Golden Globes weekend always brings busy rounds of pre-celebration parties before the final awards bacchanal on Sunday night. This year’s was just earlier than ever, as awards campaigners complained about having to cut their vacations short and get back to work. A wide range of awards contenders turned out all weekend, from Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese to Taron Egerton and Elton John, swinging by parties for glad-handing and photo ops between even more Q&As.
Here’s what I learned on the party circuit this weekend in Los Angeles.
1. Bong Joon Ho is on the rise. At Neon’s Sunset Tower “Parasite” fete on Friday night, directors Rian Johnson, Edgar Wright, and Noah Baumbach paid their respects, along with Miranda July and Natasha Lyonne, who crowded into a booth with host Guillermo del Toro, who told me he would only tear himself away from prepping “Nightmare Alley” for director Bong. Even a baseball-capped Leonardo DiCaprio turned up to pay his respects, waiting patiently to break into the circle around Bong, who won a special award at the AFI Awards that day, and on Saturday won the National Society of Film Critics’ Best Picture — all the while attending the BAFTA Tea, and the Golden Globe foreign-language nominees’ panel at the American Cinematheque. On Sunday, as expected, he took home the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.
Many enduring friendships are forged on the awards circuit. This year, Bong and Baumbach have become close, among others.
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Neon’s “Parasite” is killing it at the box office — $30 million is a possible total domestic gross on top of $105 million international — and is building up to be a consensus awards favorite. Director Bong could land seven Oscar nominations including director and picture, and might even win a few.
2. “Joker” and “Jojo Rabbit” are hugely popular. On my party rounds, I polled people on what they liked. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “The Irishman,” “Little Women,” and “Marriage Story” have ardent support, but so do two mainstream hits that scored at the box office without unanimous critical acclaim: Todd Phillips’ “Joker” (Warner Bros.) and Taika Waititi’s specialty release “Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight). Think “Green Book” as we ramp up to Oscar nominations morning.
3. Many people haven’t seen “1917” yet. Oscar ballots are due on Tuesday, and many voters are scrambling to watch their screeners before the deadline, neglecting foreign films in the process. Many folks are not happy with this year’s foreshortened schedule, which one-time AMPAS Governor Tom Hanks has pushed the Academy to adopt for years. The awards calendar will return to normal next year.
Other films that voters may not catch up with in time include late-December releases “Clemency,” whose star Alfre Woodard is admired by those who’ve seen it, and “Just Mercy,” starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx.
4. Nai Nai has finally learned about her cancer diagnosis. Lulu Wang’s true story “The Farewell” is based on the lie her family told her grandmother Nai Nai, played in the movie by Chinese star Zhao Shuzhen. Finally, the movie has opened in China, and Nai and Nai has learned the truth, Wang said at the Golden Globe foreign-language symposium.
5. Elton John is a pro. At the BAFTA Tea, he sat down with a few press to share his love for “Rocketman” and his longtime song partner Bernie Taupin, who remained his anchor through all the ups and downs of John’s career, and provides the true (platonic) love story in the movie. “The thing that holds me together in the whole film is Bernie,” he told me. “We’ve been together 52 years professionally and personally. It’s what made me cry at the end of the film at Cannes. I’ve been so lucky to have such a wonderful friend and creative partner. Not many people get to have that in our lives. We’re all here.”
Sure enough, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” won the Globe for Best Song. “This is really sweet. This is not just about a movie,” said Taupin, “but a movie which deals with our relationship, which doesn’t happen much in this town. It’s a 52-year-old marriage.”
“We never won anything together except for this,” added John.
6. Look out for “The Climb.” Sony Pictures Classics is following “The Rider” playbook, throwing their Cannes comedy pickup into the Indie Spirits race before opening wide in 2020. The writer-stars Kyle Marvin and Michael Angelo Covino, who directed, have all the time in the world to take meetings and set up TV series before their movie finally opens on March 20. It’s hilarious, and so are they.
7. Karen Allen wants to direct. The star of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is still here — she was nominated for an Indie Spirit for $225,000 indie “Colewell.” She loves acting and directing, from theater to films.
8. The Safdie brothers won’t let success go to their heads. Along with Bong Joon Ho, the other hot talents of the hour are New York’s Safdie brothers, whose “Uncut Gems” is polarizing — you love the noisy madness or you hate it. They are now in demand. But at the BAFTA Tea, they told me they’re surprised when people show up to a theater before a Q&A, and can’t believe the film’s box-office success: A24 could pass $50 million if they get an awards boost. What will they take away from all this then? “More money,” said Josh Safdie.