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Women may have won big at the Golden Globes, but the men all looked like losers

It was an awkward night to be male at the Golden Globes. As Hollywood continues to clean house in the wake of long-brewing harassment and assault disputes, women were given the microphone, and indeed the trophies. The tuxedo brigade might have all worn pin badges and worn black to show solidarity, but they spent the night fidgeting and squirming away from their close-ups. Or indeed from saying anything, bar the host.

“Good evening, ladies, and remaining gentlemen!” Seth Meyers quipped at the start, in a monologue which waded into the industry’s cesspool of assault and scandal, splashed around, and threw out flailing fists at Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey.

Historically, stories about men get to sweep their way through awards season. Consider the Oscars’ Best Picture line-up for 2013 – the year of Birdman, American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash. Not a female protagonist anywhere to be seen.

Appropriately, then, in this of all years, Globes voters tried to make amends, concentrating on films with heroines. Both Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Lady Bird, respective winners in the Drama and Comedy categories, also won Best Actress prizes, for Frances McDormand and Saoirse Ronan.

One is about an angry, grieving mother engaged in a relentless fight for moral justice after her daughter’s rape and murder. The other is about a Catholic schoolgirl discovering sex and becoming an individual. Both are locked in now as Oscar options – as are two other movies front-led by women, Guillermo Del Toro’s darkly fantastical The Shape of Water, with Sally Hawkins, and The Post, which has Meryl Streep fittingly billed on all the posters above Tom Hanks.

Laurie Metcalf, Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan, the stars and writer-director of Lady Bird Credit:  AFP

The almost completely male-dominated Dunkirk won nothing at all, not even Best Director for Christopher Nolan, which went to Del Toro. Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino’s gay romance, also went home empty-handed, save being the butt of a particularly crude Spacey joke.

In general, Hollywood’s women loomed large, both on the red carpet, pressing the Time’s Up initiative designed to tackle sexual assault in the film industry and others, and on stage. Oprah Winfrey, the first black woman to receive the Cecil B. De Mille award in history, dedicated her speech to the young girls watching at home.

Meanwhile, in the TV honours, Big Little Lies, HBO’s miniseries about the politics of motherhood, was the big champ, taking four Globes, including acting wins for Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern. Next down the list? Women and more women. Few feminist allegories come more scalding than The Handmaid’s Tale, which did a Billboards 1-2 for Best TV series (Drama) and Elisabeth Moss; in Comedy, the Lady Bird was Amazon’s newly minted story of a 1950s housewife, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, starring Rachel Brosnahan, who won her category also.

McDormand – whose film is the sternest rebuke thematically to male abuse of power among this year’s awards crop – had words of thanks for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, while admitting that she still didn’t quite know who this mysterious, 90-strong voting body really were. “Let’s face it, they managed to elect a female president. I’m just saying!”

Natalie Portman and Ron Howard presenting the (all male) award for Best Director

Still, lest the Globes bask unduly in making all the politically savvy choices last night, there were jarring incongruities which often rendered things embarrassingly uncomfortable. Meyers had no choice to confess that he, a straight white man, was perhaps not the ideal choice for hosting the evening. Comparing himself to “the first dog they shot into outer space,” he fawningly outsourced some of his punchlines to the likes of Jessica Chastain and Amy Poehler in the audience. 

And no awards the Globes handed out could make up for their dreadful bungling of the Best Director category. Straight after Oprah’s speech, a visibly moved Natalie Portman had to present it, with Ron Howard. “Here are the all-male nominees!”, she jabbed. Given everyone’s enthusiasm for Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s omission seemed all the more criminal, a sign that the industry still has a long way to go in making up for its history of neglecting female directors.

Will the Oscars do any of this differently? They might make some switcheroos for acting, especially if Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) and Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) are reinstated in the supporting fields over Billboards’ Sam Rockwell and I, Tonya’s Allison Janney, both surprise upsets. Gary Oldman is still the bookies’ Best Actor favourite for his all-stops-out Churchill portrait in Darkest Hour, but Call Be My Your Name’s critically adored Timothée Chalamet is fast creeping up on him.

If we’re lucky, the jokes that night will land better than Meyers’s did, and the speeches won’t beat so nervously around the bush. But one thing’s for sure: if the Academy don’t have the good grace to nominate Greta Gerwig on January 23, the uproar is going to be deafening.