There have been bad, even excruciating, awards shows before. In fact, one might say excruciating awards shows are almost the rule and when an Oscar night, say, is mildly entertaining, that fact is greeted with such shock that critics are all but dancing in the streets. Hollywood has long since let entertainment in these things take a back seat to a whole range of industrial and political interests.
So the fact that Sunday night’s Golden Globes was terrible is nothing unusual.
And the COVID/Zoom thing, it's an awful way to have to do a show, but circumstances, you know, and this isn't something that's going to last forever. It would be easy enough to say, yeah, clunky show, tough to pull off but given These Troubled Times, let's give it a Gentleman's C and hope for better days.
But last night it felt like we were witnessing something bigger than the flop of one year's installment of one awards banquet. Something more like a systemic collapse that frankly went beyond the HFPA and beyond even the awards race that got at the very beating cold dark soul of our industry.
Not to get too, too maudlin and dramatic about it, but last night I felt like I was witnessing the death of Hollywood before my very eyes.
Hollywood's awards circuit has always been interesting in that it shows the face that the industry wants to present the world. Glamorous! Caring! Creators of myths and spectacle! Good looking! Conscience of the world! You name it, as Hollywood's vision of itself has evolved.
Last night, at a moment the world, truly the world, is in enormous pain, the face of Hollywood was selfish, self-obsessed, small, petty, and incompetent; thinking about itself, thinking about its causes, thinking about anything but what the audience might be looking for from its entertainers at this moment.
Which is just about where the traditional industry is. We've become this bloated goliath, disgorging these monstrous projects with a grim, plodding professionalism more befitting the insurance industry than the world's entertainers. I mean, if Hollywood doesn't have its fingers on the zeitgeist of humanity, then really what good is it to anyone? At all.
But a show of stars having awkward conversations with each other over Zoom—celebrities, they're just like us!—from their couches, giving long-winded, self-important acceptance speeches for (on the movie side anyway) their roles in a bunch of films that almost no one has seen and very few have even heard of, punctuated by uncomfortable moments about the unimaginable lack of diversity in the HFPA, an organization which I imagine hardly any viewers of the Golden Globes even have a clue what it is.
All this at a time when, as I say, the world is suffering, so seeing wealthy Hollywood elites congratulate themselves over Zoom is not quite where the general mood is, I think we'll find.
There was no reason this had to take place. There is nothing on Earth that requires the annual presentation of Golden Globe awards. The world will keep turning without a gala Golden Globe ceremony this year. But, as Variety's editor explained:
The Globes remain a vitally important cog in Hollywood’s awards race and are considered a bellwether of the Oscars.
And lord knows, we can't survive without that.
The fact is, there is too much money going to too many places for anyone to contemplate even a timeout for the circuit. The movie awards snake has officially swallowed its own tail. Movie awards have become more important than movies. So important that they must go forward, even if there are no movies anyone has seen. Even if doing so drives away audiences forever.
There you have in a nutshell the encapsulation of what's sick in this industry and why we're all doomed, to put a nice ribbon around it. The show that has a special spot on the viewing calendar, having risen to prominence as the night when you can see stars get drunk and acting silly, is now such a vitally important cog in the awards industrial complex that canceling it is unthinkable. That's the story of legacy Hollywood.
Sayeth The Ankler friend Jack Woltz: "Major League Baseball had a World Series even though they were only 60 games in the season, but everybody knows who the Dodgers are. It’s not like some obscure minor-league team you’ve never heard of was suddenly playing for the crown because there were no real baseball teams available to play."
It would be one thing if this were just the Globes, which always marches to its own drummer, shall we say. But with a few tweaks this is almost exactly the same cliff that Oscar plans to march off in a few weeks hence. I would love to be in the AMPAS' offices when the Globes ratings come in tomorrow and they look in the eye what they are walking into.
BOILERPLATE SOAPBOX PLEA ALERT: I'll repeat one more time, if Oscar took a year off from self-congratulation for entertainment that entertained no one, and used the time to raise money and awareness for the many, many people suffering around the world, think how much bigger, more noble, more glamorous Hollywood would seem. Compare that to how much smaller and prettier it looked last night. Last exit to self-respect, Oscar. There's still a chance.
The awards circuit is not attracting any new viewers. This is a legacy audience, an aging audience tuning in out of sheer habit. Give them an excuse to break that habit this year and we'll see how many return a year later. Or worse still: finally bore them until they can't take another minute.
And consider this: The Globes is the fun night on the awards circuit! The loose, informal, sloshed and sloppy night of 1,000 stars where they don't waste awards slots on anything but stars. Are we all ready on Oscar night for four hours of sound editors sitting on their filing cabinets talking into Zoom about what tremendous support the whole team at Paradigm has been?
A few other stray thoughts:
• It's interesting to note that the lack of diversity was the pall over the show. The junketeering and self-dealing was barely nodded to. Despite that embarrassing, grim, hostage statement, in a 90-member organization, lack of diversity should be fixable in a day. The junketeering question is, of course, much larger than the HFPA, and it’s a problem roughly the size of the entire industry. And the press which covers it, and isn't going anywhere, demonstrated that tonight.
• That said, in the hostage statement: "We look forward to a more inclusive future" was an oddly passive way of apologizing. A more inclusive future to be handed them by Dick Clark Prods, perhaps?
• It's interesting that the Emmys decided to have fun with the whole Zoom format and the Golden Globes decided not to. Maybe film and this whole march has gotten too big to just fool around anymore.
• You would think that being at home they'd be even more drunk than in the Hilton ballroom, but apparently, everyone's got an 8 a.m. Zoom meeting they have to be fresh for. Truth is, no one is even that drunk in the ballroom anymore. For every star, there are 400 people stuffed together in there—most of them in tiaras—trying to get a piece of the stars. The atmosphere is too congested and high strung for serious boozing. Such is the journey of Hollywood.
• I'm sure there's something in the universe more awkward and uncomfortable than musically playing off the winners over Zoom during their speeches, but offhand I can't think what they would be.
• For all the weirdness about the Musical/Comedy category, you'd never in a zillion years see The Academy give a prize to Borat for any major award, so it is nice that comedies stand a prayer in one corner of the circuit.
• "The second woman in Golden Globes history to win its best directing prize.” A breakthrough or a sad commentary? Either way, Herodotus is turning over in his grave at the use of "history" in the same sentence with "Golden Globes."
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