On Sunday evening the delayed Golden Globes Awards will be staged on NBC, the 78th presentation that honors excellence in both motion pictures and television. As usual there is a gauzy importance surrounding the affair, though it will be well attended by top-flight celebrity talent. Also as usual, there are some logic-defying selections seen in the nominees, a product of the dysfunction built into the process.
Pop star Sian released a film she spent years in the making, entitled ‘’Music.’’ It is meant to address the issue of autism but it has been widely panned as both an inept cinematic effort and an offensive portrayal of the condition. This has led to it being nominated for Best Picture. The Golden Globes strains to appeal to more of Hollywood by dividing this category into Best Drama, and Best Comedy/Musical. That the reviled ‘’Music’’ is considered has created a backlash that a petition has been created to have it removed from contention -- it stands at 100,000 signatures to date.
After covering the business side of Hollywood for years I sometimes explain to others the interest is in how the industry rarely adheres to basic economic principles. A movie like ‘’Justice League’’ can gross over $650 million and still lose hundreds of millions for the studio. Then, in an act that defies anything approaching common sense, the deposed director of that effort, Zach Snyder, raised an additional $70 million for him to reedit the film and release his true vision for the epic. It is going to play on the new HBO-Max streaming service, where it will generate exactly zero additional dollars.
The town, let us say, operates with a skewed sensibility. Perhaps a perfect representation of the warped standards in Burbank can be seen in The Golden Globes. It is openly recognized in the entertainment industry to be a sham of an awards show that is put on by a corrupt organization, one in which no one in entertainment takes seriously. Yet everyone from the studios down to the performers works on gaining approval of this group, pouring forth time and fortunes, in order to get recognition.
Why? Why do all the important companies and the celebrity names play along and show up at the ceremony they all detest? Because the industry can manipulate this group to leverage publicity and use it to springboard campaigns for Academy Award recognition. It is the very definition of the word ‘’prostitution’’; one side sells itself out hoping for affirmation, the other pays for the services while holding contempt for the product.
The Golden Globes is put on by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and this is a group with a long history of fleeting morals, loose professional standards, a questionable stable of journalists, and repeated signs of bribery and payola leading to favor paid out in the form of nominations. Most in Hollywood see the HFPA for the self-serving outfit that it is, and yet the industry plays along because they can parlay recognition from them into greater rewards later.
The HFPA is an extremely cloistered group of quasi-journalists whose professionalism is so lacking that they cannot be called exclusive. Most members work for outlets of little influence, and the standard to maintain membership is barely filing a handful of features annually. Many writers with great reputations at respected outlets are denied entry, with most not wanting to be affiliated with the organization. They currently boast fewer than 90 members (the Oscars, by comparison, has over 6,000 members), and getting in is purely about who you know. A person nominated can be denied entry if just one member vetoes their application.
There are two main tasks for members it seems; to get invited to junkets, promotional events and other studio offerings, and/or to land a position on HFPA committees. The former buys you access to celebrities and lavish trips, the latter gets you a paycheck. As the Los Angeles Times has detailed, these committees are where members can truly ply their trade. While few of these ‘’journalists’’ work enough to subsist in the industry, the non-profit organization has fallen into a practice of paying members for work they do on an ever-growing list of committees.
The HFPA draws in tens of millions just through the television broadcast rights. The outfit also earns attention from Hollywood through various charitable works, most of which have celebrities who play along to earn donations for their foundations and other endeavors. The studios have learned that stroking this group can also lead to awards recognition, and this is used to create hype for given projects. The HFPA has long been seen as willing to be influenced by generosity in these matters.
There was the infamous Pia Zadora scandal, where the unknown actress was granted an Award for Best Newcomer for the unknown film, ‘’Butterfly.’’ It was learned her wealthy producer husband arranged for Vegas vacations for the members. That led to the Golden Globes announcing the first of many times it claimed to be addressing the influence peddling found in its ranks. That claim has been emptier than the orb on its trophy, as numerous laughable nominations litter the history books of The Globes.
Sharon Stone’s studio got her a nomination for the forgettable ‘’The Muse,” after HFPA members received Coach Brand watches. They were all made to be returned when the news came out, but this was after Stone received her nomination. Sharon got it right years later when she catered the members personally and worked on her charitable foundation, leading her to win for her performance in ‘’Casino.’’
Toby Maguire received an acting nod for the forgotten ‘’Brothers’’ after good friend Leonardo DiCaprio threw a party for HFPA members and sent them home with Blu-Ray players. The quasi-musical ‘’Burlesque’’ is a hilarious disaster that earned three nominations after Sony flew members out to Vegas for a weekend and a private concert by Cher. Johnny Depp’s ‘’The Tourist’’ is a mockable thriller that also was recognized after Sony was greasing the voters.
Almost every time these instances are found there is a call for reform -- which never arrives. It was almost ten years ago when a former HFPA publicist sued the organization, alleging he had been wrongfully terminated following his attempts to clean up the practice of bribing to receive votes. That suit was settled out of court, and the HFPA continued down its path of back-slapping grifting. This year another questionable nomination is found in the television side, with the Netflix show ‘’Emily In Paris’’ earning nominations. The program has been looked at as little more than a frilly distraction, and it being selected has led to many critics and others wondering why it was picked. Even one of the show’s writers expressed confusion about how it was chosen.
A possible reason -- the show’s production company jetted about 30 HFPA members to France and put them up in 5-star accommodations to escort them around the set and cater private press conferences. Considering this involved one-third of the voters, it is fair to say the standards and practices offices will be issuing another impotent declaration of their desire to clean up the process. Until, that is, the next check clears.