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Archive for January, 2013

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Traditionally, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) – the 90 or so journalists who vote for the Golden Globes – do not have the best reputation. Not only has the Globes’ standing as a predictor for Oscar winners been called into question, agreeing with the Academy just twice out of the last eight years for Best Picture, but the organization, the members of which are often obscure international film critics (you won’t find for example, Roger Ebert or David Denby on there) are also held to be far too star struck.  Just two years ago, Angelina Jolie was reputed to have laughed when she was told she had been nominated for a Best Actress Globe for her role in The Tourist, widely held to be one of the worst films of the year.

That was hardly the first time the Globes had found themselves mired in controversy. In 1968, NBC stopped airing the Golden Globes for six years when the awards were accused of misleading the public as to how the winners were chosen. In 1981, Pia Zadora controversially won a Newcomer of the Year award that was thought to have essentially been bought for her by her multimillionaire husband. According to Rolling Stone magazine’s Peter Travers the Golden Globes are an event that, “perpetrates a scam that would make Bernie Madoff blush.”

And yet, if this year’s double whammy Globe victory (Best Picture and Best Director) for Ben Affleck’s Iran hostage thriller Argo shows anything, it is that the Golden Globes still serve to highlight where the Oscars have got it wrong. Not only are they less afraid of controversy – nominating, for example, Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director, despite the torture endorsement controversy surrounding the film –  they also often favour the popular global choice. Lincoln has not yet been released worldwide but will non-US audiences really flock to see Steven Spielberg’s brilliant but heavy-going slavery abolition drama over the gripping Argo?

The Oscars, voted for by around 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), have been critcised in the past for favouring the high-brow. Meanwhile, the Globes often pick up on the more popular choice. In 2006 the Golden Globe Best Drama award went to Ang Lee’s controversial gay cowboy drama Brokeback Mountain, which has stood the test of time far better than that year’s Best Picture Oscar winner Crash. The same thing happened in 1982 when the Globes eschewed Richard Attenborough’s ponderous epic Gandhi in favour of Spielberg’s sci-fi family favourite E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. The latter went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time until it was knocked of its pedestal a decade later by another Spielberg film Jurassic Park.

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 10.44.47Underdog actors are also more likely to fare better with the HFPA rather than the Academy. Last year, Michael Fassbender, whose critically acclaimed performance as a sex addict in Shame won him the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival was nominated by the Globes but completely overlooked at the Oscars. Funnyman Bill Murray has been nominated as Best Actor three times at the Globes (once even for Ghostbusters), which finally awarded him victory in 2003 for Lost in Translation. At the Oscars, he was pipped to the post by Sean Penn for Mystic River. Years later the former has achieved cult status, while many audiences would barely remember the latter by comparison. There are dozens such examples. The Globes were the only awards to spot Marilyn Monroe as a timeless comedienne, awarding her Best Actress in 1959 for Some Like it Hot, while she was snubbed by the Academy where she did not even receive a nomination.

So, does Argo’s victory mean that it could now win Best Picture at the Oscars, making it the first film to do so without a directing nomination since Driving Miss Daisy in 1990? It seems unlikely, given the highly patriotic subject matter of Lincoln, currently leading the way in the Oscars with 12 nominations. Indeed, one of the biggest differences between the HFPA and the Academy is that the former is made up of foreign press. This means that overtly patriotic films such as last year’s critically lambasted but Oscar-nominated 9/11 flick Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (it has just a 47 per cent positive rating on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes) are far less likely to do as well at the Globes as they will at the Oscars. Still though, perhaps the job of the Globes is not to predict victory at their bigger, more famous counterpart but to make the race that little bit more exciting.

The Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) category was added to the Globes’ line-up in 1952 and it is perhaps this category that best encapsulates the differences between the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Traditionally, the former take themselves far less seriously. As a consequence they are more likely to applaud performances that appeal to mainstream audiences (see also the three awards won by Les Miserables this year, including Best Picture, Musical). Many of the winners in this category have gone on to be cult classics (The Graduate, M.A.S.H., Working Girl, Toy Story 2, Sideways) while the Oscar Best Picture list can feel more self-important than enjoyable. Lincoln still seems likely to clean up at the Academy Awards this year, especially with the endorsement given at the awards ceremony yesterday by Bill Clinton. But in 50 years, will people be watching that or Les Mis?

Of course, the Globes certainly do not always get it right. In their inaugural year in 1944, the winner of Best Picture, as well as several other awards, was a film called The Song of Bernadette. Meanwhile, over at the Academy, the winner was… Casablanca.

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