Monday, January 17, 2011

Did Ricky Gervais go too far at the Golden Globes?

Last night was one of the most dramatic nights of television for months. And I'm not taking about the New York Jets knocking the New England Patriots out of the playoffs.

In addition to one of the biggest football games of the season, it was the 68th Annual Golden Globes award - a glittering night in which the Hollywood Foreign Press Association nominates those movie and TV stars they feel are worthy of recognition.

Hosting the event was British comedian Ricky Gervais - generaly acknowledged as a talented, witty and pleasant writer and actor, with his feet well under the table in Hollywood.

Ricky Gervais, seconds away from the self-immolation of his Hollywood career

But unfortunately for them, most Hollywood types only know Gervais as the affable chap from movies like Night at the Museum and The Invention of Lying. When they hired him, they weren't aware that he had a pedigree from the most distinguished stable of British snark. They found out last night, however - and how.

In one of the most remarkable displays of 'biting the hand that feeds you,' Ricky Gervais turned his hosting honors into an opportunity to skewer some of Hollywood's leading stars - roasting them with uncomfortable intensity, to the point at which some members of the audience even booed (the rest greeted his jokes with silence, or nervous tittering.)

Kicking off the event, he defended the Hollywood Foreign Press Association from accusations that they'd only nominated flop movie The Tourist because they wanted to hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.

"That's absolutely not the only reason," he snapped. "They also accepted bribes."

He continued by joking: "It's going to be a night of partying and heavy drinking - or, as Charlie Sheen calls it, breakfast." He also beckoned Robert Downey Jnr. on stage by boasting that he'd recently been seen in not Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes, but "The Betty Ford Clinic" and "The Los Angeles County Jail."

Perhaps most ballsy of all, however, was his open attack on the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association itself.

"Next up, Eva Longoria has the daunting task of introducing the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press," Gervais started. "That's nothing, I just had to help him off the toilet and pop his teeth in. It was messy."

President Phil Berk was apparently not amused. "Ricky, next time you want me to help you qualify your movies," he hissed later, "go to another guy."

In many ways, it was shocking, ungrateful and classless. It other ways, it was one of the most sublime moments of comedic betrayal since Stephen Colbert hosted the 2006 White House Press Association's dinner (in which he skewered George Bush so poisonously that Laura Bush hissed 'fuck you' at him as he sat down.)

What made Ricky Gervais' indefensible diatribe defensible was twofold:

Firstly, it was funny - hysterically so.

Secondly, the reason his jokes were so squirmworthy and uncomfortable was because they were based in sound, unreasoning truth.

Take his mean-spirited jab at The Tourist. It might have seemed cruel, but he was absolutely right that the film's nomination made no sense at all. Ignoring the fact that the movie was a critical and commercial flop, The Tourist was nominated for an award in the 'comedy/musical' category - and the taut spy thriller was neither!

Perhaps Gervais' was signing his own suicide note with this performance - not just with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but with Hollywood itself. However, in doing so he cemented his comedic credibility for all time - and did a truly sublime job of highlighting what a sycophantic, self-perpetuating farce the Hollywood Foreign Press Association actually is.

And it was gratifying to see that some Hollywood stars actually got the joke. Robert DeNiro, in accepting the Cecile B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, warned people not to get offended by Gervais' jokes.

"The important thing we are all in this together," De Niro said. "The filmmakers who make the movies and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association members who, in turn, pose for pictures with the movie stars."

Likewise, Batman's Christian Bale thanked Gervais for identifying the Hollywood Foreign Press Association - he'd been wondering who those 'awful people' who kept turning up were.

Ultimately, Gervais' performance was so shocking because it spoke the truth - and ultimately there's no humor more controversial than that. Only time will tell whether Hollywood gets the joke, or banishes him from their midst forever.


Susanne said...

thanks for the recap!

Susan said...

I'm in agreement. Even my husband mentioned it, and he couldn't care less about the Globes. The Globes are notorious for responding to out and out blackmail in exchange for awards. Sharon Stone won for Casino; she was good in the film, but she openly admitted that she lobbied the Hollywood whatever-it-is in order to get the award. She wasn't even nominated by the Academy. I never take the Globes seriously, even when they get it right (Glee supporting actors).

I think Gervais will never have to worry about work. Even if Hollywood shuns him, people of decent calibre will keep him going-he's probably a hero in Britain. You were right to point out the British sense of humor is very different from the American. I also think he stuck it to some very egotistical and insecure people. Bravo for Bale and De Niro for understanding exactly what was going on, and refusing to feel threatened.

Andy said...

Roland, I read about some of the hubub, so I chased down a video yesterday. It was about 5 minutes of the opening of the program.

I guess I don't know enough about films, or hollyweirdos to know whether he was insulting them, or praising them.

Regardless, I have ZERO use for people that can not take a joke. No matter their political views, social views, or station in life, if one is not humble enough to take a ribbing, and laugh "with 'em," then they don't deserve the time of day.

davidwraith said...

I couldn't agree more.