Hosting the 70th Golden Globes Sunday in Beverly Hills, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler proved it was possible to skewer their Hollywood colleagues without entirely alienating the crowd, as distinct from previous host Ricky Gervais.
Some 20 years after Fey and Poehler first met as improvisers at the Chicago comedy hub i.O. Theater, the pair were relaxed, funny and fully in control as they took in a room filled with the biggest stars of films “that have only been in theaters for two days,” and “the rat-faced people of television.”
Aside from their opening monologue, however, Fey and Poehler popped up only intermittently throughout the NBC broadcast.
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The show — which included a rambling and unwieldy speech by lifetime achievement award winner Jodie Foster and a surpise win for “Argo” as best picture and Ben Affleck as best director — could have used their spikey interjections to give a discombobulated night a stronger throughline.
But the co-hosts' bits right at the top were pure gold. Referring to the controversy surrounding the depiction of torture in “Zero Dark Thirty,” Poehler teed up a joke that probably came closest to Gervais-level comedic bite, noting of director Kathryn Bigelow: “I haven't been following the controversy … but when it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron,” a line that prompted a shocked laugh from “Zero Dark” star (and best actress winner) Jessica Chastain.
Fey aimed her own zinger toward “Django Unchained” filmmaker Quentin Tarantino (a winner for best screenplay), whom she called “the star of all my sexual nightmares,” and then looked over at “Les Miserables” co-star Anne Hathaway (best actress in a film comedy or musical) and remarked, “I have not seen someone totally alone and abandoned (as Hathaway's ‘Miserables' character, Fantine) since you were onstage with James Franco hosting the Oscars.” Poehler noted a significant absence in the audience Sunday: “Meryl Streep is not here tonight because she has the flu — and I hear she's amazing in it.”
On the red carpet earlier in the night, Fey and Poehler stressed that their own nominations were the least of their concerns, and when their names were announced as nominess, Fey jokingly gritted her teeth with Jennifer Lopez by her side, while Poehler snuggled up to George Clooney. Neither won. The honor went to “Girls” creator and star Lena Dunham, who thanked her fellow nominees “for getting me through middle school.” (“Girls” also won for best comedy television series.) As a follow-up, Fey and Poehler appeared on stage, drinks in hand, disconsolate. “Glad we got you through middle school, Lena,” said Fey, who then directed her attention towards singer Taylor Swift: “You stay away from Michael J. Fox's son,” she instructed. “Or go for it,” added Poehler.
In TV, the big winner was “Homeland,” which was named best drama. The Showtime drama also notched acting wins for stars Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, echoing their Emmy wins. That came as no surprise — unlike Don Cheadle's win (over the likes of Alec Baldwin, Jim Parsons and Louis C.K.) for his role in “House of Lies,” also on Showtime.
In the movie categories, Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”) toppled Streep, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench in winning best actress in a comedy or musical, accepting her award with a sly wink at noted awards-season campaigner and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein: “Harvey, thank you for killing whoever you had to kill to get me up here today.” Best supporting actor honors went to Christoph Waltz as the German bounty hunter in “Django Unchained.”
Former President Bill Clinton made an unexpected appearance to introduce the clips from “Lincoln,” a film that depicts a commander in chief pushing a bill through Congress with the help of some unsavory deal-making. “I wouldn't know anything about that,” joked Clinton. Poehler then followed him onstage and exclaimed, “Oh my God, that's Hillary Clinton's husband!” Daniel Day-Lewis won best actor for his performance in “Lincoln,” as well.
Some lighter moments shone: Hilariously, presenters Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell pretended to have seen each of the movies nominated, when clearly they hadn't, a bit that amused most in the audience — with the exception of a stone-faced Tommy Lee Jones. Upon her win, Hathaway clutched her Golden Globe and said, “Thank you for this lovely, blunt object” that she would forevermore use “as a weapon against self-doubt.” (Previous Golden Globe winner Richard Dreyfuss later Tweeted: “Lovely blunt objects make only OK weapons against self-doubt. #goldenglobes #trustme.”)
Michael Haneke, the Austrian filmmaker whose “Amour” won for Best Foreign Film, was awarded the prize by Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I never thought I would get an award in Hollywood from an Austrian,” he said.
The best surprise reaction early on had to be from pop star Adele. Winning best original song for the theme to the James Bond film “Skyfall,” she admitted she'd come to the awards with a fellow new mom, both eager for a night out: “We've been (wetting) ourselves laughing,” she said. Wrapping up the night, Poehler announced: “We're going home with Jodie Foster.”