By James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., Special forUSDR.
The awards season is in high gear, and the time period leading up to the Oscars is now replete with shows that look and feel very much like the upcoming Academy Awards.
The most recent 72nd Golden Globe Awards, as well as the upcoming Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Critic’s Choice Movie Awards, are likely to have a significant impact on the ultimate Academy Award winners.
The effects, however, may be manifesting themselves in very different ways. Various guild awards typically assert influence on individual categories; for example, the Directors Guild Awards should expectedly play a large role in determining the winner of the Academy’s Best Direct or category.
Hollywood insiders usually do not attach a high degree of significance to the Globe awards in terms of prestige. However, awards such as these do tend to provide public relations momentum and name recognition, operating as a sort of prelude to the most coveted awards, the Oscars.
A problematic situation for the Globes has been a lack of genuine credibility, despite the awards show’s substantial capacity to generate buzz. Issues stem firstly from the arcane organization that is behind the Globes, that being the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). There are reportedly less than 90 voting members of the HFPA, many of whom are writers for obscure overseas publications. The Oscar voters from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences number more than 6,000, and the voters for the SAG Awards consist of a group whose numbers exceed 165,000.
The HFPA was quietly able to settle a $2 million breach of contract and fraud civil lawsuit in 2013, which had been filed in 2011 by a former publicist for the group, Michael Russell. Russell alleged that HFPA members were regularly given gifts, vacations, and cash from entertainment companies in an apparent exchange for Globe nominations. Russell claimed that the “unethical and potentially unlawful deals and arrangements” amounted to a “payola”scheme.
The HFPA gave three nominations to a marginal and critically panned film, “The Tourist,” to apparently obtain the participation of the stars of the movie, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, at the awards ceremony. The organization gave a trio of nominations to “Burlesque,” which stars Cher. Voters had reportedly been presented with a Las Vegas vacation, courtesy of the studio. The “Sin City” getaway package included a private concert performed by Cher herself.
In 1999 representatives for actress Sharon Stone evidently sent every voting member in the HFPA a $400 watch. After word leaked out, the watches were returned, but Stone was still able to snag a Globe nomination.
The ultimate credibility question mark popped up in 1982, when the HFPA bestowed a “New Star of the Year” award to Pia Zadora for box-office bomb “Butterfly.” Zadora’s husband at the time, Meshulam Riklis, who incidentally is the producer of “Butterfly,” provided a weekend trip to Las Vegas that included a screening party at his mansion. The “New Star of the Year’’ category was eliminated after the Globes were not allowed on television for several years.
This year, in an apparent effort to improve the credibility of the Globes, the HFPA may have overreacted. Actress-director Jolie, a former favorite of HFPA, was completely snubbed. The critically acclaimed box-office hit “Unbroken,” which Jolie directed, and Jolie’s family offering “Maleficent” each received zero nominations.
The top two critic favorites, and consequently recipients of tremendous Oscar buzz, are Richard Linklater’s twelve-year-long project, “Boyhood,” and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s plunge into comedic darkness, “Birdman.” Unfortunately, the Globe winner for Best Motion Picture-Drama, Best Director-Motion Picture, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, “Boyhood,” awkwardly shoehorns liberal meanderings and existential clichés into an excessively protracted film.
Richard Linklater’s best director Globe provides an assist to the name recognition of “Boyhood” and an added boost to the already front runner status of Patricia Arquette, who was able to take home a best supporting actress Globe.
Surprisingly, the HFPA did not give the highly acclaimed “Birdman” the Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical award as had been expected. The organization instead gave the award to the dark horse movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” The award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical, however, did go to Michael Keaton for “Birdman.”
Eddie Redmayne’s Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama win for his brilliant work in “The Theory of Everything” should provide momentum for a strong Oscar campaign. Redmayne and Keaton have somewhat cemented their co-frontrunner status for the Best Actor Oscar.
Julianne Moore was expected to, and indeed did, win the Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama for her work in “Still Alice,” a film in which she portrays a professor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Moore’s Globe reinforces her top-tier position for a Best Actress award from the Academy.
When it comes to publicity, the Globes have the ability to propel the winners toward their Oscar dreams. Still, a far more important indicator of Academy Award wins will arrive later this month as the recipients of the SAG Awards are revealed. This is because the SAG voting group is made up almost entirely of actors, and most Oscar voters are in the acting profession and also happen to be members of SAG.