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© 1987-2017
Scott R. Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

’Tis the season

It’s that time of year again. The giddy emotions. The gift giving. The parties. The really large get-togethers. Expectant young faces hoping they will be given something nice.

That’s right. The Hollywood awards season has officially begun. I know this because I heard it on National Public Radio over the weekend. According to NPR, the awards season began officially on Monday, with the announcement of the nominations for the Golden Globes. The season culminates with the handing out of the Academy Awards on February 27, hosted by Chris Rock.

Since the movies nominated for these sorts of awards tend to be drawn heavily from movies that are released in one or two American cities in December and which don’t open wide until the new year, they tend to be flicks that most of us haven’t even seen. And, in my case, the problem is worse because I don’t get to see most American movies until weeks or months after they are released in the U.S. So I tend to focus more on the coverage of the awards than the awards themselves. And, this time around, it’s struck me more than ever that the media do to film awards more or less what they do to political elections. It’s all about the horse race. The parallels are more noticeable right now since, as some of you may be aware, we just recently had elections in the United States and that experience is still fresh in our minds.

For instance, both NPR and the Associated Press made a point of noting how unrepresentative the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group that selects the Golden Globe winners, is. The AP described the group as “a comparatively small group of about 90 reporters for overseas news outlets.” (Maybe it’s the old journalism student in me, but I couldn’t help but be impressed by how the writer didn’t trust us to get that 90 members amounts to “comparatively small.”) The AP article goes on to note that, despite its unrepresentative-ness, the HFPA is a reliable indicator of how the Oscars will go and that last year Oscar winners for best picture and the four acting categories matched the Golden Globe winners. Do you see what’s going on here? That’s right, in political terms, the Golden Globes are Iowa. Reporters love to report on how Iowa and New Hampshire, which are heavily influential in determining presidential nominees, are different from any other states in the U.S. They also love to portray small political jurisdictions as having some sort of mystical hold over the outcome. How often have we seen a TV news profile of some state or county, with the reporter intoning with a sense of somber predestination, “In the past 143 years, no candidate has lost Muckawucka County and gone on to win the presidency”?

If my comparison holds up, the person with the most to fear is Jamie Foxx. The lead in the AP story is the fact that Foxx garnered a record three acting nominations (for the feature films Ray and Collateral and the TV drama Redemption). Before one vote has been cast by one member of the “comparatively small” HFPA for the actual awards, Foxx has been anointed as the front runner. That means he is the Howard Dean of this horse race. So Foxx better hope the media find some other angle to focus on because, as we all know, another one of the press’s favorite stories to tell is that of the front runner who is cut down to size. They love it when the person with the most award nominations gets few or (better yet) no actual awards.

Okay, I know what some smart aleck out there is thinking. You’re thinking, hey, this isn’t like the presidential primaries at all. Votes have been cast and Jamie Foxx did get a bunch of them. The members of the HFPA voted on the nominees. But I say, well, Mr. Smart Aleck, just who are the members of the HFPA? They are film critics. In other words, they’re journalists. So, my point stands. It’s the press anointing Foxx as the frontrunner, just as it was the press who anointed Howard Dean. Case closed.

Moreover, these are foreign journalists. And, as I’ve explained somewhere else before, “foreign” in Hollywood is code for “not American.” This is evident from the names on the membership list of the HPFA. These people have names like Paoula, Rocio, Erwin, Yani, Elmar, Kiki, Yola, Noemia, Helmut and Jack. This may or may not explain another strange phenomenon of the Golden Globes, which has also been noted here before. The HFPA generally goes for any movie or TV show that has the word “sex” in the title. This is demonstrated by the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker got an acting nomination for Sex and the City and the series itself was nominated for best TV comedy series—even though it’s not even on the air anymore. If she gets nominated again next year, then we will know for sure that something strange is going on.

As it happens, the media backlash against the Golden Globes didn’t actually begin this month. As long ago as four years ago, Brills Content reported that “HFPA members have been called corrupt and, perhaps more tellingly, have been derided by Hollywood insiders as incompetent, slovenly, and junket-buffet gluttons.” (Note the use of passive voice. As has been noted here before, this is a tried and true journalistic device for editorializing but disguising it as fact.) Brills Content drives the nail in the coffin with this nugget: “The story most often used against the HGPA comes from 1982 when Pia Zadora won the Golden Globe for female ‘New Star of the Year’ a few weeks after her multi-millionaire husband, Meshulam Riklis, flew them all to Las Vegas for a few days of entertainment.” Okay.

So, let me get this straight. In summary, the HFPA are basically a bunch of whores who can be bribed or perhaps intoxicated into submission to support whatever movies, TV shows or actors the studios promote most heavily. In turn, the industry people who vote on the more prestigious Academy Awards make their work easier by just going along with whomever the HFPA gives the Golden Globes to. And that’s how the Oscar winners get determined.

Well, that leaves just one question. Hey, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, I’m based in Ireland and don’t mind a junket and a load of free booze. Can I become a member? Please?

-S.L., 16 December 2004

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