Barbie or Jo Koy: Who had a worse night at the Golden Globes?

At last night’s joke-free Globes, ‘Barbie’ took home just two awards – Best Original Song and a controversial new category celebrating ‘Best Box Office Achievement’, with Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling and Greta Gerwig otherwise snubbed. Adam White asks what this means for its award season future

Monday 08 January 2024 09:29 GMT
Jo Koy, whose opening monologue bombed at the Golden Globes, and Margot Robbie in the largely snubbed ‘Barbie’
Jo Koy, whose opening monologue bombed at the Golden Globes, and Margot Robbie in the largely snubbed ‘Barbie’ (Getty/Warner Bros)

Hollywood is no longer playing with Barbies. If this year’s Golden Globes are anything to go by, the Margot Robbie comedy that practically everyone saw last summer could end up the redheaded stepchild of awards season – gaining lots of nominations but few wins, and upending the predictions of those who assumed it would at least sweep the comedy categories. On Sunday night it went home with just two awards: one for Billie Eilish’s original song, and a second that was entirely made up.

What does it mean that Barbie won the inaugural, incredibly silly “Cinematic and Box Office Achievement” Globe? Described as an opportunity to recognise films that both “garnered extensive global audience support and attained cinematic excellence”, the award is the inevitable endpoint of a genre in crisis: televised awards ceremonies run by people who don’t particularly like televised awards ceremonies, who get skittish about the recurring absence in the winners’ lists of enormous blockbusters.

All the times host Jo Koy bombed in 2024 Golden Globes

Winning it is a bit of a poisoned chalice, though, which lends Barbie the air of a not-very-good film shoehorned into an otherwise stuffy ceremony for giggles. Remember when the Oscars crowned “The Flash Enters the Speed Force in Zack Snyder’s Justice Leaguethe most “cheer-worthy moment” in film history via an audience poll in 2022, and everyone got very confused? It’s a little bit like that.

In the comedy and musical categories, Barbie couldn’t withstand the unexpected juggernaut that is Poor Things, which coincidentally is also about a young woman venturing into a strange new world and discovering actuality, only with Emma Stone and a hell of a lot more genitalia. Stone took the Best Actress award over Robbie, and Yorgos Lanthimos’s fantasy triumphed in Best Picture.

Elsewhere, Ryan Gosling’s celebrated performance as Ken – which for months seemed to be heading for a de facto “wacky Supporting Actor win” – couldn’t best Robert Downey Jr in Oppenheimer, while Greta Gerwig missed out on Best Director, which went to Oppenheimer’s Christopher Nolan.

This doesn’t necessarily spoil Barbie’s Oscar chances, but it does slightly dent a movie that always aspired to be more than a big printer of money. Barbie was a feminist parable! A pink-hued odyssey about gender roles, emancipation and motherhood! Ideas! Ideas! Ideas! “Movie with extensive global audience support”, spoken with the cadence of a tired tech bro, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

That said, these are still the musings of the Golden Globes, Hollywood’s embarrassing uncle you wish you didn’t have to see once a year. Host and alleged comedian Jo Koy opened with a monologue so bad that he was already apologising and blaming his joke-writers at its halfway point, and it just seemed to go downhill from there. Calling Barbie an adaptation of “a plastic doll with big boobs” was tacky, and half-hearted gags about Ozempic and how often Meryl Streep has won felt like awards-show bingo.

The mood in the room was apparently sour from the off in regard to Koy, with New York Times journalist Nicole Sperling tweeting that a “prominent director” could be heard condemning him from the crowd. “[We] are all here and this is what they give us?” they allegedly said. “This is a disaster.” Yikes.

There were bright spots – a now-annual appearance by Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell that got by on sheer weirdness; Succession and The Bear dominating the TV categories; Nolan’s invocation of the late Heath Ledger during his Best Director speech – but otherwise an odd lethargy seemed to pervade, a sense of “Will this do?” The Jeffrey Epstein gag that no one wanted, the Harry and Meghan cracks, Taylor Swift absolutely refusing to entertain even the mildest of jokes made at her expense – it all felt a bit bleak, didn’t it? Perhaps Barbie isn’t doomed this awards season – maybe it’s just a bit too cheery for this deeply depressing event.

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