By Sean Gumbrell, Second Year, Theatre & Film
How did what was once one of the most prolific movie awards ceremonies, second only to the Oscars, turn into something that could have been put in an email?
In 2020, the last pre-covid Golden Globes ceremony drew in just over 18 million American viewers. Last week there was no TV broadcast, no awkward jokes, and no glitzy red carpet. Instead, winners were announced on social media.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the non-profit organisation in charge of the Golden Globes) has long been ridiculed for its mixed bag of members. Their members consist of LA-based entertainment journalists who write for overseas publications, yet many members stretch the definition of ‘journalist’. Included among them have been a Russian bodybuilder, a Polish socialite and a car salesman. But last year, controversy struck when just days before the 2021 ceremony, a report revealed the HFPA didn’t have a single black member. The lack of diversity, along with allegations of bribery, was condemned by Hollywood and the media.
In the year that followed, the backlash persisted. Shortly after the controversy last year, the HFPA responded with plans to widen its membership and increase diversity. However, the plans were deemed insufficient; Hollywood activist group Times Up described them as ‘window-dressing platitudes.’ Stars including the likes of Scarlett Johannsen urged others to boycott the Golden Globes, and Tom Cruise returned his three trophies. And finally, NBC, who have covered the ceremonies in past years, announced that because of slow progress on its plans, it would not be broadcasting the 2022 ceremony. This would be a more significant sacrifice if not for the huge drop in awards show ratings last year.
Determined for the show to go on in some form, the HFPA sought celebrities to present awards, but they failed to secure even one. To the surprise of industry analysts who predicted it would be cancelled this year, the ceremony went ahead in the usual venue but with no audience and no TV cameras. Instead of the usual extravagance, the event saw a socially distanced handful of ‘select members and grantees’ in attendance, with a focus on the association’s charity work and diversity progress. Many film fans eagerly awaiting the results found out on Twitter.
Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise. A limited presence, and therefore criticism, could benefit the HFPA while they quietly address their faults and revive their reputation by this time next year. Some viewers might also welcome a lighter awards ceremony, especially during the pandemic, when the deification of celebrities becomes a little harder to digest.
As for the awards themselves, the Globes did seem to get it right, if not a little predictable. The night’s big winner was the renowned western, Power of the Dog which has been an awards favourite for some time now. It won the Best Motion Picture (Drama) Award as well as a Supporting Actor award for Kodi Smit-McPhee. Director Jane Campion became the third woman in the awards’ history to win Best Director.
In other categories, the critically acclaimed, yet underperforming West Side Story took three awards including Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), and Succession won big in the television categories.
Winners for acting were Will Smith (King Richard) and Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos) in the Drama category, as well as Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) and Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick…Boom!) in the Musical or Comedy category. With three out of the four leading actor awards going to portrayals of real people and the semi-autobiographical Belfast winning best screenplay, Hollywood’s love for biopics goes strong.
It also continues the trend of favouring more overt acting. For an example of this, compare the reception of Joaquin Phoenix’s much-acclaimed performance in Joker (which went on to win him Best Actor at the Oscars) to his more subtle and heartfelt role in C’mon C’mon. The latter has been completely ignored by the likes of the Globes.
Usually, the Golden Globes’ purpose is to kick off the awards season and influence Oscar voting patterns, but with such a muted ceremony and lingering controversy, how influential will these awards be this year? Usually, when a film receives a win or nomination, its Oscar campaign doubles down, along with splashing ‘Golden Globe Nominee’ in big letters all over its posters and trailers to help boost box office performance.
However, looking at the poster for Belfast, there is no mention of either its Globes win or nomination. Instead, it proudly promotes its People’s Choice Award from the Toronto International Film Festival. If a Golden Globes win doesn’t seem to attract filmgoers, will Oscar voters still look to them for inspiration?
Only time will tell if The Golden Globes have kept their influence over both the Oscars and ticket sales. After all, Hollywood loves a redemption arc.
Featured Image: BBC
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