Saoirse Ronan, the most celebrated Irish actor of her generation, has won the award for best actress in a comedy or musical at the 75th Golden Globes. Looking chic, neat and blonde, Ronan took the prize for her performance as a stroppy teenager in Greta Gerwig's delightful comedy-drama Lady Bird.
Selected by the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Globes begin the final act of an awards season that culminates with the Oscars at the start of March. Ronan now looks assured of a best actress nomination at those more prestigious gongs and will stand a very good chance of victory.
“Oh thank you. My mam’s on Facetime over there on someone’s phone,” she said in a typically dignified speech. “I just want to say how inspirational it is to be in this room. I’m here with my friend Eileen.”
Lady Bird also won the Golden Globe for best comedy or musical. It goes forward as a serious competitor in the most volatile Oscar race in decades. The biggest winner in the film section was, however, Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The third film from the London-Irish director won four Globes: best drama or musical, best screenplay, best actress in a drama or musical for Frances McDormand and, for Sam Rockwell, best supporting actor.
Receiving the screenplay award, McDonagh also mentioned his mother. "It's my mum's birthday tomorrow and she likes this kind of thing. So happy birthday - even though I think she wanted Lady Bird to win," he said. Three Billboards stars McDormand as a determined woman furious at the local police force's inability to arrest the man who raped and murdered her daughter. Best director went to Guilermo del Toro for his supernatural romance The Shape of Water. Gary Oldman won best actor for a transformative role as the considerably fatter Winston Churchill in Joe Wright's Darkest Hour.
There was some amusement when James Franco took the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical. Franco won for playing Tommy Wiseau, director of the notoriously dreadful film The Room, in the actor's own gloriously odd The Disaster Artist. The eccentric Wiseau joined Franco on stage and had to be restrained from delivering an acceptance speech. Might it have been kinder to let him have a say?
The red carpet is usually a festival of gross triviality. This year was different. In response to calls from the Time's Up campaign, established to combat sexual harassment in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, attendees dressed in various shades of black. There was initially some dissent, but, on the evening, few other shades were visible outside the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Jessica Chastain was trimmed in silver. Sarah Jessica Parker wore a great many frills. Gal Gadot, Susan Sarandon and Claire Foy wore a variation on the dinner jacket. It required little effort for the men to show solidarity, but a few pressed home the point by donning black shirts or accessorising with black pocket squares. Some prominent nominees brought campaigners for equality as their guests. Michelle Williams came with Tarana Burke, senior director of Girls for Gender Equality and founder of the #MeToo movement.
Meryl Streep, nominated for The Post, walked the carpet with Ai-jen Poo, head of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. "People are aware of a power imbalance. It's something that's led to abuse," Streep told the interviewers from E! network. "It's led to abuse in our own industry and it's led to abuse in the domestic workers field. It's in the military. It's in Congress. It's everywhere and we want to fix it."
The red carpet reporters found themselves with new challenges. It became clear that women were not going to be happy talking E! through the designers of shoe, dress and jewellery. Indeed, in the very first interview of the evening, Debra Messing mentioned E!'s own scandals concerning unequal remuneration for male and female presenters. The channel's Giuliana Rancic did not follow up on the remarks. It was a strange variation on a familiar ritual.
Host Seth Meyers had his own challenges. Many felt that, in such a year, the Golden Globes would have done better to appoint a woman, but the talk-show host managed a suitable blend of the pointed and the irreverent. "Good evening ladies and remaining gentlemen," he began. His most risky moment came when he offered a description of The Shape of Water: "When I first heard about a film where a naive young woman falls in love with a disgusting sea monster, I thought: Oh, man, not another Woody Allen movie."
The audible intake of breath suggested that some in the audience may not have been ready for that level of demonization.
Oprah Winfrey, the hugely influential producer, actor, TV host and philanthropist, was a popular recipient of the Cecil B DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. Even by her own inspiring standards, Winfrey delivered a brilliant speech that worked towards a celebration of the civil rights movement and the Time's Up campaign. "I want to express gratitude to all the women who have to endure years of abuse," she said. "Because, like my mother, they had children to raise, bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They're the women whose names we'll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they're in academia, engineering, medicine, and science." She ended, to howls of support, by declaring: "A new day is on the horizon."
This speech will be replayed as often as Streep’s famous Trump-baiting oration from the same place last year. A few overheated commentators wondered if they’d seen the beginnings of a presidential campaign.
Another moving moment came when Catherine Zeta Jones accompanied her father-in-law Kirk Douglas, who recently celebrated his 101st birthday, onstage to present the award for best screenplay. Douglas, in a wheelchair two decades after a debilitating stroke, had difficulty making himself understood, but his energy and determination were unmistakable. It was good to see an older actor recognised while he was still with us.
The television awards acknowledged two series that, with eerie neatness, reflected the gender issues hanging over this awards season. Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard won Globes for playing an abused wife and her creepy husband in the glossy melodrama Big Little Lies. Elisabeth Moss beat Irish woman Catriona Balfe, nominated for Outlander, to the best actress in a series for her role in the feminist epic The Handmaid's Tale. Moss paid tribute to Margaret Atwood, author of the source novel, in her elegant acceptance speech. With four wins, Big Little Lies was the most honoured TV series of the night.
Unlike last year, there was little mention of Donald Trump from the podium, but barely five minutes went by without the issue of gender inequality being addressed. The indomitable Barbra Streisand was the last presenter of the night. She noted that no woman had taken home a Globe for best director since she triumphed for Yentl in 1983. "That was 35 years ago. Times up," she exclaimed. Might the Oscar voters take the hint and propel Gerwig to an Academy Award on March 4th?
Golden Globe Winners
Best motion picture, drama: "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Best motion picture, musical or comedy: "Lady Bird"
Best director, motion picture: Guillermo del Toro, "The Shape of Water"
Best performance by an actress in a motion picture, drama: Frances McDormand, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Best performance by an actor in a motion picture, drama: Gary Oldman, "Darkest Hour"
Best performance by an actress in a motion picture, musical or comedy: Saoirse Ronan, "Lady Bird"
Best performance by an actor in a motion picture, musical or comedy: James Franco, "The Disaster Artist"
Best performance by an actress in a supporting role in any motion picture: Allison Janney, "I, Tonya"
Best performance by an actor in a supporting role in any motion picture: Sam Rockwell, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Best screenplay, motion picture: Martin McDonagh, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Best motion picture, animated: "Coco"
Best motion picture, foreign language: "In the Fade"
Best original score, motion picture: Alexandre Desplat, "The Shape of Water"
Best original song, motion picture: "This Is Me" from "The Greatest Showman"
Best television series, drama: "The Handmaid's Tale," Hulu
Best performance by an actress in a television series, drama: Elisabeth Moss, "The Handmaid's Tale"
Best performance by an actor in a television series, drama: Sterling K. Brown, "This Is Us"
Best television series, musical or comedy: "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, " Amazon
Best performance by an actress in a television series, musical or comedy: Rachel Brosnahan, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"
Best performance by an actor in a television series, musical or comedy: Aziz Ansari, "Master of None"
Best television limited series or motion picture made for television: "Big Little Lies," HBO
Best performance by an actress in a limited series or motion picture made for television: Nicole Kidman, "Big Little Lies"
Best performance by an actor in a limited series or motion picture made for television: Ewan McGregor, "Fargo"
Best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a series, limited series or motion picture made for television: Laura Dern, "Big Little Lies"
Best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a series, limited series or motion picture made for television: Alexander Skarsgard, "Big Little Lies"