Upon the conclusion of last night’s Golden Globes, Oscar season has officially begun.
Run by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (or HFPA), the Globes have become one of Hollywood’s biggest parties. Alcohol flows freely. A-Listers hang out and have some laughs. Big name hosts like Ricky Gervais or Fey and Poehler run an evening more akin to a celebrity roast than an awards ceremony.
It’s got all the glitz and glamour you’d expect from Hollywood.
While stars like Leonardo DiCaprio (!) and Sly Stallone (!!) make room in their trophy case, and The Revenant and The (please don’t call me a comedy) Martian score big wins, suddenly we’re going to be told that these have immediately jumped to the forefront of Best Picture race when the Oscars roll around in a few weeks.
Don’t believe them.
That’s not to say that either of these pictures aren’t a worthy winner – or even a front-runner – but the Golden Globes aren’t necessarily the sure thing that they want you to believe. Even though they draw a substantial television audience and garner attention from some of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest, the HFPA is most guilty of their own sense of self-importance in the awards season shuffle. (Ricky Gervais even remarked in his opening monologue that the awards were worthless, telling the celebs in attendance that “It’s a little piece of metal that some journalist made so they could take a selfie with you.”)
How do we know?
For starters, the HFPA is a notoriously private non-profit organization whose membership consists only ninety journalists. Yes, you read that correctly: ninety members. That’s less than the average university film class. Or half the available seating at a standard movie theatre. When you compare this number to fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences consists of over six thousand members, you get the feeling that the HFPA is not nearly as accurate a gauge on what the arts community believes to be the ‘Best’ of the year.
Furthermore, the strange categorizations of films and actors/actresses doesn’t necessarily indicate that they’ll be loved by the Academy either. Remember when Madonna won Best Actress at the Globes and didn’t even receive an Oscar nod? Or when David Fincher was a lock for The Social Network? Brokeback Mountain, Boyhood, Dreamgirls, Avatar and, yes, The Hangover – all Golden Globe winners of Best Picture that failed to make Oscar’s historical list of winners. (To be fair, the Globes actually have a relatively solid record of picking the eventual Oscar winners in the acting categories but they are far from a guarantee.)
While I am actually a full supporter of the Awards season shuffle (look for my editorial on Thursday after this years nominees are announced for my reasons why), the Globes just don’t convince me. They know how to throw a great party and garner attention but, when you get beyond the sizzle, there’s simply no steak. (A great example of this came in 2008 when, as a result of the Writers Guild strike, they opted to strip down the ceremony. Without celebrities or pageantry, their awards were announced from behind a desk—and people barely noticed.)
While it would be completely fair to make this same accusation about other awards ceremonies, the Globes just strike me as particularly empty. Call them what you will but the HFPA appear to carry an overly-inflated view of themselves.
Still, I can’t put too much blame on them.
In truth, the Globes are a product of our own culture and it’s obsession with glamour. In essence, the primary reason they remain prominent in the ratings is because they put on a show of excess. We love to create an idol culture where celebrities maintain importance simply because they’re famous. Memes of Leonardo DiCaprio wincing at Lady Gaga or fashion-shaming the dresses on the red carpet remind us that we think we’re better than they are. Our own pride and sinfulness drives us, not only to create idols, but also place ourselves above them.
So, you see, the problem really isn’t the Globes.
Although I believe it’s fair to celebrate quality art, our natural—read: sinful—tendency is to view ourselves with attitudes as falsely as the Globes themselves. When we humbly acknowledge our own brokenness, it reminds us of the emptiness of a culture of celebrity and allows us to celebrate what is good. Ultimately, that’s what matters most—and what the Globes most lack.
Regardless of who’s hosting.