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‘Borat’ wins big and Aaron Sorkin quotes Abbie Hoffman at the Golden Globes

The Golden Globes were very nice for Borat, and not bad for those of us who like his brand of second-hand embarrassment.

Sacha Baron Cohen, who whiffed earlier in the evening for Best Supporting Actor in “The Trial of the Chicago 7” had a major comeback at the end of the ceremony. “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” won for Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy and Baron Cohen snagged Best Actor in the category for his swan song performance as Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev.

Accepting his awards, he first thanked the film’s breakout star: Rudy Giuliani, before sincerely lauding co-star Maria Bakalova and his crew, who risked their personal safety and COVID exposure to “show the danger of lies, hate, conspiracies and the power of truth, empathy and democracy.”

Baron Cohen got a shout-out from Aaron Sorkin, accepting his award for Best Screenplay of a Drama for “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

“Every night after wrap when I’d get back to my hotel room there’d be an email from Sacha with a quote from Abbie Hoffman,” Sorkin said, citing one that read “democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but something you do — you participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles.”

“I don’t need any more proof than what happened on January 6 to agree,” Sorkin said, in remarks that were on theme for a ceremony that wasn’t short on politics.

But then, every Golden Globes (and every Hollywood awards show) in recent memory has been brimming with soapbox moments. I don’t need to tell you what Dan Levy said when accepting his Globe for Best Comedy for “Schitt’s Creek.” He said the same thing when he won his Emmys.

What makes this ceremony different from all others was how weird so many of its socially distanced machinations were and how, even ostensibly without booze, celebrities managed to look like warmed-over messes.

Sean Penn looked every bit the tousled tramp — finally right to play Larry in that “Three Stooges” reboot. Joaquin Phoenix wore an “Animal Equality” hoodie over his shirt and tie. Phoenix’s choice might have been the evening’s strangest sartorial choice, had Jason Sudiekis not opted to wear a sleepaway camp-quality tie-dye hoodie emblazoned with the word “Forward.” (It’s not one of ours, but he also made reference to Tolstoy’s “Three Questions,” which is within striking distance of something familiarly Semitic.)

Tracy Morgan awarded Best Original Score to “Sal!” (Read: “Soul.”) Winning Best Supporting Actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” Daniel Kaluuya started the evening off strong by being that guy who has himself on mute during a Zoom meeting.

We had a glimpse into Jodi Foster’s home — where she appears to coordinate clothes with her dog. Cynthia Nixon had a cut-out of mitten Bernie Sanders chilling in the background, which should be enough, one hopes, to finally kill this joke dead.

Somehow, the fact that Kate Hudson was nominated for a film the entire autism community regards as a cinematic hate crime wasn’t the worst thing to befall her this evening.

Many took issue with Hudson’s alarmingly large family gathering. One member of the family, a small child, applauded loudly when Hudson lost (again to Rosamund Pike).

The Globes’ main attraction, distinguishing them from the staid nature of the Oscars, has long been the open bar and how alcohol might act adversely on Hollywood’s most combustible egos. And yet, recent years have swapped that heady threat for political statements. The pandemic, by forcing folks to stay at home with their weird computer setups, brought back some small semblance of the charmed chaos we’ve been missing.

That’s not to say these foibles made the event particularly watchable, or the moments where it was moving — Chadwick Boseman’s widow’s acceptance of his posthumous award, Chloé Zhao’s historic win — any less so.

But the fact that we saw some levity peeking through, along with a possible way forward on issues as vital as inclusion, is a welcoming sign of things to come and a proposal for an even laxer, weirder vibe to an event that’s long felt like an obligation.

Next year at the Beverly Hilton, make black tie optional and see what weird thing Jared Leto wears. Let Jodi Foster bring her dog along. Give Tracy Morgan the hosting gig — or better yet: Borat.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at [email protected]

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