So drink people did. Stellan Skarsgård, accepting the Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series award for HBO’s Chernobyl, told a jovial story about his lack of eyebrows having previously kept him from awards glory. Olivia Colman, beating a staggering lineup to claim Best Actress in a Drama Series for The Crown, confessed to being both flummoxed and “a little bit boozy.” Tom Hanks, who won the Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment,” freestyled delightfully, name-checking everything from the importance of being on time to the majesty of Holland Taylor. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who claimed awards for both Best Actress in a Comedy Series and Best Comedy Series for Fleabag, gave a sly nod to Barack Obama’s inclusion of the show on his year-end list, alluding to the fact that he was masturbatory fodder for the titular character in the first season.
As befits the moment, though, there were constant reminders that all is not entirely well with the world, and that to simply celebrate works of culture without acknowledging current disasters is impossible. Even so, the various crises brought to the Golden Globes stage were numerous and disparate, giving the evening a choose-your-own-calamity kind of feel. Russell Crowe, an early winner for Best Actor in a Limited Series for Showtime’s Roger Ailes drama, The Loudest Voice, wasn’t around to pick up his trophy, because he was in Australia dealing with the impact of the fires ravaging his home country. Patricia Arquette, collecting a Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series award for her role in Hulu’s The Act, pleaded with the audience to consider the threat of another extended conflict in the Middle East. Michelle Williams, who won Best Actress in a Limited Series for the FX series Fosse/Verdon, and who recently announced that she was pregnant with her second child, delivered a heartfelt speech about the value of the right to choose, and the power women have to reshape politics with their votes. Sacha Baron Cohen, who appeared onstage as a presenter, offered a quick dig at his current bête noire, Mark Zuckerberg.
As the evening went on, it felt less like a cohesive event celebrating the entertainment industry and more like a social-media feed, in which Hot Priest GIFs and statements of intent about future war crimes are all interwoven into one jarring package. Joaquin Phoenix, who claimed Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama, for Joker, gave credit to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for acknowledging the links between animal agriculture and climate change with its plant-based menu for the night, and then asked the crowd to please stop taking private jets to Palm Springs. A wide camera shot caught Jennifer Aniston smiling at Brad Pitt while he accepted a supporting-actor award for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (and made a Titanic joke at the expense of his co-star Leonardo DiCaprio). Notable firsts—Ramy Youssef saying “Allahu akbar” while he accepted his award for the Hulu series Ramy, Awkwafina becoming the first Asian American woman to win Best Actress for a Musical or Comedy, for her role in The Farewell—went almost unnoticed because the evening’s pace and tone were so frenetic.