Monday, 21 January 2013


The important thing to remember about the Golden Globe awards is that they serve their purpose, but that purpose (or purposes) have nothing much to do with predicting Oscars or judging quality. The awards are voted on by about 90 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and their biggest purpose is to do what that organisation set them up to do: ingratiate themselves with the Hollywood studios, get better access to them, and to their stars. Their members, of whom I've known a couple, are not usually film critics but primarily writers chasing celebrity interviews and entertainment previews, indeed some are general reporters. Their jobs depend largely on studio public relations access, and if you look closely at the banquet, you'll see the members are scattered among the tables, giving each a built in chance for a couple of exclusives on the night. Something the movie-makers like, because being of small number, and desperate, the Globes voters are eminently, shall we say, vulnerable to inducement. And the awards serve a useful purpose to Hollywood: both as a way to hype up films pre-Oscar, and also to generate some ticket sales for films that won't triumph at Oscar time. This is made easier because the Globes give separate awards for 'drama' and 'musical or comedy,' twice the winners mean fewer losers! Given given the extra shot at the odds, the Globes more often than not fail to predict the Academy Awards' best picture. And television loves the Globes too, for the rub they get with the movie people—you could argue that the worldwide market for television programmes and their stars makes this even more essential than the film awards. Then there's that European obsession with golden-this and golden-that awards; I once served on a jury for a Sports TV award called the 'Golden Shot'. If Oscar had lived in Cannes, rather than its twinned city Beverly Hills, he'd be called The Golden Oscars.

Keeping all this in mind, it was funny to read some of the British critics opining that Argo's award for best drama came because the picture shows 'Tinseltown coming to the rescue of the real world', as if the Globe voters were actually part of Tinseltown. I suppose you could argue that, in a Stockholm Syndrome sense, they are. As a piece of historical drama, Argo may well be more accurate than Zero Dark Thirty, or indeed Lincoln (neither of which I have seen as I write this) and it is both suspenseful and entertaining, as well as catching its period very well. But you can pretty much write it off for an Oscar. Director Ben Affleck wasn't even nominated for an Oscar, and neither was Tom Hooper, who directed Les Miserables, which won the best musical award.

Besides Argo, it was a good night for the CIA, who also took the best actress awards in both drama and TV, though they weren't nominated for the Zero Dark Thirty script. Jessica Chastain's role, which is supposedly a composite character, seems oddly similar to Clare Danes' Carrie, serving primarily to nag her organisation into following up on her work. I've written about Homeland elsewhere on this blog, but it does occur to me that in its insistence on Carrie's neurotic behaviour, the show has it both ways, presenting a strong female character who's driven crazy trying to succeed. It may be that the point is it's a man's world, and its corruptions would drive anyone insane, but that interpretation is also tempered by her love for Brody, which renders her all marshmallowy in the end. It is also reflected in other women characters: Aileen Morgan, (Marin Ireland) the American woman working for Al-Queda, who kills herself rather than spend her life as a tortured prisoner in a mainland Guantanemo, or the Vice President's wife, who knows how the game is played, as an adjunct of the males. The most telling character, however, is the British journalism student cum Al Queda operative Roya Hammad (played by Zuleikha Robinson) who, after she is captured, has to listen to Carrie telling her all the great things she has to look forward to in life without Al Queda—and then spits out her defiance and her disgust at Carrie's lack of understanding what her 'enemy' is all about. It was as powerful as Morgan's suicide—and presumably wouldn't be needed in Zero Dark Thirty.

Among the actors it was a good day for the British Lewis brothers. Daniel Day-Lewis won for Lincoln, and Damien Lewis for playing Brody in Homeland. I can't comment yet on ' Lincoln, but I wonder if comparing Day-Lewis' career to Spencer Tracy's might be apt (for example, Northwest Passage vs Last Of The Mohicans). Damien Lewis seems to specialise in playing American characters who are trying to draw on inner reserves in the face of being asked to do things they might have found impossible not long before. In Homeland, particularly in the second series, his visible breakdown was almost a parallel to Danes' in the first series; theirs may be the relationship most ripe for psychoanalysis since McMurtry met the Chief.

In the wake of this non-consequence it probably wasn't surprising that the scene get stolen by a couple of sidebars, which made the biggest and the funniest splashes in the chativerse. The biggest, of course, was Jodie Foster's acceptance speech on being given the Cecil B DeMille award. CB, were he alive today, would be rolling over in his grave. Foster's rambling 'j'accuse' appeared to be blaming the press in general for making her not come out when she was out, or maybe the opposite, and perhaps using the stage to complain about the attention she's received. Not for nothing did her dress appear to be made of chain mail. It's hard to escape the idea that Jodie might have been saying she'd like back the lifetime for which she was being given her award. In fifteen years, I fully expect Claire Danes to be making the same speech.

The more amusing moment for the Globes actually came the next day, in a New York Times blog written by Alessandra Stanley, whose take on the awards was headlined 'A Salute To Girl Power' and boasted the following lede:

At a time when President Obama is under attack for appointing so many white men — and so few women — to senior positions in the White House, Hollywood seemed intent Sunday on correcting the imbalance at the Golden Globes. 

Apart from the wave of nausea, if I understand this correctly, 'Hollywood', in the person of 90 foreign journalists who work there, tried to correct an 'imbalance' in the American government by hiring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host their show. Leave aside the idea that the President was somehow obligated to replace Hilary Clinton was another woman, or that he actually tried to and had the idea shot down from all sides; this vacuity is remarkable on a couple of lesser levels. First off, the idea that hiring Tina Fey, who after all was the best Republican candidate in the 2008 elections and is one of the funnist people out there, needs to be explained as some sort of market correction is insane. It should be taken for granted and pass without notice that Tina Fey should be hosting. But even more stunning is the assumption that her hosting the inanity of a second-tier self-congratulatory award show somehow would rebalance the perceived faults of the United States government. 'Oh, no woman is secretary of state, but that's OK because TWO women hosted the Golden Globes!'. The logical next step would be to demand that Obama nominate either Jessica Chastain or Claire Danes to become head of the CIA!

No comments :