The Golden Globes reviewed.

The Golden Globes reviewed.

The Golden Globes reviewed.

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Jan. 17 2006 11:51 AM

America's Glitziest Dinner Party

A boozy night at the Golden Globes.

Clooney gets goofy at the Globes
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Clooney gets goofy at the Globes

If, in the hours yesterday before the 63rd Annual Golden Globes, you had that hankering to watch actors move down the red carpet as if it were a conveyor belt and they were so many luscious cuts of prime-quality veal, you had a choice of programming to suit your mood. The folks from Access Hollywood put together NBC's official Golden Globes Arrival Special with an apparent mandate to make it look "classy"—glinting logo, syrupy theme, earnest air. If you were looking for something a touch more racy, you would have done well to click over to a syndicated event jointly produced by Entertainment Tonight and The Insider. A representative moment featured a montage of bygone Hollywood couples (Pitt and Paltrow! Jolie and Thornton! Damon and Ryder?) strolling into the festivities of earlier years to the tune of Boston's "More Than a Feeling." Joan Rivers lives in exile up on the TV Guide Channel, where her insult comedy has curdled into crude shrieking. She referred to Ang Lee's Globe-winning Western as "Humpback Mountain": "I have not seen so much action in a pup tent since Michael Jackson's last camping trip."

The best "pre-show" aired on E!, co-anchored by the fashion designer-turned-TV host Isaac Mizrahi with a thrilling incompetence that was the highlight of the evening. At first, unable to resist eyeing his monitor, Mizrahi trained his gaze on a spot below the bottom-right corner of the screen. In short order, he was pointing his microphone at George Clooney's abdomen, asking Eva Longoria if she had submitted to a Brazilian bikini wax for the occasion, and doing a hands-on evaluation of one of the evening's more noteworthy spectacles, Scarlett Johansson's bust. Mizrahi is some kind of anti-natural, and I hope that he never polishes his skills. The E! team also elicited one of evening's more forthright sound bites from the hip-hop star Ludacris, who told viewers he was "excited to be among so many people who were powerful. And rich."

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After the cameras took us inside at 8 p.m. ET, the mood was what we have come to expect from the Globes—breezy, cheeky, and unfussy. Where the elephantine Oscars get pompous about Art, the Globes are all circus and thus, better viewing. The winners are more likely to bring something like wit, or at least goofiness, to bear on their speeches. George Clooney gave a shout-out to Jack Abramoff, "just because." House's Hugh Laurie, The Office's Steve Carell, and Commander in Chief's Geena Davis each did genial shtick, with Davis telling a heart-lifting anecdote about a little girl who tugged on her gown earlier in the evening to say that the actress's performance had inspired her to grow up to become president. "Well, that didn't actually happen," Davis then said, deflating the moment at a nice speed, "but it could have."

When we watch the Globes, we are watching a dinner party where Moët gets served by the bucket. Where else do you get to read the body language of these people as they schmooze and flirt? Where else can you see Shirley MacLaine chew? Harrison Ford not only brought his drink on stage when doling out the best screenplay award, he required his co-presenter, Virginia Madsen, to hold it while he opened the envelope. Sharon Waxman's report in today's New York Times refers to a "very casual" Ford, my favorite euphemism for "visibly buzzed."

Troy Patterson is Slate’s writer at large and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine.