Golden Globes 2011: Why you should care
- Burlesque, up for best comedy or musical at the Golden Globes.
The HFPA requires its members to have "permanent, primary residence" in Southern California, which explains why most foreign film critics are not in the association.
So why, given everything we know, do the Golden Globes remain popular?
It's not because the Globes act as a bellwether for the Oscars, that's for sure. I compared the best picture, actor, and actress winners of both ceremonies since 1980, and in none of the categories does the overlap exceed 60 percent. (I ignored the "comedy or musical" winners, for obvious reasons.) This year, the Oscar ballots are due today, two days before the Golden Globes ceremony, making it impossible that winning a Globe could help — or hurt, as the case may be — an Oscar nominee's chances.
Is it because film writers are "following Hollywood's lead"? The more the studios campaign for the Globes, then boast of winning them, the more important the awards seem. Or maybe the American public, or those of us who care about awards shows, are just "an easy lay." Clearly, one movie awards ceremony isn't enough to satiate the public; we want more "hits and misses" on the red carpet, more close-ups of losers' faces, more long-winded speeches punctuated by moments of unrestrained glee or tears. Or perhaps we just want to spend our Sunday night watching movie stars be beautiful and get drunk.
The fact is, ours is a celebrity culture, but one that's become more interested in celebrities' lives off-screen than on — thus, the countless glossies that clutter supermarket aisles, promising you that the stars are "just like us." We'll watch just about anything that shows them in their natural habitat, or in a habitat that's slightly less unnatural than a movie screen. The Globes are meaningless, yes, but so are all awards ceremonies. Yet America loves awards almost as much it loves celebrities. Writers, chefs, bus drivers — chances are, you can win an award in your profession. It's the American promise of self-congratulation: We all win because we're all citizens of the greatest nation on Earth. Yay us!
So let's not take it out on the HFPA. Sure, it's a marketing tool that makes all of its money off the Globes telecast — some $6 million a year — but it also donates money to film schools and nonprofits. In certain years, like 2006, the Globes even get it right (Brokeback Mountain) while the Oscars get it wrong (Crash). Which is not to say I don't have my complaints. Yes, the HFPA needs to do away with the "comedy or musical" categories, and perhaps kill the television awards altogether. It should reinstate the award for best documentary, which it hasn't given since 1977, and drastically expand its membership, especially considering that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has more than 6,000 members (from the film industry, rather than press). And yes, HFPA's few members ought to have sounder credentials and less greasy palms.
But it's a profound waste of energy to care about the Globes and argue for such reforms. Despite constant criticism, the HFPA has proven remarkably — even proudly, in a perverse way — resistant to change. In essence, the association has called the critics' bluff and won; for we continue to watch the Globes, with its frequent scandals and inexcusable nominations. It might be a big scam, as Travers says, but it succeeds despite our knowing it's a scam. You almost have to admire them. Here's a bunch of middling, unknown writers who, by all rights, should have no power in a place as hierarchical as Hollywood. And yet, together they've formed an organization that has allowed them to wield considerable influence and throw one hell of a party. If they're frauds, then that makes us the willing victims of fraud — and which, really, is worse?
For last year's Globes, the HFPA hired fearless British comedian Ricky Gervais as the awards host. It was almost as if the association's members wanted to be ridiculed on its biggest night of the year, either to prove that they're impervious to criticism or that they can take a joke. Or maybe it's simpler than that. Maybe they thought Gervais was their best hope for good ratings. They're shameless enough to submit to a nationally televised whipping for the sake of more money and influence, for a greater share of Hollywood's reflected glow.
And a whipping they got. Miffed that he wasn't nominated for Ghost Town, Gervais said, "That is the last time I have sex with 200 middle-aged journalists. It was horrible, really." And later in the broadcast, he said, "One thing that can't be bought is a Golden Globe." He cocked his head and fluttered his hand, then added, "Officially."
Both lines were big hits — laughs all around the Beverly Hilton Hotel. At home, I laughed. If you were watching, you probably laughed, too. I'd even bet the HFPA members found it funny. After all, the Globes are a big joke, yes, but we're all on it — including the HFPA. How else to explain their inviting Gervais back for this year's ceremony? He recently told the AP, "I don't think I went far enough. Obviously not, because they invited me back. So, I'm going to do it again, do a proper job. And I guarantee they will not invite me back."
But I guarantee you they will.
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