Golden Globes: Chalk one up for the underdog

This year, Hollywood’s hottest party was a beautiful, hot mess of rambling philosophical musings masquerading as speeches, awkwardly long walks to the podium and genuine awards surprises. But the biggest pleasure and surprise of the show was the story of the underdogs dethroning established Hollywood royalty.

Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler helped make for an effortlessly entertaining, sometimes surprising Golden Globes ceremony.

Not that some very big names didn’t take home awards. The show got off to a great start, with hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler riffing as they do best. An early award went to Jennifer Lawrence for Best Supporting Actress for American Hustle. A previous Oscar winner, Lawrence is, in some circles, already considered Hollywood royalty. But compared to icons like competitor Julie Roberts, Lawrence is still the fun-loving, starry-eyed onlooker, wondering how she ever even got invited to the party. That kind of humility is rare in show business, but there was plenty of it to go around Sunday. The initial reaction is that Lupita Nyong’o was snubbed for her stirring, intensely physical performance in 12 Years a Slave. And, while I love Lawrence more than many, I’d have to agree. Her performance was a delight, but not a revelation like Nyong’o’s.

American Hustle took home several other awards, including Amy Adams for Best Actress Musical/Comedy (beating out Meryl Streep) and Best Picture Musical/Comedy. There’s been a bit of a backlash against the film, but I think it remains effortlessly entertaining, with David O. Russel’s most effervescent and effective direction. Whether “effortlessly entertaining” is enough to justify its win over competition like Her and Inside Llewyn Davis remains to be seen, but the odds seem to be in its favor.

All the other acting category wins were absolute slam-dunks, recognizing some very deserving (and frequently snubbed) performers. I was overjoyed to finally see Leonardo DiCaprio take home a Globe for his performance in The Wolf of Wall Street (musical/comedy). It’s the finest performance of his career, and I hope he isn’t overlooked at the Oscars. Equally deserving was Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club (drama), a brilliant actor whose stunning late-career renaissance can be overlooked no longer. It is a bit of a shocker that he beat out Chiwetel Ejiofor for his soul-stirring lead role in 12 Years a Slave, and it should make for a very interesting Oscar night. He also beat out the likes of Tom Hanks andRobert Redford, something to be proud of, for sure.

The Best Director race was one of the most fascinating of the night: Paul Greengrass, Alfonso Cuaron, Alexander Payne, David O. Russell and Steve McQueen. A phenomenal list of dedicated artists who have worked a very long time to find their way to the spotlight, not one can be considered a celebrity director on the level of, say, Martin Scorsese. Cuaron took home the award for Gravity, and I hope he can repeat that success at the Oscars. The Mexican director has quietly been creating some of the best studio and independent films of the past few decades, and, from A Little Princess to Children of Men, his time has finally come.

Some pegged Gravity for a win in Best Picture/Drama, but, even with snubs in other categories, 12 Years a Slave wasn’t exactly a surprise. It follows a tradition of historical films winning over the more populist, fantastical competition (see: The Hurt Locker over Avatar; The Artist over Hugo, etc.) But Gravity is better than most films that find themselves as “the populist choice,” so the Oscar race is far from assured.

Is there a more perfect image of the spirit of this year’s Globes than Barkhad Abdi? The Somalian actor came out of nowhere and stunned as the unpredictable pirate captain in Captain Phillips. Talk about overwhelming. Nonetheless, he had a smile on his face the whole night, probably wondering how the heck he ended up here, among the entertainment elite. He lost the best supporting actor trophy to Jared Leto, the Dallas Buyers Club actor who returned to the profession after a six-year hiatus. He beat out rising stars Daniel Bruhl, Bradley Cooper and Michael Fassbender. All guys who have come a long way for the recognition they so richly deserve.

Same goes for the TV winners. Bryan Cranston finally won for his role as Walter White in Breaking Bad, and Andy Samberg and Amy Poehler were both genuinely shocked to win in comedic acting categories. From mocking celebrities on Saturday Night Live to beating them out for major awards.

Here’s one for the little guys. Watch out, Hollywood, because someday they’ll be running this business. Sooner rather than later, it seems.