Hollywood’s other open secret: This Awards show is a joke.
Tomorrow night the Hollywood awards marathon kicks off with the Golden Globe Awards. Given the hype, artifice, and fiction behind these awards this is possibly the most emblematic trophy given out to Hollywood. The Globes have been mired in scandals, frequently mocked by those in the industry, and have risen to prominence not due to influence but by how studios can use them for future glory.
The organization behind the Globes is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). This is a cloistered, frequently secretive outfit, that resists too much investigation into its practices. The primary reason anyone cares about the Golden Globes is its position on the calendar as the first “major” awards show. As such it becomes the launch of a PR campaign with an eye towards the more legitimate Academy Awards, and the makeup of the HFPA lends itself to being courted, feted, and otherwise prostituted for its attention.
While the Motion Picture Academy boasts a robust total of more than 8,500 voters, the HFPA is traditionally kept below 100 members. Less than a handful of new recruits are admitted on any year, and the journalistic requirement to maintain active status is remarkably light. Members are required to produce only four pieces of content per year. Past attempts by legitimate news outlets to find actual work created by some members were frequently fruitless.
Yet this group is often given perks better than everyday working press members. Exclusive interviews and promotional press junkets are commonplace for these members. Additionally the HFPA jets members around with fully covered trips to festivals and movie sets. As for the celebrities, they play along for the publicity. Exclusives are granted to this group who are more often less interested in taking notes than in taking selfies.
In an interview years ago a former President of the organization was asked about the tendency of members to be seemingly more concerned with getting their picture taken with stars than committing journalism. The explanation was the photos are used for proof that the interviews actually took place. The irony is no proof is needed that these “interviews” ever actually found their way into print. While there is a small amount of working, legitimate journalists in their ranks, the majority are occasional freelancers, reaping benefits and privileges like important content providers.
The voters also tend to reap what most would call bribes. In recent years the organization has had to impose some less-than-strident rules to appear to address a common practice of a studio currying favor with gifting. Sharon Stone caused head-scratching when she received an acting nomination for the lightly-regarded “The Muse”. It turned out this came as a result of designer watches sent to voters. Years later Tobey Maguire was nominated for the barely-seen “Brothers”, and that was found to be inspired by a party HFPA members attended staged by the studio where Blu-Ray players were handed out.
Just a few years ago Golden Globe nominations were given for Best Musical or Comedy to both “The Tourist”, and “Burlesque”. These two films shared two qualities; both were a pair of laughably bad titles, and both were distributed by Sony. The studio had flown HFPA members to Las Vegas, put them in 5-star accommodations with meals, and treated them to a private concert by Cher.
The Globes’ voters are not just tight-knit, they are exclusionary. They retain status for decades, maintain strict methods to be included, and reserve that a nominee can be vetoed from membership by any member. Long-established journalists from reputable outlets have frequently found themselves prevented from joining — but in truth, few have attempted. The organization is derided by many journalists, and many in the industry as well.
As proof of the acknowledgment, the way HFPA rewards those who give them the proper amount of attention you can only look back to last year’s ceremony. Viola Davis gave a speech after winning for Best Actress, for her performance in “Fences”, that many raved about as being touching and moving. But at the start she tipped her hand, alluding to the process actors are required to go through for recognition.
“This is my fifth nomination– (shrug) I took all the pictures, I went to the luncheons…” Viola then gave a sheepish smile, realizing her admission. The way the room filled with laughter said everything. The award, and the governing body, are complete shams — but those in the industry understand the need to curry favor with this disreputable and embarrassing group.