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2017 Golden Globes: 20 Best, Worst and Most WTF Moments

From that ‘La La Land’ opening parody to Meryl Streep’s Trump-burn speech, the highlights and low points of last night’s buzzed awards show.

From that 'La La Land' opening parody to Meryl Streep's Trump-burn speech, the highlights and low points of last night's buzzed awards show.

Though the Golden Globes has a reputation for being the rowdiest (and drunkest) of the many, many awards ceremonies held between now and the Oscars, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s 74th annual event was a rather somber affair – and if you need a reason, look no further than the myriad speeches that either obliquely or pointedly referenced the incoming President-elect. (We’re getting our Meryl Streep 2020 T-shirts printed ASAP.)

But even with the spectre of a looming Trump presidency, the Globes still managed to have some fun – no thanks to host Jimmy Fallon, but we’ll get to that – while awarding much-deserving movies and TV series like Moonlight, Atlanta and the evening’s unstoppable juggernaut, La La Land.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an awards ceremony without some memorable moments, be they good, bad, or utterly WTF-worthy. Here were our favourite bits – and the ones we’d rather have seen left on the cutting-room floor.

By Amy Plitt and Phoebe Reilly.

Best: That ‘La La Land’ Opening Number

Best: That 'La La Land' Opening Number

This was kind of a no-brainer for Jimmy Fallon: A musical number for an awards show set in L.A. during a season where the odds-on favourite just happens to be (in part) a musical love letter to L.A. The red-carpet riff on La La Land’s own traffic jam opening was chock full of references: Jon Snow’s resurrection, O.J.’s Ford Bronco, and those adorable, possibly ceremony-mandated moppets from Stranger Things – and this time with the addition of fan fave Barb, who, in the most clever bit, emerged Esther Williams-like from a pool. (We’re not tired of you yet, Barb. Meme on.) Ryan Reynolds completed his transformation into Ryan Gosling (or maybe it’s the other way around); Tina Fey got pushed out of the way for Justin Timberlake. By beating everyone to this obvious send-up, Fallon might have made Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel’s job a little harder. It’s not like Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight are exactly parody-friendly.

Worst: Jimmy Fallon’s Hosting Job Overall

Worst: Jimmy Fallon's Hosting Job Overall

Alas, the good feeling generated by the opening number couldn’t last forever. From the moment the ceremony itself began with a teleprompter breaking down, Fallon’s tone for the evening – nervous, clumsy, and not particularly witty – was set. The Tonight Show host’s “aw shucks, look at how affable I am, you guys!” schtick felt even schtickier, with some truly head-scratching bits; the world never needed a Cypress Hill-aping bit about Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne, but here we are. Throw in some truly offensive impressions – we can only imagine Chris Rock’s WTF face after that impression – a generally awkward vibe, and his ill-advised Trump jokes (we still remember the hair-ruffling incident, Jimmy), and you’ve got a Globes host who was at best unmemorable, and at worst painfully unfunny.

Best: ‘Atlanta,’ Donald Glover Winning Big

Best: 'Atlanta,' Donald Glover Winning Big

Week to week, Donald Glover’s Atlanta was the single most rewarding, surreal and surprising half hour of television, expanding the definition of what a TV comedy could be. (Three words: Black Justin Bieber. Five more words: Invisible car hit-and-run.) It introduced audiences to the amazing Keith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz and Brian Tyree Henry, and the series as a whole felt as urgent and alive as the music scene it depicted. So it was both a relief and a delight to see Glover, in that amazing brown velvet suit, get the accolades he deserves as the creator and star of this wholly original FX gem. We’d like a little bit of clarity on that “in my house, magic wasn’t allowed” comment in his acceptance speech, but let’s assume he’s saving that explanation for a Season Two episode.

Worst: Mahershala Ali gets snubbed for ‘Moonlight’

Worst: Mahershala Ali gets snubbed for 'Moonlight'

This is tough, because winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson is admittedly great in Tom Ford’s oddball meta-lit noir Nocturnal Animals. Yet Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali was deservedly favored to win Best Supporting Actor in a Drama, and ultimately it’s hard not to prefer his kind-hearted drug dealer to Taylor-Johnson’s psychopathic rapist. The movie also lost out on screenplay, where its affecting, elegiac script should have given La La Land a run for its money. Given the lasting impression it left on fans and critics, Moonlight didn’t get the love that it deserved last night; we take solace in the fact that Ali is going to have a long and prosperous career, and that the Oscars are right around the corner.

Best: Tracee Ellis Ross’ Exuberant Acceptance Speech

Best: Tracee Ellis Ross' Exuberant Acceptance Speech

We would’ve been happy with just about any winner in the Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Comedy category – from the acidic, hilarious Julia Louis Dreyfus on Veep (who apparently moonlights as an awards-show D.J.) to Issa Rae’s star-making turn on Insecure – but first-time nominee Tracee Ellis Ross took the trophy for her role on ABC’s Black-ish. Her wonderful acceptance speech acknowledged Hollywood’s lack of diversity, while providing hope that things won’t always be that way. “This is for all the women, women of color, and colorful people,” she said, “whose stories, ideas, thoughts are not always considered worthy and valid and important. It is an honor … to show the magic and the beauty and the sameness of a story and stories that are outside where the industry usually looks.”

Worst: Billy Bob Thornton’s WTF Inside Joke

Worst: Billy Bob Thornton's WTF Inside Joke

Listen, we love a good Van Johnson joke as much as the next person, but we’re still scratching our heads over this one. The Goliath star’s friendly jab at fellow Best Performance in a Television Series nominee Bob Odenkirk was enigmatic, to say the least. (We assume it was friendly; it’s hard to know for sure.) Thornton thanked the HFPA for giving him the gild over the Better Call Saul lead because of a long-running feud that dates back to an alleged 1940s tough-guy movie they did together. That, of course, was the joke – but it doesn’t appear anyone got it, least of all Odenkirk, who gamely laughed while mouthing the word “What?” Being an oddball is hardly a crime, and Thornton closed with a thoughtful dedication to a recently departed Goliath PA … so it may be unfair to declare this speech among the worst. That said, it definitely takes the cake for the night’s big WTF moment.

Best: The People v. O.J.’ Continues to Win Awards …

Best: The People v. O.J.' Continues to Win Awards ...

Sarah Paulson continued her banner year – an Emmy, a Television Critics Association award and a Critics’ Choice award, among others – by winning a Golden Globe for her flawless portrayal of beleaguered Simpson trial lawyer Marcia Clark. The series also, unsurprisingly, picked up another award for Best Limited Series. The myriad accolades that the series has garnered bodes well for the next installments in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story series, which will focus on Hurricane Katrina and Gianni Versace’s 1997 murder (for seasons two and three, respectively).

Worst: … But the Men of ‘The People v. O.J.’ Get Shut Out

Worst: ... But the Men of 'The People v. O.J.' Get Shut Out

Alas, the awards didn’t keep rolling in for Courtney B. Vance, who played the larger-than-life Johnnie Cochran, and Sterling K. Brown for his wonderfully understated performance as prosecutor Christopher Darden. Despite both actors’ Emmy wins last year – along with numerous other accolades, including from the Critics’ Choice Awards – neither one picked up a Golden Globe, with The Night Manager’s Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston cleaning up in those categories. Not that we have anything against the AMC miniseries (Hiddleston’s acceptance speech, though…), but overlooking both Vance and Brown felt, well, criminal.

Best: People Aren’t Shying Away From Criticising Donald Trump

Best: People Aren't Shying Away From Criticizing Donald Trump

There were a number of pointed references to the POTUS-elect last night, with Meryl Streep’s incendiary speech taking the proverbial cake. (More on that in a second.) Although we couldn’t take Fallon’s opening comments seriously given his own shameless pandering, there were a number of folks who made their dissent heard – notably winner Hugh Laurie. “I suppose I’ll be able to say I won this at the last ever Golden Globes,” he joked, sparking some uneasy laughter. He then apologised for being “gloomy” and made the unassailable point that Hollywood Foreign Press includes three very triggering words for the Twitter-happy Trump.

Worst: Jokes About How Sofia Vergara Can’t Speak English

Worst: Jokes About How Sofia Vergara Can't Speak English

Let’s clear this up once and for all: Sofia Vergara’s English is perfect. Her accent is lovely. She can pronounce the word “annual.” So trotting her out at award ceremonies to bungle words is at best lazy and at worst offensive. This is a particularly surprising shtick coming from a ceremony put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – and particularly unsavoury in our current climate, when the President-elect and his cabinet nominations effectively condone and encourage xenophobia. Maybe that’s too much to put on an anal joke, but then again: An anal joke?!? Grow up, writers. Also: Casting Goldie Hawn as a dinosaur wasn’t much better, but at least Amy Schumer (her costar in the upcoming comedy Snatched) played it off with a convincing amount of mother-daughter awkwardness. Older women can read, Colombian-American actresses can speak/be understood, and we could all benefit from some fresher material.

Best: Kristen Wiig and Steve Carell’s Best Animated Movie Presentation

Best: Kristen Wiig and Steve Carell's Best Animated Movie Presentation

What do we have to do to get Wiig to host this damn show? With Bill Hader, with Steve Carell, by herself – we’ll take whatever we can get. For Best Animated Motion Picture, the Despicable Me 2 costars reminisced about the first animated movies they saw, which quickly took a solemn turn and dredged up awful childhood memories. For Carell, it was recalling how his mom announced her decision to divorce his dad after a screening of Fantasia; for Wiig, it was seeing Bambi after putting down her three dogs (named Janet, Chrissy, and Jack). The delivery was everything. And the idea that kids movies can also connect with sad, more mature circumstances (however fictional) was a nice touch. These are the people you want on the frontlines of a Best Documentary Short award, you know? There isn’t a subject Wiig and Carell couldn’t spin into comedy gold.

Best: Meryl Streep’s Incredible Trump-Burn Speech

Best: Meryl Streep's Incredible Trump-Burn Speech

Dame Meryl’s shining moment – she was being awarded the 2017 Cecile B. DeMille Award – was already off to a good start thanks to Viola Davis’ introduction, in which she lauded Ms. Streep’s many talents and spilled the beans on her Doubt co-star’s jokey personality (and apple pie recipe). But the star proved, once again, why she’s the queen by giving a passionate, poignant speech that was aimed directly at the incoming President-elect. From name-checking fellow actors who’ve emigrated from other countries – Ryan Gosling from Canada, Ruth Negga from Ireland (by way of Ethiopia), etc. – to proclaiming, “We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage,” Streep’s speech was a fiery rebuke of a Trump presidency and an inspirational call to arms. She even got a tribute to her friend Carrie Fisher in at the end, saying “As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia said to me, ‘Take your broken heart and turn it into art.'” Preach, Meryl. (Trump, predictably, responded with … a Tweetstorm. Oh, brother.)

Worst: The Winonaissance Stalls

Worst: The Winonaissance Stalls

Sure, it’s not fair to call Winona Ryder’s bravura turn in Netflix’s retro hit Stranger Things a “comeback,” per se. But after a few years of playing small supporting roles, it was fantastic to have the Gen X hero back in the spotlight, in a nifty bit of meta-casting that actually worked. (The 1980s heroine playing the ultimate 1980s mom!) So it was a bit of a bummer that, 23 years after her last Globes nomination, Ryder’s turn as frazzled single mom Joyce Byers didn’t pick up a win. (Claire Foy instead won Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Drama for playing Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s period juggernaut The Crown.) But even without the Globe, we’re pretty sure the Winonaissance is just beginning, and we’re here for it.

Best: That Brief But Moving Carrie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds Tribute

Best: That Brief But Moving Carrie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds Tribute

In one of the night’s most all-hankies-on-deck moments, the singular mother-daughter duo of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher – who tragically passed away within a day of each other late last month – was honored with the HFPA giving them their own special tribute. The short memorial featured candid home movies along with clips from some of Reynolds and Fisher’s best-known work, including Singin’ In the Rain and Star Wars, respectively. The whole thing was soundtracked, beautifully, by the pair singing “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It)” from a 2011 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. It was moving without being saccharine … something that ever-sardonic Fisher would’ve surely appreciated.

Worst: But No Larger Memorium?

Worst: But No Larger Memorium?

By this point, we do not need to remind you that, in 2016, the world lost Prince, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Alan Rickman, Alan Thicke, Patty Duke, Gwen Ifill and Garry Shandling, among countless others. And yet there was no moment during the awards to acknowledge the artists who passed away during what was arguably one of the worst years for celebrity deaths ever. The “In Memoriam” tribute may be morbid, but it’s also a nice way to recognize those titanic talents – and it’s a shame that it was missing this year, of all years. (Maybe the producers were worried it would have gone on for too long?)

Best: ‘Moonlight’ Wins Best Drama

Best: 'Moonlight' Wins Best Drama

It had some stiff competition – but Moonlight won the biggie, besting formidable contenders like Manchester by the Sea and Lion for Best Motion Picture Drama. Even though the Globes are not necessarily the best litmus test for the Oscars, it does offer some hope that La La Land might not walk away with the top trophy come February. Barry Jenkins did a beautiful job adapting Tarell Alvin McCraney’s experimental theater piece for the screen, and gave this poetic, slow-burning exploration of class, sexuality and masculinity a visual lyricism and emotional heft that runs rings around most American movies of the past decade. It offers exactly the type of perspective that Hollywood desperately needs more of.

Worst: A Whole Lotta ‘La La Land’ Love

Worst: A Whole Lotta 'La La Land' Love

La La Land is a solid movie. But it’s also something of an award-season gimme, given that the fastest route to a trophy is making a movie that flatters Hollywood. (Also? Entirely too much jazz talk!) Still, you certainly can’t deny the charm of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling; after Gosling’s feminist speech, you probably don’t want to live in a world where he didn’t win Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. And yet … this definitely is not the movie that should now hold the record for most Globes, for that’s worth. Perhaps most objectionable was its Best Screenplay win, beating out Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight and Hell or High Water when a better case could be made for the originality, beauty, or devastation of almost any of those other scripts. La La Land certainly deserved recognition. Just not at the expense of so many other strong films.

Best: That Adorable Duo From ‘Lion’

Best: That Adorable Duo From 'Lion'

Lion, the inspired-by-real-life story of an Australian man searching for his birth parents, hasn’t been raking in the box-office dollars quite yet, but it’s gotten good reviews – particularly for star Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) and Sunny Pawar, who plays the hero as a youngster. But the pair went a long way toward getting more eyeballs on the film with their utterly adorable appearance at the Globes. In matching tuxes, the pair introduced the film (which was nominated for several awards, including Best Motion Picture, Drama) and charmed the heck out of the audience – proof that you can never go wrong by putting a cute kid in a tux at an awards show.

Worst: Tom Hiddleston Goes the Humblebrag Route

Worst: Tom Hiddleston Goes the Humblebrag Route

The crowd shots said it all. Christian Slater’s creased brow seems to be asking, Where’s he going with this? Because surely Tom Hiddleston is not saying that The Night Manager improved the life of people in South Sudan. Oh, no, wait. That’s exactly what he’s saying. And he’s big-upping his own charity work in the process. Everything about this speech chafed. You can use the airtime to call attention to a beloved and worthy cause. You can express pride in the project you won the award for. But to link the two, as if making art that makes the world more bearable approximates the hard work of improving people’s circumstances? That’s a Grade-A Hiddlestumble.