Golden Globes, where'd the crazy go?

Story highlights

  • Gene Seymour: Golden Globes shed snarky vibe for more sober ceremony this year
  • Topical jokes touched on N. Korea, Cosby; there were solidarity shout-outs to Parisians
  • Seymour: Enthusiasm after "Selma" best song win may be a hint at where Oscar will go
Editor's note: Gene Seymour is a film critic who has written about music, movies and culture for The New York Times, Newsday, Entertainment Weekly and The Washington Post. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

(CNN)Wait! Were these really the Golden Globes that we watched on Sunday night? Couldn't have been. Where was the rampaging snark or the woozyboozy stage patter we've hated to love -- or vice versa -- year after year?

Gene Seymour
It was a Globes ceremony on its best grown-up behavior. The outside world was more present than usual at this year's show, with a few shout-outs of freedom-of-speech solidarity with the victims of last week's deadly Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris.
The topical jokes from co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler -- including a couple of pointed (and not too shabby) impressions of a lascivious Bill Cosby -- landed deftly enough, though the running gag featuring Margaret Cho as a grim-faced North Korean representative of the Hollywood press may have gone on slightly longer than it needed. In fact this year's show seemed to work harder than ever to keep the traffic flowing and the loose ends from dangling.
Even those who were glumly pretending at humiliation (looking at you, Ricky Gervais) or succeeded at humiliating themselves (maybe we won't see your movie on Friday after all, Kevin Hart) didn't seem to have their hearts in it. For the most part, there was so much deportment, grace and dignified good intentions on display that you'd have thought you were watching the Oscars or something!
And they're not the Oscars. That much hasn't changed. Voters for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 90 who write about movies and TV for the international press, have very little connection with or bearing upon the thousands of actors, directors, cinematographers, producers, writers, directors and other movie trades people who'll be voting on the Academy Awards.
But perhaps this year, more than any other in recent memory, people peered into the Globes to get an early sense of who's got the legs to score big. That's because after a year that movie pundits considered among the more dismal in both overall quality and box office returns, there hasn't been a movie showing big-footed momentum heading into awards season.
The verdict? Cloudy, but with some signs. Michael Keaton's prize for best actor in a comedy or musical seemed to signal a big night for "Birdman," which also won for best screenplay. But "The Grand Budapest Hotel" scored the best comedy or musical Globe, while "Boyhood" won for best drama. "Boyhood's" front-running status for best picture is likely solidified after winning so many year-end critics' awards.
But that could change. Sunday night's audience -- which by the way contained far more people who will cast Oscar votes than it did HFPA voters -- seemed most galvanized when Prince awarded the best original song Globe to Common and John Legend for collaborating on the song "Glory" from "Selma."
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The 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015, in Beverly Hills, California.

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In his acceptance speech, Common further roused the house by saying, "I realize I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote. I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand but instead was given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty. 'Selma' has awakened my humanity."
It's not improbable that those listening may find themselves feeling the same way in a few weeks when they fill out their Oscar ballots. The outside world has a way of intruding on the bigger show, even in a year where there was more to be nervous about than inspired by.