Watching the Golden Globes

The “Glam Cam” leaves us cold.

Reese Witherspoon at the Golden Globe Awards

We decided to a have a friend over for dinner to watch The 64th Annual Golden Globe Awards (NBC), so I was picking up the place while the Countdown to the Red Carpet (E!) rolled out its chipper reporters, glistening presenters, and an endless stream of style and beauty experts who have dedicated their lives to the care and feeding of our celebrities. They kept the meat parade moving with the utmost competence, bringing supporting players and rising stars into the frame, warming ‘em up, extracting a sound bite, and shuttling them back down the assembly line.

Soon it was 6 p.m., and E!’s Ryan Seacrest had materialized to host the actual Live From the Red Carpet thing. Perhaps it is simply that one’s routine experience of celebrity culture these days is rancid with cattiness and tabloid freakery, but there was a refreshing niceness and heartening normalcy to the occasion. E! did, however, introduce its “Glam Cam”—a camera mounted on a vertical dolly, or something, and decorated with a tiara. Rising from floor level, it eyeballed actresses from toe to top, a cold and creepy ogle. We met the winner of E!’s “Red Carpet Challenge.” This was Brigitte, an administrative assistant from Palo Alto, Calif., a pleasant lady with a Jennifer Hudson kind of build. Asked what had spurred her interest in the contest, Brigitte responded as if brainwashed, or at least media-trained: “Fifteen minutes of fame! Who wouldn’t want it?”

I was fussing with the mashed potatoes for the shepherd’s pie when our guest showed up and, from the kitchen, I caught fractional glimpses of acceptance speeches that renewed my faith in Hollywood: Hudson thanked her director and her Maker in that order. Meryl Streep’s grand and gracious thank-you embraced everyone from the casual moviegoer to Lorraine Nicholson, a daughter of Jack’s, who, as this year’s Miss Golden Globes, served as a nymphlike usherette and inspired one of those rare glimpses we get of Nicholson looking paternal. Bill Nighy spoke truth to power: “I used to think that prizes were damaging and divisive, until I got one, and now they seem sort of meaningful and important.” And Alec Baldwin said several hilarious things upon getting his Globe for 30 Rock. These included, “I’m glad this isn’t too heavy ‘cause I just had hernia surgery Dec. 21,” and, “Jeff Zucker, wherever you are: It’s a great pleasure to be working for Jeff at NBC.”

Cameron Diaz introduced a montage of clips from Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Her big, red mouth slipped around rather much. She lingered on the words taxi and driver with unseemly lubricity. “Is she drunk?” I wondered aloud. “Wasted,” ventured the guest. Warren Beatty, receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, promised to make another movie. After watching Scorsese pick up his trophy for directing The Departed, I decided that the movie should be a chamber piece starring Beatty as Nixon and Scorsese as Kissinger, set in the summer of ‘73. I steamed the greens, opened the Cahors.

Reese Witherspoon strode out in severe bangs and a canary-yellow strapless number, and the guest said, “She’s so hot!” A few seconds later, having gotten a second, third, and fourth look, the guest had taken a more nuanced view: “She’s disgusting!” Our conclusion was that the coif and the dress combined to skanky effect—a misstep so surprising from Nashville-bred Reese, famed as she is for her ladylike style. Onward: a viciously suave Sacha Baron Cohen; a depressingly vague Forest Whitaker; Philip Seymour Hoffman wearing a bushy mustache and a neon-blue tie, resembling a walrus dressed as a vice cop from Miami.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, recently hobbled in a skiing accident, came forth on crutches to present the climactic prize for motion picture, drama. It went to Babel, whose director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, talked a lot of rot, I presume, while the group in my living room burpily reached consensus that his Amores Perros and 21 Grams are big empty drags, and that we would continue striving to avoid Babel for as long as possible. The decommissioned Terminator—plainly dismayed to be hauling out an expired catchphrase—then called it a night: “On behalf of the Golden Globes: Don’t forget. Next year, we’ll be back. Thank you very much.” I’ll be here all term! Everybody get home safe!

I flipped back to E!, where things were curdling steadily. Giuliana DePandi, host of the channel’s postgame show, interviewed the winners on a set done up to look like a lounge, complete with a bartender pouring product placements into martini glasses. She induced actors to sign a poster. (“I’ve always wondered what your autograph would look like, Mr. Baldwin! It’s as handsome as your hair!”) She encouraged her interviewees to place their trophies on a rotating platter on a side table. Helen Mirren had won two Globes, of course, and everything went wrong when DePandi went to retrieve the statuettes from that turntable. The audio: “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! I just dropped Helen Mirren’s Golden Globe! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! I’m so sorry! This is the worst moment of my career. I’m so sorry, Helen! … Stan, I didn’t break it, right? OK, good. … Sorry, Helen! We’ll have a drink and forget about it, OK?”