By Robert Pius
Two embattled Hollywood Foreign Press members that present the Golden Globes permanently quit the group a few weeks ago. It seems that rats are fleeing the sinking ship or perhaps a ship that has already sunk. The Globes have long had a history of scandal and a general feeling that the awards could be bought. This has caused them to be dumped from network TV in the past, but this time seems much more severe and perhaps insurmountable. While the past controversies of voters being easily swayed by gifts and fancy parties must have annoyed other nominees who lost, the current accusations of racial discrimination and sexual demeaning behavior towards women just won’t stand in a post-#metoo/George Floyd America. NBC has already announced they won’t air the show next year, and it remains to be seen if the awards will even be presented. Bad news for the Hollywood Foreign Press, but this may just be the best thing that has happened to the Oscars in years.
It has long been a complaint that there are just too many award shows before the Oscars, and they have diluted the importance of the Academy Awards. I can remember Siskel and Ebert discussing this, and they have both been gone for a while now, so the glut of award shows is not a new idea. While this is all true, I think the worst thing the abundance of precursor awards has done to harm the Oscars is that it has taken the joy out of the performers’ wins. Instead of happy, shocked people taking to the stage, we have been given a parade of people making their 5th or 6th speech in about as many weeks. By the time they get to the Oscar stage, people just seem exhausted and glad their run of awards didn’t end in an upset at the big one (see Glenn Close in “The Wife“). No precursors or little-seen precursors could make the Oscars unique and exciting again.
The Globes scandals seem to have been a known but little-discussed secret in Hollywood. Their reputation as being able to be bought dates back decades, but the lack of black members and especially the sexual harassment charges only seemed to surface this year. Some people, notably director Ava DuVernay, had spoken about the problems before, but nobody seemed to listen. The Globes had become such a powerful Oscar precursor that it seems nobody dared mess with them. In recent years, they had become strangely powerful, such as when they ignored “A Star is Born” and its actors for wins and pretty much sank the film from all subsequent awards, including the Oscars. In 2017 Willem Dafoe and Laurie Metcalf were cleaning up at critics’ circles for “The Florida Project” and “Lady Bird” respectively, and looked likely to continue on to Oscars, but Globe wins for Sam Rockwell, and Allison Janney started them on a sweep that took them right to the Oscar podium.
The resurgence of the Golden Globes is kind of baffling. They have been on and off-network television since their inception. They seemed to be done for in 1982 when NBC dropped them after the Pia Zadora incident. For youngsters or people who missed the scandal when it happened, it must be repeated! It is perhaps the juiciest bit of awards chaos until “La La Land/Moonlight.” Pia Zadora was an actress on the fringes of showbiz. When she was ten, she made one film called “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” for which the jokes write themselves. But she was not untalented and appeared in several Broadway musicals, including the original “Fiddler on the Roof.” She also replaced Bernadette Peters in her star-making role in the off-Broadway show “Dames at Sea.” Somewhere though, things went wrong, and she tried to buy her way to fame (and the Golden Globes let her). She married a much older Las Vegas hotel owner who was able to bankroll her ambitions. At first, she became somewhat well known as the Dubonnet girl. This was a cocktail her husband owned, and she was ubiquitous on TV singing and slinking thru the commercial. Her husband then set her up as the star of a movie. He managed to purchase a novel by an acclaimed writer, hire a somewhat known director, and surrounded her with a respectable cast, including the legendary Orson Welles, Stacey Keach, and oddly Ed McMahon. Boy, I’d love it if someone could dig up Johnny Carson’s jokes about the film from this time. With all that talent, the film ended up being almost a soft-core porn film that mostly showed off Zadora’s sex kitten ways. The Hollywood Foreign Press were then flown to Las Vegas, where they were treated well in Zadora’s husband’s hotel, and the film got two nominations. A Best Supporting Actor nod for Welles and a New Star of the Year-Female for Zadora. This was a regular category back then, and some winners would go on to respected careers such as Shirley MacLaine, Kim Novack, Bette Midler, Jessica Lange, and Ann-Margret. Zadora’s inclusion was baffling since most people hadn’t even heard of the film. Her competition was formidable, including Kathleen Turner in her now-iconic film debut in “Body Heat” and Elizabeth McGovern, who had debuted the year before in a small role in “Ordinary People” and gave an Oscar-nominated performance this year in “Ragtime.” As Timothy Hutton read the winner, Zadora rushed to the stage and began an emotional speech. What is so odd is that as she speaks, she is almost drowned out by the mutterings and groans of the audience, which is bewildered how this happened. Well, actually, they knew how it happened. Money bought it. NBC dropped the telecast the following year, and the New Star category was only given once more. The awards then struggled to be noticed on cable stations and/or in syndication but then somehow, for some reason, NBC forgave them and brought the awards back in 1996, taking their audience from about 4 million on TBS to 18 million on NBC.
OK! Enough about Zadora and how the Globes went wrong the first time. This time is much more serious, what with allegations of racism and sexual harassment leveled at them. Scarlet Johansson announced that she stopped doing interviews with them because of the sexual nature of the questions, and Tom Cruise returned the three awards he won. Honestly, I don’t see how the Globes will survive this scandal. It’s too touchy, and it reveals, much like the Harvey Weinstein case, that people knew of these issues for a long time but looked the other way. Even if the awards are telecast or streamed on the internet in the future, would people want to accept them? Surely no one will be eager to take to the stage and gush over a prize that comes from such a tarnished giver.
And to all this I say GOOD!
Be gone, Globes! You’ve messed up the Oscars and had too big of an influence for too long. In recent years it’s always been a little odd to see people get so excited about winning one. Granted, film actors are surely thinking, yeah, I’m going to go to the top of the Oscar prediction charts. But television winners? Why are you so happy to receive an award from such an undistinguished group. The really annoying part has been that the Globes have been able to set the agenda of awards seasons by being first out of the gate. We’ve had two times in recent years where Globe winners have gone on to sweep all the televised awards and frankly made the Oscars just a dull final stop on their path.
Yes, the Globes have been entertaining in recent years primarily due to their choosing Ricky Gervais and then the Amy Poehler and Tina Fey team to host the event. However, even that seems a little fishy nowadays. Gervais got noticed for his disdain for the show and Hollywood puffery in general, but one must wonder, didn’t anyone tell smart women like Fey and Poehler that they were working for a shady bunch?
To me, the best part of the Globes being gone is that the Oscars will now return to being the first time winners are up in front of a vast audience and feeling the excitement of being recognized. Yes, they’ll have to go through the Critic’s Choice Awards which have quickly moved up their date in a bid to pick up where the Globes used to be (launching awards season at the beginning of January). But Critic’s Choice barely gets an audience since they are on the CW. Covid brought them a staggering low rating of 0.0 this year. It’s doubtful that even all the nominees’ immediate families sat through the show! We’ll also have BAFTAs as a precursor, but they too are very low rated in the states, not broadcast live, and will likely once again not have many people flying over to London due to the covid crisis.
How wonderful it will be to see winners give their first speeches fresh and happy and not dragging themselves to the stage like some presidential candidate who has been on the road since the Iowa caucuses. I love watching old winners on youtube, and nothing we’ve seen recently can match what people saw in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. People in the fifties, in fact, were doing the exact opposite of dragging themselves to the stage. They’d run. Even people like Joanne Woodward and Marlon Brando who in later years would become critical of the Academy Awards (especially Brando and his infamous refusal of his second Oscar) bounced on to the stage in sheer joy. Geena Davis provided one of my favorite Oscar speeches. She was a shocked winner that no one was predicting. She has said that on the way to the ceremony in the limo, she watched Siskel and Ebert predict she’d be in fourth place. She hadn’t been nominated or won a single award prior to the Oscars, so being up onstage is new to her, and we get to see a lovely full range of emotions. Shock turns to a happy speech, but you can feel the emotion underneath like any minute she’s about to cry. You just don’t get that when you have been receiving awards all month. Chloe Zhao, the director of “Nomadland,” received approximately 54 awards this year. I mean, can you really muster up fresh emotion when you’ve been so inundated with recognition? Does it start to make the awards feel less important? She must have just been relieved she didn’t end up like Glenn Close. AND 54 awards? How does that even work? Did she get a trophy for each one? Granted, the pandemic kept her and the rest of us at home during awards season, but in other years, would she have been asked to pick them up in person? Was she sitting at home thinking, oh, it’s the UPS man again? I must have won another one. Does she even have that many shelves in her house?
Enough. I say the Globes absence this year will be a happy occasion, and maybe Oscar may get a little lift in the process. They need it. So what do you think? Do you thinknot having the Golden Globes this year is a good thing or a bad thing for the Oscars? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or our Twitter account.
You can follow Robert and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @robertpius_