The 71st Golden Globes: A Lesson in Awards Show Shenanigans and Politics

The Golden Globes has, in my mind, always been the reckless and rebellious cousin to the Oscars, with the Hollywood Foreign Press’ celebration of cinema and television seeming not quite as stuffy and serious as the Academy’s affair. The party this year, however, got a little out of hand and in not enough of the right ways, either. Some of my criticisms may seem pointlessly unsolvable, and I realize that, especially given my growing and deepening investment in all things film seeming to correlate with my feeling that awards, in general, have grown increasingly predictable.

First, let me point out that there were some surprises in the latter portion of this year’s Globes specifically; I was pleased when Robin Wright won for her elegantly wicked turn in House of Cards, and for Andy Samberg and Brooklyn Nine Nine to win was even more of a shock, one that the show, and myself, desperately needed by that point in the night. Up until then, the winners were pretty understandable, and when they weren’t, they were still sort of anti-climactic disappointments (I mainly mean Jon Voigt’s win here, who the Hollywood Foreign Press seems to particularly love and favor, but this is all a matter of opinion and perception of course anyway).

I guess in terms of predictability, I feel like there aren’t so many surprises in terms of who is nominated year to year. We can all smell the Oscar bait from months away and we are all hooked on it, even when that bait is seemingly innovative, provocative, or unique or when it is the total opposite—totally safe and typical. The praise is everywhere, either way, with little to no breathing room and even less room for littler gems to shine through. What made Little Miss Sunshine or Juno more worthy than this past year’s The Way Way Back, produced by the same studio?

I don’t have an answer to that question beyond, perhaps, speculating that the competition has grown ever steeper, with up to ten best picture nominees and therefore more mainstream quality pictures being made and pushing their way into every fillable spot. I think the Golden Globes’ acknowledgment and separation of genres, as odd as some generic classifications may seem, is refreshing and important; why shouldn’t we consider and appreciate comedy in this way after all?

But, I still think the politics of award’s season overall has gotten worse at a time where so many exciting and new things seem to be surfacing, but their surfacing may in fact be only for diversity’s sake; I will never not be bitter that The King’s Speech took the safe route and won over the more risky and interesting The Social Network. Again, maybe that is personal bias, but it does nothing to further the sense of predictability and immobility in the film industry’s upper echelons.

All of that being said, I feel like the Golden Globes, on some very low level, betrayed my expectations in, again, all of the wrong ways this year. For instance, I think there is a tricky balance that needs to be struck when it comes to using hosts properly: the opening was funny but nothing special, despite the comic talent and genius that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have especially together. I feel like they carried with them a promise of a great show, but the amount of time the show actually devoted to utilizing them for that purpose was so miniscule that, in a way, the whole show felt somewhat boring. I’m not sure that it would have been preferable to have them on screen too much, either, but whatever kind of balance might have been achieved was certainly, and negatively, off kilter for me.

That isn’t to say there wasn’t some unintentional comic fodder: from the seating and subsequent route to the stage that took so much screen time that it turned winners’ walks to accept their statues into awkward dead air, to the awkward dead air that was Jacqueline Bisset’s acceptance speech itself. I wasn’t even surprised when presenters or winners acted drunkenly. I was more surprised that those drunken moments didn’t seem funny or natural in themselves as they usually do.

So, I leave this post with no definitive thesis or even a helpful, constructive word of criticism or advice. I do, however, hesitate to leave it without at least emphasizing again that there are sometimes wonderful awards surprises that are unbiased and unpredictable, and it is that kind of moment that makes me love awards shows still, no matter how many of the nominated movies I have or haven’t seen yet or how many wins and losses and snubs I agree or disagree with. But, those moments can sometimes be few and far between, sadly, and that is what makes the politics of awards so tragically and unjustly apparent; for many, the 12 Years A Slave best picture win at the Globes only barely, if at all, made up for the fact that it won no other category whatsoever throughout the night up until then. So whether this has to do with race or some other system of decision making or perhaps neither at all, doesn’t change the fact that winning and losing carries with it certain consequences and social responsibilities as well.

And all of that aside for a moment, the Golden Globes does in many ways (and in combination with the Screen Actors Guild awards) reflect and predict what trends the Oscars will exhibit. If that is the case, though, I’ll be interested to see what then will surprise us or bore us, anger and incite us or maybe even please us, and what will entertain us whether intentionally or not.

Sara majors in Film Studies and Media & Communication at Muhlenberg College. Her favorite genre is horror but she loves learning, writing and talking about all kinds of movies and all forms of entertainment. She has interned with Film Forum and Tribeca Film, both in her native NYC where she hopes to find work in criticism, marketing, distribution, or festival programming post-grad. Her blog and associated Twitter were created with the intention of being more involved and aware of happenings in the film and television industries, as well as to practice writing about pop culture in an academic but friendly and funny way.

Image: HFPA