Hollywood’s Open Secret About the Golden Globes

Controversial and even questionable ceremony exemplifies the hollow pride of awards season more than any other of its kind

Hollywood’s awards season is a very silly time of year for the industry. Film studios begin focusing on releasing more dramatic or socially conscious movies starring big-name stars — who will then go on to headline obvious political campaigns in the hopes of earning awards the studios can then boast about forever to their peers and fellow insiders.

The industry’s celebration of celebrity over art is never clearer than when television ceremonies try to coax as many stars as possible into attending — in an effort to bring in big ad dollars.

While it’s always fun to see a movie one likes win an Academy Award or some other such honor, it’s almost universally acknowledged among film fans and filmmakers that awards season means next to nothing.

Most films looking to be nominated must be released in the fall or winter in order to compete with other aggressive awards season campaigns and be fresh in the mind of voters — meaning there are loads of popular and worthy films ignored come award season.

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A film could also be a phenomenal piece of work — but without the machine of a studio behind it, word of mouth is typically not enough to win it much attention from the Hollywood inside voters.

What’s more, awards season typically ignores popular genre-based movies, meaning most Americans tune in to awards shows and watch movies they’ve probably never seen, or that aren’t even playing in their area, win coveted statues.

This has changed a bit in recent years, with highly nominated pictures such as “Mad Max: Fury Road,” but many award ceremonies still lack depth.

No awards show, however, is emptier or more devoid of meaning than the Golden Globes. It’s an open secret within the industry that the Globes are the least important ceremony of all, though they’re one of the most watched before the Academy Awards.

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There’s no ceremony that does a better job of promoting celebrity over artistic merit or that is less inclusive — and perhaps no awards ceremony has more of a reputation of being down weighed down by controversy.

Among the major nominations announced this week, the 2018 Globes put up for Best Motion Picture Drama: “Call Me by Your Name”; Christopher Nolan’s war-drama, “Dunkirk”; Steven Spielberg’s “The Post”; Guillermo Del Toro’s monster love story, “The Shape of Water”; and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Nominated for Best Motion Picture in the Musical or Comedy category were: James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist,” Jordan Peele’s horror blockbuster “Get Out,” “The Greatest Showman,” “I, Tonya,” and “Lady Bird.”

Just from this list alone, there is controversy. The Globes have never been good at identifying the exact genre in which a movie belongs. For instance, “Get Out” is an incredibly dark horror movie, but it was nominated in the comedy category — something over which the film’s director has already expressed dismay.

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Controversy surrounding the Globes, however, goes well beyond the misidentifying of genres.

The Globes are known for a voting membership that is a bit more starstruck by major studios and celebrities than other voting bodies are.

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Made up of less than 100 members, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is an exclusive group, but not one with very stringent requirements for admission.

To be included, members must cover American film and television for foreign outlets, but they need only publish a handful of pieces a year, which means many of the voting members may not even work as full-time journalists.

By comparison, thousands of people, many of whom are past Oscar winners or nominees, vote on the Academy Awards.

The Globes nomination process is also more clouded in secrecy than other award ceremonies, which has led to speculation that big-name stars are more recognized by the group in the hopes they will attend the ceremony and boost viewership — and thus, ad dollars.

Major acting nominations this year went to Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, and Margot Robbie, among others.

For critics, a blatant example of this star-gazing mentality among Globe voters was the love they showed for the 2010 film “The Tourist,” starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.

Despite earning near-universal scorn from critics (20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and being a big-time flop at the domestic box office (under $70 million on a $100 million production budget), “The Tourist” somehow earned three Golden Globe nominations: Best Motion Picture — Comedy or Music, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, for Johnny Depp, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, for Angelina Jolie.

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Those nominations so obviously seemed to pull two of the biggest stars in the world into attendance at the ceremony that even that year’s host, comedian Ricky Gervais, made fun of the film’s recognitions during the telecast. Not nominated at that year’s Golden Globes? The Coen brothers’ “True Grit,” a hit western that would go on to be nominated in all major categories at the Oscars.

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The New York Post ran a story in 2015 that spoke to Hollywood insiders (who chose to remain anonymous) about the Globes’ questionable standing in the industry. Many said voters were taken out for private dinners by stars looking for awards attention. Some even claimed voting members were paid for their votes.

Just two years earlier, in fact, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) settled a lawsuit with Michael Russell, a publicist for the group for almost 20 years. Russell had alleged in his suit that the HFPA “abuse their positions and engage in unethical and potentially unlawful deals and arrangements, which amount to a payola scheme.”

Russell alleged he was fired for trying to address the corruption.

The group has been caught red-handed before. In 1982, an actress named Pia Zadora won an award with the title “New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture — Female.” The win was for a forgettable movie called “Butterfly” — which was not considered a major contender next to other releases.

Turns out Zadora’s husband, millionaire Meshulam Riklis, had flown the voting body to a casino he owned and also held a screening at his lavish home for voters. The story lives in infamy now, thanks to the documentary “The Golden Globes: Hollywood’s Dirty Little Secret,” which went further into the HFPA’s love of flashy things over art.

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Before the Zadora scandal, NBC actually did not air the Globes for six years due to the FCC’s accusations that the Globes misled viewers on how they chose winners. Among the allegations: The ceremony told nominees that if they did not attend the show, then another winner would be chosen.

“I don’t take any awards particularly seriously, but I probably take the Golden Globes least seriously.”

“I don’t take any awards particularly seriously, but I probably take the Golden Globes least seriously,” said Alfonso Duralde, co-host of the YouTube movie review show “What the Flick” and the lead movie critic for The Wrap, in a recent video covering the Globe nominations.

He added later, “There is a perception that they are an easily stroked group [the HFPA]. That’s why you get nominations for things like ‘The Tourist.'”

Among this year’s more obvious film snubs are “The Big Sick,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Logan.”

A potential fresh controversy for the Globes may include the surprising love they showed for “All the Money in the World,” the Ridley Scott-directed film that replaced alleged sexual predator Kevin Spacey at the last minute with Christopher Plummer, one of the actors just nominated.

Many critics openly wondered on social media how the movie could be nominated, since most critics have not had screenings of the film, which was recently in the middle of reshoots and re-editing. Nominations for the Hugh Jackman-starring “The Greatest Showman” received similar head scratches, since it only began screening for critics just before the Globe nominations were announced.

“Here’s a thing: They [HFPA], I guess, got to see ‘The Greatest Showman’ and ‘All the Money in the World’ before the rest of us [critics] did,” noted Duralde.

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While they may be Hollywood’s “dirty little secret,” the Globes unfortunately remain one of the most popular award ceremonies. Stars love to show up at the self-congratulatory night and pat each other on the back for work that may not even deserve this kind of recognition.

It’s a shame, as an awards show that celebrates actual artistic achievement above celebrity is something the industry needs to make this season mean something. Yet the Globes continue to be popular and have a perceived importance outside the industry — which then keeps them afloat for another year and beyond.

The Globes’ history, the ceremony’s strange nominating process, and the questionable voting body alone should be enough to convince anyone that awards season in Hollywood is a hollow and tiresome tradition that isn’t really about celebrating movies at all.

PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at [email protected] 

(photo credit, homepage image: Golden Globe Awards, CC BY 2.0, by Joe Shlabotnik; photo credit, article image: Jlaw Golden Globes, CC 0, by Jennifer Lawrence Films)

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