Friday, Jan. 18, 2008

Golden Globes Tarnished?

By David Luhrssen
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The Hollywood Foreign Press Association was a ring of wannabes who decided to crash Hollywood society by throwing a party no one could refuse to attend. Only this year no one attended. The Golden Globes Awards show was shut down by the Writers Guild strike. The unlikely working class heroes of Hollywood, the stars and directors, were sheepish about crossing a picket line in front of a thousand cameras. The Golden Globes winners, however, were announced at a press conference. Why should we care?

The Oscars were once a private industry affair. Because itís a glamorous industry, the public took interest. But until the 1980s watching the Oscar ceremony was just something millions of people did to glimpse the stars and, well, what else was on broadcast TV during that timeslot anyway? When in the Ď90s the Oscars became the subject of media overkill comparable to the Super Bowl, the Globes became a conference championship. Relatively obscure since its debut in 1944, the Globes went front and center in 1996 when the so-called Foreign Press Association signed a broadcast deal with NBC.

Since then, the Globes became an alleged indicator for victory on Oscar night. The winners of this yearís Globe Awards may be among the Oscar nominees to be announced on Tuesday morning, Jan. 22, but less likely to be chosen for the statue. For one thing, many of the Globeís categories are inapplicable to the Academy Awards (and Iíll hand it to the Foreign Press pack: the categories are better thought out than the Oscars).

Take Johnny Depp, given the Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical (Sweeney Todd). The category isnít replicated by the Motion Picture Academy, which tends to dismiss comedies and musicals as unworthy of honor. Best drama for Atonement? The academy has no drama category, only Best Picture, and Atonement is a weak contender in that field.

Best screenplay for No Country for Old Men? Yes, maybe. Daniel Day-Lewis for best actor in a drama? The Academy likes dramas and Day-Lewis deserves Oscar for There Will Be Blood. But best director to Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly? Not on yours or anyone elseís life!

One more thing: the golden age for Oscar overkill ended a few years as public interest in the event continues to diminish. If the Writers Guild strike continues, this yearís Oscar ceremony may be cancelled, a blow to the industry to be sure but also to the writers whoódespite their sudden flourish of proletarian rhetoricóare part of the industry. For many of us, no Oscars on TV is a good excuse to spend the time more wisely than watching celebrities congratulate themselves about their work. How about reading a good book about Alfred Hitchcock or Stanley Kubrick instead?

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