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Amid humor at the Globes, stars add perspective

Jan. 20, 2010

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McClatchy News
James Cameron, the winner of best director, backstage Sunday at the 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards show at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California.

By Mary McNamara
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES - So, not a great night for Ricky Gervais fans, but you have to love a show in which Meryl Streep announces she would like to be called "T Bone," Mike Tyson shares the stage with Bradley Cooper and Sandra Bullock actually chokes up thanking her agent.

We were so excited when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced they had drafted the British comedian to host this year's Golden Globes ceremony. He had essentially saved the 2008 Emmys, and even his recent appearance on "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien" was promising, as he incited O'Brien to use the window of his struggles with NBC to his best advantage. "Let's go mental," Gervais said. "What are they going to do? Fire you?"

He took a similar attitude toward his gig at the Globes, telling anyone who asked that he had no plans for the evening other than drinking and going out there and having fun. But it's one thing to say that and another to actually do just that. Gervais' opener consisted of a reprise of his "feud" with Steve Carell, a lot of self promotion, a very long masturbation joke and a jab at Kiefer Sutherland. In a room filled with Hollywood A-listers, you go for ... Kiefer Sutherland?

To Gervais's credit, he warmed up. He later took on Paul McCartney, joking that they had flown over on the same plane, but Gervais was in first class while McCartney flew coach. "He's saving money, because he spent a lot of it last year," Gervais cracked, referring to McCartney's high-profile divorce.

Good joke, but it fell flat because, you know, it's Paul McCartney. Mel Gibson, on the other hand _ well, it's hard to imagine another comedian with the moxy to not only drink on camera but to use it as the ultimate intro: "I like to drink as much as the next man," he announced, "unless, of course, the next man is ... Mel Gibson."

But a host doesn't live on one great moment alone, so, just as he repeatedly predicted, Gervais will probably not be hosting the Oscars any time soon.

If he didn't exactly knock 'em dead, Hollywood was happy to make up the difference. Anchored by Martin Scorsese accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award with an earnest lyricism one doesn't usually associate with awards shows -he called DeMille's work "the shared landscape of our childhood" and thanked the Hollywood Foreign Press for its dedication to film preservation _ as well as regular but understated reminders of how important it is to aid and support the people of Haiti, this year's Golden Globes actually didn't need Gervais to make it a good show.

It was a very good year in television and film, which meant each nomination list was chock full of potential winners, rather than padding.

Most of those who got a statue wore a red and yellow ribbon in remembrance of the earthquake survivors and an air of grateful humility remarkable even for an awards show.

Oh, James Cameron tried to ruin it, speaking in Na'vi, making references to his need to urinate during both of his acceptance speeches and being, you know, James Cameron. But even he couldn't put a damper on what was, at times, a strangely stirring evening.

From MoNique's tearful and deeply moving acceptance for best supporting actress to Jeff Bridges thanking his father for convincing him to be an actor, almost every speech was strikingly graceful and heartfelt, with almost every winner expressing what seemed like a sincere gratitude for not only the award but for the ability to be, well, stars of the entertainment industry.

Not surprisingly Meryl Streep managed to say it best. "I come to Golden Globes weekend," she said, "and I am conflicted how to have my happy movie self in the face of everything I'm aware of in the real world, and that's when I have my mother's voice coming to me: Partners in Health, shoot some money to Partners In Health, and be damn grateful you have the dollars to help. And I am grateful. I'm really grateful."

It helped that, on the television side of things anyway, there were wins that could be seen as Emmy "do-overs" _ Kevin Bacon won for "Taking Chance," "Big Love" finally got some gold with Chloe Sevigny winning best supporting actress in a drama _ as well as recognition for "Glee," which beat "30 Rock" for best comedy, and Julianna Margulies, who won best actress in a drama for "The Good Wife."

As for film, well, of course there's a chance that, as one cynic of my acquaintance said, we're just getting the first draft of the Oscar speeches. But that's more than a month away, and with a show like this one, maybe it's time to stop slamming the Golden Globes. For years, they've been the most free-wheeling of the awards shows, but this year they managed to do it with class.