Globes have faced in recent years, it should come as little surprise that the ceremony struggled to find someone willing to host. On December 21, the Globes finally announced an emcee in stand-up comedian Jo Koy. Having roughly two weeks to come up with material for a high-profile awards show is not my idea of celebrating the holidays, but for Koy, the upside was clear: do a good job as host, and you’ll get a significant career boost and be lauded for reigniting the dying embers of the Globes. The flip side: if Koy bombed, it would be the sort of mainstream exposure no comedian would like to be associated with. In short, uh, the latter happened.
Koy’s opening monologue was very light—if not entirely absent—on genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and seemed to irk the A-list attendees more than anything. But Koy’s fatal mistake wasn’t just doing tired bits about Oppenheimer (too long) and Barbie (the dolls have big breasts), but that he threw his writers under the bus. “I got the gig 10 days ago,” Koy said. “You want a perfect monologue? Yo, shut up. You’re kidding me, right? Slow down, I wrote some of these and they are the ones you are laughing at.” (A reminder: there were few laughs at any of the jokes.) Throw in some ill-timed shade at Globes nominee Taylor Swift, and Koy was fighting an uphill battle for the rest of the evening.
If it’s any consolation for the new-look Globes, Koy took most of the heat for what was a tepid and largely forgettable ceremony. All the changes the Globes have made to the voting body are commendable, but I sure hope future shows can bring back the boozy chaos of years past that made the broadcast such a unique pitstop during awards season.
Barbie Wins for Box Office Achievement, Loses Out Where It Matters
In 2018, the Oscars announced that it would implement a new category called Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film. The hope was that, amid dwindling TV ratings, an award specifically dedicated to mainstream hits would bring back viewers. But the idea was so contentious that Best Popular Film was ultimately scrapped before it ever had a chance to make it to air. Instead, the closest analogue to the award was the 2022 Oscars debuting the “Fan Favorite” awards, which would honor the best movie and best movie moment as voted by fans on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. (These weren’t even official Oscar categories; just a shameless ploy to boost audience engagement.) Incredibly—or unsurprisingly, if you know anything about the Internet—the winners had one thing in common: Zack Snyder, who won for Army of the Dead and the scene in the director’s cut of Justice League in which “The Flash Enters the Speed Force.” The whole fan-favorite gambit was awful, and would’ve gotten way more flak if Will Smith hadn’t grabbed all the headlines by slapping Chris Rock. Thankfully, common sense has prevailed, and the Oscars won’t include “Fan Favorite” awards going forward.
But for all the bad publicity the Oscars received for cynically trying to manufacture an award specifically for blockbusters, the Globes went ahead with its inaugural Cinematic and Box Office Achievement category. (The nominees: Barbie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, John Wick: Chapter 4, Mission: Impossible–Dead Reckoning Part One, Oppenheimer, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, and Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.) Naturally, the award went to Barbie, which also happened to be the highest-grossing movie of 2023.
Now, I’m sure the award isn’t supposed to be just about the box office receipts: Barbie was lauded by critics and audiences alike for a reason. But giving it a separate award for “box office achievement” while the likes of Oppenheimer and Poor Things won more important categories on the night felt more like a backhanded compliment. As a result, it’s hard to imagine Barbie making a splash at the Oscars outside of Best Original Song. (Poor Things, in particular, appears to hold the advantage over Barbie as an edgier spin on a woman exploring patriarchal society.) The Globes shouldn’t try to pander to mainstream movies in the hopes of staying relevant—there are clearly more pressing needs, like, ideally, securing a competent host. Besides, Barbie doesn’t need this award to reaffirm its greatness. In the immortal words of Don Draper: That’s what the money is for!
Acceptance Speeches Save the Day
If Koy was killing the vibe with his emcee duties, the biggest winners on Sunday night helped smooth things over with their acceptance speeches. On the TV side of things, Succession’s Kieran Culkin and The Bear’s Ayo Edebiri endeared themselves to viewers (and attendees) just by being themselves. Culkin playfully told fellow nominee Pedro Pascal (The Last of Us) to “suck it” after winning, while Edebiri earned some of the loudest applause in the room for specifically thanking agents’ assistants for actually answering her emails.
But the Globes’ TV winners don’t carry the same significance as the film categories—and not just because this year’s Globes awkwardly pre-date the Emmys, which were pushed back due to the Hollywood labor strikes. While there is zero overlap between Globes and Academy voters, the Globes’ acceptance speeches do carry some sway, acting as an audition of sorts for what someone might say come the Oscars. In that respect, Robert Downey Jr. (Oppenheimer) endeared himself to viewers (and prospective voters) with his trademark charisma, while Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon) met a moment of historical significance with humility and grace.
Again, the Globes and the Oscars are two completely different voting bodies. But if you’re an Academy voter who was on the fence about voting for Downey or Gladstone, speeches like these will only improve their odds.
The Big Picture on Best Picture
As another reminder that the Globes and the Oscars don’t always overlap, last year the biggest awards at the Globes went to The Banshees of Inisherin and The Fabelmans, the latter of which also nabbed Best Director for Steven Spielberg. But when it came to Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars, these Globe winners came up short against Everything Everywhere All at Once and its directorial duo known as the Daniels. Celebrating the impact of a Globes win on your Oscar chances would be like a Formula One driver making too big a deal out of getting pole position in qualifying: it doesn’t matter where you start, but how you finish the race.
All that said: Wow, it’s looking real good for Oppenheimer. Altogether, the film came away with five Globes, for Best Motion Picture–Drama, Best Director (Christopher Nolan), Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Motion Picture–Drama (Cillian Murphy), Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture (Robert Downey Jr.), and Best Original Score (Ludwig Göransson). After decades of making both critically acclaimed and commercially successful blockbusters, all signs point to Nolan finally getting his flowers on Hollywood’s biggest night. (It’s giving “Martin Scorsese finally winning Best Director for The Departed.”)
Of course, that doesn’t mean the films that left the Globes empty-handed are out of the race. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Past Lives or May December gained some momentum in the lead-up to the Oscars at smaller ceremonies like the Independent Spirit Awards. But one movie whose Oscar hopes seem to be dented is Bradley Cooper’s Maestro, which went toe-to-toe with Oppenheimer in several categories, and whose best chance for Oscar glory appears to be in Best Director and Best Actor. He may be pulling double duty as the director and star of his movie, but it’s hard to imagine Cooper usurping Nolan or Murphy, who both delivered career-best work in a cultural phenomenon that grossed nearly a billion dollars. Throughout awards season, it’s been clear how badly Cooper wants an Oscar, but like the rest of Hollywood, it appears he’ll have to learn how to stop worrying and love the bomb.