Gervais Gets Neutered, Silence is Golden for The Artist

It was the second coming of Ricky Gervais to the emcee podium of the Golden Globe Awards, or actually, the third. After last year’s controversial performance, people forget that the British comedian also hosted the 2010 edition of the kudocast.


The hyped-up fascination of who he would offend this year paid off again in the ratings, with Nielsen estimating that about 16.8 million viewers tuned in to Sunday night’s NBC telecast.


But mirroring his insistence that Johnny Depp was on recreational drugs, Gervais apparently took some recreational nice pills before the show. With a few exceptions, his jabs just didn’t have the bite that aroused such vitriol last year from the likes of insult target Robert Downey Jr.


Trashing Kim Kardashian and comparing her unfavorably to Kate Middleton? Standard fare for any standup comic. Dissing Eddie Murphy for bailing as host of the Oscars but saying “yes” to “Norbit?” Fair game. Asking Depp if he’d even seen “The Tourist,” a film he’d trashed last year? Amusing.


The wrath of Ricky, despite endless promos touting it, turned out to be pretty toothless during one of the few gigs where it’s okay, and even expected, to drink on the job. After reading the rules he was supposed to follow, like no profanity (yeah, right) and no jokes about Mel Gibson, he quickly followed up with an innuendo-laden rant about Jodie Foster’s (film) “The Beaver,” which the actress/director seemed to take in good humor by giving a thumbs-up from her seat in the Beverly Hilton ballroom.


Similarly, evoking sexual innuendo and insults, he lashed into Madonna in his introduction to her as a presenter, which she quickly turned around to bash him. “Ricky, if I’m still like a virgin, why don’t you come over here and do something about it? I haven’t kissed a girl for a long time. (Pause.) On TV,” she said–as he ran back and forth behind her on stage.


It was one of the funniest moments of the show, which, despite its reputation for raunchiness saw its share of dignified moments, starting with Christopher Plummer’s acceptance speech as supporting actor for his role in the little-seen film “Beginners,” and continuing with Helen Mirren and Sidney Poitier’s presentation of the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement to Morgan Freeman.


There were other Oscar-worthy acceptance speeches as well, not surprisingly, from those who have taken home those more “esteemed” trophies—as Gervais called the grand dame of award shows in comparing it to the Globes—like Kate Winslet (for the lead role in HBO’s “Mildred Pierce”) and Julian Fellowes for PBS’s “Downton Abbey.”


Hollywood Foreign Press Association voters went all in for quality television, awarding new and niche shows and their stars golden statuettes. “Homeland,” “Boss,” “Episodes” and “Enlightened” thus have frontrunner status on the road to the Emmy Awards, while critical and popular favorite “Modern Family” added to its trophy case with the prize for best television comedy and “Game of Thrones” scored with a win for supporting actor Peter Dinklage.


But back to the show. Seth Rogen drove the lewd scale to a new low when he took the stage as a presenter with actress Kate Beckinsale and promptly remarked upon being unable to contain his physical arousal. (That must have been on the same teleprompter that wasn’t there for Rob Lowe and Julianne Moore—resulting in their ad lib of cold reading for Steven Spielberg.) She never regained her composure as they proceeded to present an award.


Who would have guessed that in addition to Gervais’ planned profanities, Meryl Streep caused a bleep when she apparently uttered an expletive upon realizing she forgot her reading glasses as she took the best actress prize for her role as Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”


Leave it to the ever suave, sophisticated, sexy two-time winner of the night, “The Descendants” star George Clooney to be both funny (coming out on stage with Brad Pitt’s cane, making fun of Michael Fassbender in “Shame”), and touching (complimenting best actor rival/friend Pitt on his humanitarian work).


If there were any residual effects of the anti-French sentiment from the Bush era, the people behind the burgeoning awards powerhouse “The Artist” dispelled it with their charm in receiving three Globes, including the top prize as best comedy/musical.


As that black and white art house film is showing the world, sometimes silence can be golden–and Rogen could surely take a lesson from that.


Golden Globes Highs and Lows

Robert Downey Jr.

Question: What’s much more fun than debating whether right-wing rhetoric and Sarah Palin campaign posters played a role in the horrific shootings in Tucson? Answer: Pondering Ricky Gervais’ polarizing performance as host of the Golden Globe Awards.

Whether you think the British comedian was rude and disrespectful to Hollywood’s elite or simply brought his brand of humor to the historically loose proceedings, Gervais himself is publicly, at least, expressing no remorse. After a series of digs about such topics as Robert Downey Jr.’s past drug use, the age of Bruce Willis and Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. president Philip Berk, many were puzzled by Gervais’ seeming absence from the podium during the back half of the telecast—resulting in speculation that he was being dressed down. But Gervais insisted that his remarks went down well.

What’s getting lost is some of the other fast and loose and often totally inappropriate comments emanating from the stage at the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom. Take Downey, for instance. Not his quick-witted comeback about Gervais creating a climate of hostility, but his statement that all actresses give a better performance after sleeping with him. First thought: his poor wife being publicly humiliated. It turns out to be his intro of the actresses nominated for best lead in a comedy or musical, including Julianne Moore, Annette Bening—who won for “The Kids Are All Right”—and Angelina Jolie. Filled with double entendre sexual innuendo, he concluding the intro by saying, “I wish I could give it to all five of you at once.”

Talking about actors sleeping with each other, the adorably pregnant Natalie Portman made it clear that her baby daddy, Benjamin Millipied, wanted to sleep with her even though in an iconic scene from “Black Swan,” he said he didn’t want to.

Paul Giamatti was apparently so overcome by seeing present Halle Berry’s sexy, sheer black number that he almost blanked out that it was his category and name she was calling as best actor for “Barney’s Version.”

Aaron Sorkin seemed to be kissing up to Mark Zuckerberg, saying his college girlfriend (as depicted to Rooney Mara in “The Social Network”) made a huge mistake in blowing him off, um, now that he’s made something of himself—and revolutionized the way people connect with each other online.

And what was Cecil B. De Mille honoree Robert DeNiro saying about people who should be deported, like most of the waiters in the room? Missed the beginning of that remark, which is probably just as well.

But the classiest act of the evening–of which there were few–came near the end, when the eternally handsome and now healthy-looking Michael Douglas got a standing ovation, ostensibly for presenting an award, but really for surviving a grueling battle with cancer. Here’s to his health.