Last night’s Golden Globe Awards were a welcome surprise for me. I have gotten used to, in my time as a film and television enthusiast, the entertainment I support being consigned to the “also ran” bin. My favorite TV shows get cancelled. Many of my favorite movies have been ignored by critics and audiences alike. If they are nominated, they are the window dressing for the film or show that gets the glory.
“Moulin Rouge” lost so that the forgettable “A Beautiful Mind” could win. The celebratory romantic sizzle of “La La Land” took a back seat to the coldly competent “Moonlight” (and before I catch any flack for knocking a movie that frankly deals with gay themes, I adored “Brokeback Mountain,” which is another perfect example of a superior film losing to an inferior one, and am a member of the LGBTQ community myself, so in my official capacity as part of that club, allow me to call out “Moonlight” for the weak sauce that it was).
I still need to see “The Post” and “Shape of Water” before I’ll feel comfortable settling on a “Best of 2017,” but unless those films are phenomenal in a way that few films are, unless they approach perfection, they will not beat “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” on my list.
Martin McDonagh has crafted in this film a character study of singular complexity, a film that exists entirely in gray areas. Save for one person that we briefly meet, no character in the film is a villain. None are heroes either. They are people in pain, reaching and grasping for a way to rid themselves of it.
“Three Billboards” exudes compassion in the way it deals with these characters, the way it withholds judgement, the way it lets us figure them out as they figure out themselves, as they search for the balms they need to ease their suffering, whatever forms those balms may take.
McDonagh’s script rightfully took home a screenplay trophy last night, and two of the three actors that helped give his words their richly textured beating heart took home awards as well.
Frances McDormand gives a performance to rival her role in “Fargo,” while Sam Rockwell plays a character that morphs from doofus to tyrant to decent person, and he makes that journey not just compelling, but completely believable.
I’m happy that “Three Billboards” took home the Globes that it did. It is the year’s best picture. It does have some of the year’s best performances, and it isn’t just the best script of 2017, but probably one of the best to come along this decade.
But this year’s Globes didn’t stop there.
James Franco does amazing work in “The Disaster Artist” turning in a performance that transcends impression. Inhabiting the skin of erstwhile wannabe film maker Tommy Wiseau, Franco elicits deep sympathy, showing us the real hopes and dreams that drive a man that oft comes off as a caricature of himself. At the same time, he doesn’t shy away from Wiseau’s ugly side. It is a tricky performance, and one that Franco makes look effortless. He completely deserved his awards attention last night.
If Franco’s performance was tricky, though, Alison Janney’s in “I, Tonya” was an unparalleled acting high wire act. Janney’s role calls for her to be funny, Disney witch level evil, and somehow relatable. That she pulls it off is nothing short of a miracle. Her work here is so nuanced, able to elicit laughs one second and gasps the next, all the while projecting, often only through her eyes, a deep well of suffering that drives the person that she is. This is layers hiding layers. This is sheer mastery of craft. Janney gives the best performance of 2017. Not the best supporting performance or the best performance by an actress. The best performance. Period.
Lastly, while I usually write off the TV side of the Globes, they’ve been kind to me recently, such as when they gave Rachel Bloom a best actress win for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” that likely saved the best show on television from cancellation.
They continued that trend this year by giving the astounding Rachel Brosnahan and the fantastic series which she is a part of awards for best actress and best TV show for musical or comedy.
I shotgunned the entire first season of “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” in three days last month. Then I watched it again. It is a celebration of finding a part of yourself you didn’t know you had, about disappearing into something you love, about stepping into a world you never knew existed.
It is brash and fun and lighthearted while tackling weighty issues, and it is empowering. Even as a man it is empowering, so I can’t imagine how empowering it would be to watch it as a woman. It isn’t a show you watch. You fall in love with it. It sweeps you off your feet.
Brosnahan is a big part of that. The show wouldn’t work without her. She is the embodiment of the bold but playful tone of the series. As she sheds her naivete and finds herself, she draws the audience along on a propulsive journey through the burgeoning mid 20th century stand-up scene that wouldn’t be the same without her.
So yeah, after years of experience falling in love with the “also rans,” tonight’s Golden Globes made me feel like I’d left 2017 with a pocket full of winners.
Entertainment wise, anyway.