Hollywood Makes a Pitch for Haiti at Globes

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Matt Sayles / AP

George Clooney and Elisabetta Canalis arrive at the 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The rain wasn't the only dampening force on the normally raucous Golden Globes Awards on Sunday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. The specter of the ever rising body count in Haiti hung over the festivities like a rare and dark Southern California cloud.

Sure, there were the usual red-carpet questions about dresses and accessories, and the usual award-show drama behind the drama. (Were Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler sitting too close together?) There was even the routine celebration from the podium, relishing the Globes' recognition and basking in its Oscar implications.

But beneath the façade of movie-business-as-usual, celebrity reaction to the event was hued by the international crisis that went a shade deeper than the suddenly ubiquitous multicolored "Remember Haiti" ribbons dotting tuxes and gowns. Clutching a Golden Globe in his left hand, the night's big winner Avatar director James Cameron waxed philosophical about the entertainment community's response. "When Hollywood puts on the glitz, people of conscience are divided," Cameron told TIME. "You don't know how to react. Should we be happy, should we be sort-of happy?"

In the context of the historic lightheartedness of the Golden Globes, which had its original journalist-presenter format hijacked in 1958 when the whiskey-toting Rat Pack rushed the stage and took over the show, the break in levity this year came as something as a surprise. Political statements are associated more with the Academy Awards. Sure, funny things still happened. (Ryan Bingham completely missing his Best Song award while buying drinks at the bar comes to mind.) But the celebration's muted atmosphere was summed up by Jason Reitman's acceptance speech in which he discussed his Up in the Air star George Clooney, who will be hosting a Hope For Haiti telethon on Jan. 22. "George doesn't even want to be here tonight. He wishes he was in a soundstage setting up 20,000 phone lines for a benefit for Haiti right now."

Penelope Cruz even extended an awkward televised red-carpet interview to highlight her Haitian cause. The famously press-wary actress volunteered to stay past the commercial break to get an opportunity to speak on Haiti. "Tonight cannot just be about the movies," Cruz said. Maggie Gyllenhaal took to the stage with the sole purpose of reminding people to donate money. "In the midst of all of this, please remember how to get involved and offer your support to the people of Haiti," she said, directing people to the appropriate donation section of the NBC website.

Cynics might decry the sentiments as flighty Hollywood do-gooding. Even Cameron said backstage that part of the Hollywood reaction was partly the dreaded "liberal guilt," before adding that the celebrity community has "a really big heart, and we do want to make a difference."

One participant who clearly did not get the Appropriate Hollywood Reaction memo was Golden Globe host Ricky Gervais, who, in the fourth minute of the show, gleefully threw a grenade at the NBC executives for their handling of the Late Show fiasco. But the embattled NBC brass were generally spared from a night of continuing barbs about the pop scandal of the moment. By minute five, presenter Nicole Kidman turned the attention right back to Haiti and Clooney's telethon. And so it went.

The most-anticipated Haiti moment was meant to be Clooney's acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Drama for his role as a lost, airborne soul in Up In the Air. But the seeming favorite lost out to Jeff Bridge's Crazy Heart performance, leaving Clooney smiling politely from his chair instead of raising the rafters from the podium.

And beneath the somber mood of social consciousness, there was still a little room left for the Golden Globes gleam. After a further promise from Cameron to TIME to do his part for Haiti when the appropriate avenue presented itself, the director turned to his wife with the wide grin of a man with two big awards. "Let's go party," he said.