Hello, my name is Mack, and I‘m an awards addict.
There, I said it! Like that proviso of the 12-Step Program goes: You first have to admit to having an addiction before you can even think about seeking help. But this is one addiction I have no intention of overcoming.
To fully understand the severity of my award season addiction, I must disclose that I look forward to every December, not so much for Christmas and New Year’s (which I do love and celebrate, by the way) but for the National Board of Review to kick things off with their annual announcement of the year’s best in film. A little bit crazy, I know, but true nonetheless. Then, like a man possessed, I scour the Internet for news about films and performances that are jockeying hard for that most coveted of film awards, the Academy Award.
You know you’ve got a problem when you’re one of a handful of film writers who’ll freely admit to being a fan of the much-maligned Golden Globes, which are thrown every year by the mysterious Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The nominees for the upcoming 68th presentation were just announced last Tuesday. The HFPA has a membership of approximately 85 people (from all walks and professions apparently) and according to media reports all that is required of those members is that they maintain a residence in California (whether or not they have to live in the state full-time is unclear) and publish a minimum of four articles annually in a reputable foreign publication.
Of course, there are the well-documented (as well as the alleged) improprieties that have tarnished the organization’s credibility over the years. Examples include the infamous 1981 win of Vegas lounge act Pia Zadora (Butterfly) in the now-defunct “New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture” category over infinitely more deserving candidates as Body Heat femme fatale Kathleen Turner, Ragtime co-stars Howard E. Rollins Jr. and Elizabeth McGovern, and Rachel Ward, who was nominated for Sharkey’s Machine. Zadora’s then-husband essentially bought the prize for her when he flew voting members of the HFPA to his Vegas casino, and later invited them over to his house for a no-expense-spared lunch and screening. To make matters worse, the film hadn’t even been theatrically released at the time of the awards, making it ineligible.
As recently as 1999, as reported in Entertainment Weekly, now-defunct USA Films sent all then-active HFPA members Coach watches as a kind of “Remember me?” gift on behalf of actress Sharon Stone who starred in the USA Films-distributed film The Muse. Then HFPA president Helmut Voss ordered all of the watches (valued from $295-$395) returned, stating “[they went] way, way, way beyond the edge of the envelope as far as promotional considerations, like t-shirts.“ Though touched by her generosity, Voss further commented “…this is definitely a no-no for a group like ours that wants to protect the integrity of its awards.”
Not surprisingly, Stone went onto receive a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a motion picture – comedy/musical for the film. Her publicist claimed that the watches were the handiwork of USA Films. Others claim it was all her doing. The studio claimed it got the watches for free and forwarded them onto the group unaware of how expensive they were.
Ethical controversies aside, the Golden Globes are a lot of fun to watch. It’s the one heavily-touted, televised award show where most of the honorees aren’t preoccupied with winning, which makes it the most relaxed and freewheeling. As five-time Golden Globe winner Warren Beatty once famously said, “The Golden Globes are fun. The Oscars are business.”
There have been a few notable exceptions. For example, in 1988, Sigourney Weaver was a double nominee for her supporting role in Working Girl and her leading role as murdered anthropologist (and gorilla-poaching dissident) Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist. She won Globes for both performances. While backstage talking to press about her Mist win, someone stole the Globe she had won earlier that evening for Girl (the HFPA presented Weaver with a replacement statuette). Much like the culprit responsible for Fossey’s brutal murder, the person who swiped Weaver’s Globe remains a mystery. A year earlier in 1987, one-time Andy Warhol Factory member Sally Kirkland won a Golden Globe for her leading dramatic role in a small independent film called Anna. She parlayed her Globes victory into a best actress Oscar nomination, and thanks to YouTube anyone interested can watch her priceless reaction when Cher’s (who won for Moonstruck) name is called instead of hers.
And unlike the Oscars and Emmys, actors can compete against themselves at the Golden Globes in the same category for different projects, like Johnny Depp, who this year is nominated for best actor in a motion picture – musical or comedy for both Alice in Wonderland and The Tourist. Being nominated against one’s self has worked out quite well for everyone who has found themselves in that position prior. Back in 1992, Tim Robbins was the first actor nominated against himself. He was up for best actor in a motion picture – comedy/musical for his writing and directorial debut Bob Roberts and for director Robert Altman’s The Player, winning for the latter. In 2006, Helen Mirren was nominated for two made-for-television movies “Elizabeth I” and “Prime Suspect: The Final Act” winning for the former. And in 2009, Meryl Streep was up for both It’s Complicated and Julie & Julia, winning for Julia.
The fact that there’s an open bar also plays a significant part in the usually celebratory tone of the ceremony, which is like senior prom and homecoming all rolled into one. I’ll never forget French actor Gerard Depardieu drunk and groping presenter Carol Burnett as he stammered through his acceptance speech when he won for best actor in a motion picture – comedy/musical for 1990’s Green Card. And who can forget 1998, when a tipsy, shades-sporting Jack Nicholson ripped a page out of Jim Carrey’s book and delivered part of his acceptance speech through his ass following his best actor in a motion picture – comedy/musical win for As Good As It Gets as his co-star Helen Hunt (who had just won her own Globe for the film) watched on – in equal parts awe and horror – from the wings?
Great, unscripted moments like that made the cancellation of the 2008 ceremony (due to the then-ongoing writer’s strike) such a disappointment. The stripped-down, televised press conference where that year’s winners were announced by a group of entertainment journalists paled by comparison. Part of the fun is to see who might be drunk, who’ll give a game-changing (for better or worse) speech, and all the networking and camaraderie that goes on.
And up until last year, the Globes had been a host-free zone for at least a decade. No awkward opening numbers or boring opening monologues like we‘re often forced to sit through at the Oscars and the Emmys. Here’s hoping returning host Ricky Gervais will bring and sustain the level of snarky brilliance he’s exhibited elsewhere, which managed to elude him during his first stint as host of the Globes ceremony earlier this year.
The 68th Annual Golden Globes will air live on Sunday, January 16 at 7 p.m. on NBC.