Golden Globes: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler winning mix of comedy and commentary

Social justice emerged as a prominent theme during the Golden Globes telecast honoring the best film and television of 2014, from the playful but pointed feminism of hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, to winners whose achievements and speeches highlighted greater diversity.

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Fey and Poehler are at their best when they highlight sexism in Hollywood’s parade of self-congratulation. Last year, their best joke was at the expense of George Clooney, pointing out about his role in “Gravity” that he “would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age.”

The same was true this year. Of George Clooney’s accomplished wife, Amal Alamuddin, they said, “She’s a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, an adviser to Kofi Annan on Syria and was appointed to a three-person commission investigating rules-of-war violations in the Gaza Strip. So tonight her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award.”

They also trotted out an old chestnut. They previously joked about Hollywood ageism, saying that “there are great roles in Hollywood for Meryl Streeps over 50.” This year they delivered a similar zinger about Patricia Arquette‘s unique role in “Boyhood“: “‘Boyhood’ proves that there are still roles for women over 40, as long as you’re hired while you’re still under 40.”

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They went darker when they targeted Bill Cosby, recently the subject of rape allegations: “Cinderella runs from her prince, Rapunzel is thrown from a tower for her prince, and Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby.”

I have preferred Fey and Poehler’s three years as Globes emcees to Ricky Gervais‘s preceding hosting gigs. Fey and Poehler’s jokes occasionally hit hard, but they’re precisely aimed. Gervais had more of a slash-and-burn approach during his most notorious moments. Gervais did, however, present an award tonight and poked good fun at his tendency to cut the Hollywood elite to ribbons.

Fey and Poehler weren’t the only women to bring a feminist perspective to the event. Best Film Musical/Comedy Actress winner Amy Adams (“Big Eyes“) discussed the positive role models among her female acting peers. And Best TV Movie/Limited Series Actress champ Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Honorable Woman“) eloquently championed great roles for women.

One wishes all of Hollywood were as egalitarian as award shows, where separate acting categories are a rare instance when women are guaranteed equal time and attention.

The tense cultural atmosphere around the world meant that social justice took center stage beyond the treatment of women in showbiz. Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Theo Kingma, presenter Jared Leto, and Cecil B. DeMille Award-recipient Clooney all expressed solidarity with the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was recently attacked by Islamist gunmen, who killed 12.

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Best Song-winner Common (“Glory” from “Selma“) expressed solidarity for those who struggled during the civil rights movement and those struggling now, including unarmed black victims of violence and fallen police officers, alluding to the recent murders of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.

Accepting Best TV Musical/Comedy Actress, Puerto Rican star Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin“) called for greater ethnic visibility for a “culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.”

Best TV Supporting Actress winner Joanne Froggatt (“Downton Abbey“) gave a moving speech about rape survivors, and Best TV Supporting Actor champ Matt Bomer (“The Normal Heart“) thanked gay rights activist Larry Kramer for his anger. (Bomer will hopefully now use his new Golden Globe to beat some sense into the Emmy voters who snubbed him last summer, perhaps double-wielding it with his Critics’ Choice Award.)

Transparent” creator Jill Soloway and star Jeffrey Tambor dedicated their respective wins for Best Musical/Comedy Series and Best TV Musical/Comedy Series Actor to the transgender community, including Leelah Alcorn, a trans teen who committed suicide in December.

It’s easy for Hollywood folks to make nice speeches on TV, true, but after a tough year on many societal fronts, it was nice to see a Globes telecast highlighted by winners discussing issues that matter to them as artists and individuals.

On a lighter note, Prince wielded a pimp cane, Jeremy Renner made an uncomfortable joke about Jennifer Lopez’s “Globes,” and Julianna Margulies and Don Cheadle had very funny banter arguing over who was better friends with Clooney during the Cecil B. DeMille presentation.

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Cheadle ribbed Clooney over the disappointing performance of his film “The Monuments Men,” which after being pushed out of the 2013 awards season was released last February, made money, and turned out to be perfectly okay if you ask me. I’m sure they’ll quote me on the DVD cover: ‘Perfectly okay’ raves Daniel Montgomery.

Margulies and Cheadle fared better on-stage than some of the comedians, including Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, who are almost always hilarious, but whose bit – making up “classic” lines from famous movies to present Best Screenplay – went on a little long. The funniest part was Wiig’s inability to do a Robert De Niro impression, because I’m not sure how much of that was planned.

Either way, they both still deserved nominations for “The Skeleton Twins.”

What did you think of the Golden Globes telecast? Did Fey and Poehler leave a strong last impression (I think they did), and were the speeches more memorable and heartfelt than usual (I think they were)? Comment below, and click here to join the rabid Globes discussion in our forums.

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