The annual awards season in the entertainment industry kicks off Sunday night with the Golden Globes, where achievements in movies and television are recognized. This year’s show could be worth viewing as it’s being hosted once again by British actor/comic Ricky Gervais. In past years as host he was refreshingly willing to deliver stinging barbs towards celebrities, eliciting gasps and groans from the bedecked crowd of self-serious performers.
The awards are dispensed by the group known as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a nebulous organization that has been giving out trophies since the 1940s. It is a grand gala affair, broadcast worldwide, with numerous A-list celebrities in attendance.
And it is all considered an open joke in the industry.
The HFPA is not regarded as a serious journalistic organization. While most awards concern members of the industry working in regular fashion, the Globes are far less diligent. The Academy that awards the Oscars boasts a membership well into the thousands, but the HFPA has traditionally kept its voting rolls below 100. Its membership is not populated by respected journalists from respectable global media organizations.
Its voters are usually required to produce only a handful of media entries annually. The members are known in Hollywood circles as “junket whores,” celebrity-swooning gushers who are known for being less interested in taking notes than in taking selfies. The group’s website reads: “The HFPA has about 90 members who disseminate information about movies and television to the world through their various publications throughout the world. HFPA members attend more than 300 interviews and countless movie and television screenings throughout each year.” So, averaging less than four per year. Impressive.
The group also defines the word “cloistered.” Members are left in place for decades, and admission to the group is not merit-based but more like an exclusive country club. A prospective applicant has to be personally backed and they can find inclusion denied if they are vetoed by any solitary member. While occasionally serious entertainment journalists have been declined, for the most part they do not even wish to become associated, as the HFPA members are looked at more scornfully than respectfully.
Why, then, are the Golden Globes held up with any seriousness by Hollywood at all? Because, frankly, the HFPA has been willing to whore itself out. The basic setup of the Golden Globes allows studios to use them as the public relations launch for far more serious awards. Not only is it strategic as the first award granted, but the Globes segregates films into “Drama” and “Comedy/Musical” categories. This allows for far more entries to be regarded as “nominated” and can be crucial in lobbying that films or performances be regarded for the run up to the Oscars. Advertising touts a film or actor as nominated, and this gets word out among the other entertainment guilds.
Further, the HFPA has been proven as a group easily swayed by lavish attention. Recent years have seen some curious decisions made with nominations, with some found to derive from studios currying favor and occasionally even resorting to outright bribes in the form of gifts. As an example, one year two laughably bad titles received recognition by the Golden Globes — “The Tourist” and “Burlesque.” It was discovered later that Sony, the studio putting out both films, had jetted HFPA members to Vegas, put them up in five-star hotels with fully comped accommodations, and fetted them with a private concert by Cher.
Here is recent winner Viola Davis, who alludes to this very practice in her acceptance speech. She talks of being nominated numerous times, playing the game required of the HFPA, and it leading to no prior awards. The knowing laughter from the crowd speaks to it all.
Actors also play along in the mutual stroking, as the HFPA has numerous charitable donations it makes throughout its year. Celebrities with pet causes cooperate to garner grants from the group and they attend a celebrity-choked banquet. The HFPA gets to spend more time with stars, the stars play along to garner the cash, and the goodwill may translate to nominations.
The Golden Globes are the perfect awards for an industry built on artifice. Like a movie set with a glimmering appearance that is little more than a decorated framework for the cameras, the whole affair is a facade meant to present serious recognition but is in reality little more than both sides pimping themselves out for attention.