THE BLOG
01/11/2016 10:24 am ET Updated Jan 11, 2017

The 2016 Golden Globes : Ricky Gervais Sags, While Leonardo DiCaprio Soars

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

A kinder, gentler and mostly out of sight Ricky Gervais held forth at this year's Golden Globe Awards on NBC with a bunch of surprise winners along with the expectations of lots of pundits. It moved relatively swiftly, especially towards the end when it ran overtime, but as entertainment it was mostly so-so.

I've not been a fan of Ricky Gervais in his three previous outings, finding his humor to be more of a struggle to appear adventurous and outrageous in the search for comedy, but often winding up tasteless and, worse, often flat. This year, and perhaps due to his past incarnations, he spent a lot of time mock apologizing for so-called transgressions and, while sometimes amusing -- on occasion he really was amusing -- his material was on the whole rather middling.

Gervais seemed tired and on edge, and not in a sense that it was supposed to be part of an act, because if it was it just made him look tired and on edge. His "I've changed" persona almost seemed sincere, except for a snarky, unsmiling delivery, which didn't lead to many laughs during the relatively short time he was actually on camera. Indeed, the announcer introduced a good deal more of the evening than the much talked about (and feared) host, which makes one wonder why he was asked back?

It didn't get better as Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill struggled to find comedy in Hill's appearance in a so-called bear outfit, a reference to The Revenant, eventual winner for Best Dramatic Film. It was barely a costume, just covering his head and it took a lot of time for Tatum and Hill to uncharacteristically stride to the stage from the audience. Note to the producers, that's where the winners come from, folks.

Kate Winslet's win for Supporting Actress in Steve Jobs was a jolt, and as much as I adore Kate I felt her performance was not great, with her sudden accents appearing well into the film. To give her the nod over Jennifer Jason Leigh, in The Hateful Eight would not have been my choice, as Leigh was the heart of that movie, flawed though it may have been.

Whereas Sylvester Stallone's triumph as Best Supporting Actor for his signature role of Rocky Balboa in Creed provided an emotional cap to his long career, and provided the almost 70-year-old actor with one of the evening's few standing ovations.

I won't go over all the winners as you can easily find them online or in your newspaper, except to indicate the surprises, such as Mozart in the Jungle, an Amazon series, which may well be deserving but I'm sure there aren't too many who've seen it. The series also won Best Actor in a Comedy series for Gael Garcia Bernal. And Lady Gaga winning the Best Actress in a Limited Series was a stunner. She really seemed surprised and her speech told it all. I like American Horror Story: Hotel, but was she better than Felicity Huffman in American Crime or Kirsten Dunst in Fargo?

There were many stars who introduced clips of the nominated films, ten in all, and I was puzzled as to why they were shown within a large border, rather than letting the film moments be shown on full-screen.

Also, it's true more import is given to films than TV shows, but putting all the nominees so far back made it awkward, given the time it took to get some huge stars to the stage. Mightn't they spread it out a bit, in particular with TV shows that are more likely to be among the winners?

The patter among presenters was also hit and miss, but I'll give particular credit to Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, who looks amazing at 52, as well as the monologue performed by Jim Carrey who presented the Best Comedy/Musical Feature award to Ridley Scott, producer of The Martian. That said, I thought it interesting Mr. Scott said he was going to read from some notes because he didn't want to ramble, and then, even with the cheat sheets, proceeded to do just that.

Deserved winners of the night and most articulate were Matt Damon as Best Comedy/Musical Actor for The Martian and my favorite, now three time Golden Globe Winner -- and odds on favorite for a long overdue Oscar -- Leonardo DiCaprio, Best Dramatic Actor for The Revenant. It's hard to believe DiCaprio is already 41, having first been nominated 22 years ago for What's Eating Gilbert Grape, but he has grown so much and delivered the most eloquent acceptance speech of the night. Clearly memorized but flawless as he described the conditions he and others met during the brutal shooting of his film, he thanked a good many of his co-workers and spent the last few moments giving praise and making us think about the way indigenous people are portrayed, and of course pitched support for our environment. A class act indeed.

Not so much with Gervais, who had the awkward, though clearly pre-arranged, task to introduce Mel Gibson, a man he skewered as a drunk some years back. When Gibson appeared they hugged, and then Gibson had a great line indicating he was glad to see Gervais every three years as it reminded him to get a colonoscopy. Oddly, Gervais returned onstage, and if it was planned it didn't pay off as every word that came out of his mouth was bleeped by the censors.

The Revenant as Best Dramatic Film was a surprise, as I thought Spotlight had the edge, but it won no awards. Plus, I thought Amy Schumer or Maggie Smith deserved Best Actress, Comedy or Musical for Trainwreck and Lady in the Van over Jennifer Lawrence in the flawed Joy.

Kudos to Empire's Taraji P. Henson for winning Best Actress TV Drama and for shouting at director Louis J. Horvitz to stop the music. "I've waited 25 years for this," she said. No plaudits, though, for Quentin Tarantino accepting Best Score for an absent Ennio Morricone, the composer for The Hateful Eight. Perhaps anticipating it would be his only time on stage (he lost to Aaron Sorkin for Best Screenplay) he hogged his time and, in praising the much acclaimed Morricone, he stretched a bit, comparing him to Mozart and Beethoven. You think?

The Cecil B. DeMille career award went to Denzel Washington, but why did he bring most of his family onstage -- was it necessary? Considering this was the only award preordained, why did he fumble so much in his remarks, prodded awkwardly by his wife to put on his glasses, which he forgot. Look, I like Denzel, but there've been other presentations more moving and with recipients better prepared.

With the last award given, the show ran over by a few minutes, leaving Ricky Gervais only a voice-over to signal the end, sharing "Shalom" supposedly with Mel Gibson, no doubt an attempt to satirize anti-Semitic comments once attributed to Gibson. So, it was that the tacky Ricky Gervais was indeed back.

Michael Russnow's website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com