The Golden Boobs

December 15, 2006
A thought by James Berardinelli

Some people think I should care, but I really don't. To what do I refer? The Golden Globes, of course. Around noon yesterday, I saw a list of nominations. I didn't commit it to memory, but it seemed like it contained the usual suspects. Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Clint Eastwood... all the safe names. (Not to say some of them aren't deserving of accolades...) I suppose there were surprises as well, but nothing to quicken my blood. I'm still trying to figure out when Hollywood decided the Globes mattered.

They used to be a joke. Somehow, that changed. Pia Zadora is long forgotten. Someone tell me who the publicists for the Golden Globes are; I want to hire them. I suppose it all makes sense. Hollywood is so self-obsessed that any chance to wallow in its own "greatness" is greeted with open arms. There are more awards shows now than at any time in the past (same thing, curiously, as with end-of-the-year bowl games), and never has even the biggest of them all (the Oscars) meant so little. Awards shows are disposable entertainment for the masses. TV viewers watch them and move on. Try the Oscar litmus test. Ask ten random people if they know what won Best Picture last year. For fun, I did this. The results were: Don't know/can't remember (5), Brokeback Mountain (3), The Lord of the Rings (1), Crash (1). The percentages would likely get worse for the other categories, even the acting ones. (Truth be told, I had to look up Philip Seymour Hoffman, although I did remember Reese Witherspoon, George Clooney, and Rachel Weisz.)

But I'm not writing about the Oscars, I'm writing about the Golden Globes... Why bother, though? The longer I have been at this, the more convinced I have become that film quality and appreciation is a deeply personal thing. Awards only mean something if you happen to be one of the nominees, or someone close to them. Ultimately, it doesn't matter who takes home the statuette and makes the unbearably long and boring speech. It's all about what people wear, how the cameras capture them, and whether they end up on the Best Dressed and Worst Dressed lists. Paparazzi-driven tabloid TV shows like Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood have perverted the quasi-legitimacy these awards shows once had. Turn back the clock a few decades. People got dressed up because they wanted to look respectable in front of their peers, not because their pictures were going to be all over TV and the papers the next day. Awards were sincere representations of achievements. Now, they're gaudy baubles bought and paid for by studio dollars. The Oscars have never been "clean" - there's always been a lot of politicking. But the Golden Globes were so dirty when they started, it's astonishing to consider that they have been rehabilitated.

What has legitimatized the Golden Globes? Coverage by legitimate news sources. It used to be that only fringe papers and tabloids gave any credence to the Globes. Now, the nominations and winners are big news. How badly am I out of the loop? I didn't know until after the nominations were announced that Thursday was The Day. I also can't tell you when the Golden Globes Awards ceremony will be held, when the Oscar nominations will be announced, or when the Academy Awards will eat up a night of my life. (Actually, because of the magic of the DVR, they'll only eat up about an hour.) However, I do know the date of the Superbowl, when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, and when Opening Day is.

I used to write columns assessing Oscar nominations, but I never wrote anything about the Golden Globes. They have always seemed to be to be the social climbers of awards. People have asked this question before, but it has never been answered to my satisfaction: Who belongs to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association? I know what the website says: "The Hollywood Foreign Press Association was founded more than 60 years ago by a group of Los Angeles-based journalists working for overseas publications." That's not good enough; I want a list of names, functions, and affiliations. Are these legitimate journalists with some clue about what they're voting for or are they wannabe tabloid reporters? This is where marketing takes over. People don't care who the HFPA members are. That's irrelevant. The Golden Globes have taken on a life of their own. The HFPA could consist of a few guys in a back room with a dartboard and it wouldn't matter. That's the power of publicity and marketing.

Is there a good side to all of this? Of course. Every cloud has a silver lining, awards department. The Golden Globes get people talking, however briefly and superficially, about films and performances. Maybe a few more people will see Scorsese's The Departeed. Maybe Maggie Gyllenhaal's SherryBaby will finally see the light of day. Maybe Little Children, grossly mismarketed by New Line Cinema, will get a chance in art houses. I don't believe the awards are really about actors, directors, and movies - but one byproduct of this three-ring circus is that the people who made the movies can't be entirely ignored. And when the movie's good, the publicity can't be all bad.