Women take centerstage at the Golden Globes to say 'Time's Up'

After a year rocked by the Harvey Weinstein scandal and a tide of sexual misconduct allegations that followed, women in the film industry highlighted gender inequality and the fight against sexual harassment at the Golden Globes.

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Oprah Winfrey holds her Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement backstage at the Golden Globes in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Jan. 7.

Oprah Winfrey gave a movement-defining speech. Natalie Portman threw shade at the all-male directing nominees – while presenting that award – and then Geena Davis did the same for the actors. Barbra Streisand scoffed at the bleak fact that she remains the only female director to win a Golden Globe – and that was 34 years ago. Some of the highest-profile actresses brought female activists as their dates. And nearly every soul wore black in support of the Time's Up movement and as a statement against sexual misconduct in Hollywood.

For once, everyone was listening to what the women of Hollywood had to say. And it all went down at – of all places – the Golden Globe Awards.

Yes, that questionable stepsister to the Academy Awards became the epicenter of a movement and the promise of a future where women are no longer content to be the industry's side show, the arm candy, the people sporting the barely there dresses to promote their barely there roles (and paychecks). From the red carpet to the winners table, men took a backseat.

"It's been a difficult year for our industry," Reese Witherspoon, one of the champions of the Time's Up initiative and the idea to wear black to the awards, said backstage with her "Big Little Lies" co-stars. "I think there was a collective feeling that it wouldn't be business as usual."

And indeed, the 75th Golden Globe Awards, held Sunday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel wasn't business as usual. For one, it looked quite different from years past with attendees sporting all-black duds on the red carpet and speaking about issues that matter to them, to the unusually blunt skewering of an industry in flux by first-time host Seth Meyers.

"It's 2018 – marijuana is finally allowed and sexual harassment finally isn't," Mr. Meyers said at the start of the show. "For the male nominees in the room tonight, this is the first time in three months it won't be terrifying to hear your name read out loud."

But the Harvey Weinstein jabs mostly stopped there – the night wasn't about the men who have been brought down by accusations of sexual misconduct, and no one encapsulated that better than Ms. Winfrey, who brought the often chatty and distracted crowd in the ballroom to rapt silence and even tears with her barnburner speech accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement – the first black woman to do so. She weaved together her own personal narrative and memories of seeing Sidney Poitier win an Academy Award when she was a girl, with the story of Recy Taylor and the #MeToo movement into the most memorable, and moving moment of the evening.

"For too long women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men," said Winfrey. "But their time is up. Their time is up!"

Even the night's two big winners, the film "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and the limited HBO series "Big Little Lies," were notably female-focused. One, "Three Billboards," about a mother avenging the rape and murder of her daughter, won best picture, drama, best actress, drama, for Frances McDormand, best supporting actor for Sam Rockwell, and best screenplay for writer-director Martin McDonagh. The other, a tale of complex women and domestic abuse, "Big Little Lies," won four awards, including best limited series, best actress for Nicole Kidman, and best supporting actress for Laura Dern.

Other winners continued the theme. Amazon's recently debuted "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," about a 1950s housewife who takes up stand-up comedy, won best TV series comedy, and best actress for Rachel Brosnahan. Elisabeth Moss, accepting an award for her performance in Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale," dedicated her award to Margaret Atwood, whose book the show is based on. "The Handmaid's Tale" later added the award for best TV drama series.

Greta Gerwig's mother-daughter tale "Lady Bird" won best picture, comedy or musical, and best actress honors for Saoirse Ronan.

"All of this makes it so much easier for the next crop of filmmakers who want to tell stories about women," Ms. Gerwig said backstage.

Guillermo del Toro's cold war-era fantasy "The Shape of Water" won for its score and Mr. del Toro's directing. The emotional Mexican-born filmmaker wiped back tears and managed to quiet the music that urged him offstage.

Notably left empty-handed were Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk," Jordan Peele's "Get Out," and Steven Spielberg's "The Post," starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. The night did little to illuminate which direction the film academy will go with its nominations.

Best actor in a comedy or musical went to James Franco for his performance as the infamous "The Room" filmmaker Tommy Wiseau. Gary Oldman, considered by some to be the best actor front runner, won for his Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour," edging out newcomer Timothee Chalamet ("Call Me By Your Name") and Mr. Hanks.

Best foreign language film went to Germany's "In the Fade." Allison Janney took best supporting actress in a comedy for the Tonya Harding tale "I, Tonya." Aziz Ansari took best actor in a comedy series for his Netflix show "Master of None."

Best animated film went to the Pixar release "Coco." There was no mention of Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, who is taking a "six-month sabbatical" after acknowledging "missteps" in his workplace behavior.

Even the quietest in Hollywood had something to say about the evening.

"I keep my politics private but it was really great to be in this room tonight and to be part of the tectonic shift in our industry's power structure," said Ms. McDormand, accepting her acting award.

The Golden Globes leaned in to the spirit of "Time's Up" wholeheartedly, and many found themselves unexpectedly moved by everyone's seriousness.

"A new day is on the horizon," Winfrey said. "And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say 'Me too' again."

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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