Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Guy Lodge

From Barbra Streisand to Barbie: seven things you need to know about the new-look Golden Globes

Margot Robbie as Barbie in the 2023 film
Barbie is nominated nine times – but will Greta Gerwig scoop the Best Director prize? Photograph: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy

Two years ago, the Golden Globes and their organising body, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), were persona non grata in Hollywood. In disgrace following widespread reporting of corruption, racism and even sexual assault within their ranks, the ceremony was boycotted by the industry and dropped by its longtime broadcasting partner NBC.

The awards went ahead, unattended and untelevised, posing an equivalent showbiz question to the old “if a tree falls in a forest” conundrum. Turns out they did make something of a sound: cue the awkward social-media spectacle of winners such as Nicole Kidman and Rachel Zegler advertising their victories while sternly admonishing the voters. In the frenetic, dog-eat-dog rush of awards season, even a tarnished win is an opportunity.

After all, it’s not as if the globes fell from a very high pedestal. For years, the small-time, even obscure nature of the HFPA membership – and its often questionable decisions, including an infamous win for Pia Zadora in the 80s amid allegations of bribery, or a best picture nomination for the Johnny Depp calamity The Tourist – was a point of mockery from industry folk, who were still all too happy to attend their boozy January shindig.

In the current climate of social consciousness, however, it became harder to look the other way from less trivial allegations – including actor Brendan Fraser’s claim that former HFPA president Philip Berk groped him at an industry event. Pundits speculated that it was finally the end of the road for a tacky but once-treasured Hollywood institution.

Yet what a difference a painstaking PR makeover makes. After a tentative return to television last year – still boycotted by some nominees, including Fraser – the globes this year are splashily declaring themselves not just back but entirely different: new voters, a new attitude, even a couple of new award categories. Hollywood, meanwhile, will be returning in all its most glittery finery, proving that you can’t keep a good back-patting ceremony down. Or even a dubious one.

There’s a completely new voter base

Barbra Streisand won Best Director in 1984 for Yentl – the first woman to do so.
Barbra Streisand won Best Director in 1984 for Yentl – the first woman to do so. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One thing everyone used to know about the Golden Globes is that they were run by the HFPA. Quite what, or who, that meant was a murkier question. Essentially a nonprofit organisation of entertainment journalists for non-US outlets, it was a small club (about 100 members at its largest, and thus a far easier group to sway than the 10,500-member academy that votes on the Oscars) but not a lofty one.

Their seamy reputation was tolerated until 2021, when an LA Times investigation into the HFPA’s ethics and demographic makeup turned up, among other scandals, a complete lack of black members. Now disbanded, the association has been replaced with an invited group of 300 international journalists: 47% female and only 40% white, as boasted by the Globes’ new owners, private equity firm Eldridge Industries and Dick Clark Productions. This year’s mostly respectable nominations – topped by summer siblings Barbie and Oppenheimer, but heavy on critically adored art films such as Past Lives, Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest – suggest the new group would rather not be sneered at.

Barbie is the one to beat… maybe

Barbie leads all contenders at this year’s Golden Globe awards with a whopping nine nominations – tied with the 1972 musical Cabaret for the second-most of all time, with only another 70s classic, Nashville, ahead of them on 11.

Cynics might point out that three of Barbie’s nominations are in the relatively minor best original song category, while another comes in the newly created and oddly defined category of cinematic and box office achievement, alongside the less prestigious likes of The Super Mario Bros Movie and Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour. (When the Oscars floated a similar-sounding best popular film award a few years ago, it was ultimately scrapped for being craven and confusing – two adjectives the globes have never feared.)

Don’t assume Barbie’s nomination haul guarantees a good night for Team Gerwig, however, particularly with fierce competition from Poor Things in the comedy/musical categories: from its record-breaking 11 bids, Nashville won a single award… for best original song.

Marilyn Monroe clutches her Golden Globe award with pride after winning Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy in the film Some Like It Hot.
Marilyn Monroe clutches her Golden Globe award with pride after winning Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy in the film Some Like It Hot. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

Don’t place your Oscar bets just yet

Then again, for those with an eye on the biggest prize – the Oscar – the globes aren’t the be-all and end-all. For years, it was assumed that the globes were a reliable Oscar predictor but recently they’ve diverged significantly, as pundits look more to industry guild awards and the Baftas for Oscar tea leaves. In the last 20 years, only eight best picture Oscar winners won the corresponding prize at the globes.

Last year, globe voters preferred Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin to eventual Oscar sweeper Everything Everywhere All at Once, just as they did Austin Butler and Angela Bassett to Oscar winners Brendan Fraser and Jamie Lee Curtis. The year before, Jane Campion’s queer western The Power of the Dog trumped cheesy Oscar champ Coda; in others, they opted for The Social Network over The King’s Speech, The Grand Budapest Hotel over Birdman, Brokeback Mountain over shock Oscar victor Crash, and so on.

They can be hipper than you think

If, like many critics and cinephiles, you think those choices reflect rather well on the beleaguered, less prestigious ceremony, here’s the thing nobody tends to admit about the globes: they sometimes have better, bolder taste than you might think.

This is the group, after all, that nominated David Lynch’s visionary Mulholland Drive for best picture in 2001 – something the Oscars cannot claim – and has recently handed out inspired acting wins to the likes of Isabelle Huppert, for her daringly perverse portrayal of a conflicted rape victim in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, and Sally Hawkins, who wasn’t even Oscar- or Bafta-nominated, for her highly original comic turn in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky.

Indeed, the globes’ comedy/musical category has enabled them to reward various classic films and performances for which the Academy was too po-faced: Marilyn Monroe may never have received an Oscar nomination, but she did pick up a well-deserved Globe for Some Like It Hot.

They have a serious thing for

Barbra Streisand

For all their past diversity-related controversies, the globes beat the Oscars to one particular milestone by 26 years. Whereas it took the latter until 2010 to reward a woman for best director – Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker – the globes did it all the way back in 1984. Admittedly, the HFPA didn’t have to move outside their celebrity-loving comfort zone to do this: the winner was Barbra Streisand for her directorial debut, the self-aggrandising musical Yentl, an achievement the academy’s directors’ branch chose not to nominate at all.

As it happens, between her achievements in acting, filmmaking and songwriting, La Streisand holds the record for the most Golden Globe trophies with 10. (Meryl Streep, with eight, holds the record for acting wins alone.) With globe voters having preferred James Cameron to Bigelow in the year of her Oscar coronation, only Chloé Zhao and Jane Campion have since joined Streisand on the list of women to win for directing: Greta Gerwig and Past Lives newcomer Celine Song are hoping to join them this year.

HBO drama The Last of Us is in the running for the Best Series award.
HBO drama The Last of Us is in the running for the Best Series award. Photograph: Sky

They didn’t have a host until 2010

Traditionally, the appeal of the globes has been that it’s the more fun, more raucous version of the Oscars. With seating around dinner tables rather than theatre-style, and alcohol flowing freely throughout, it has a reputation for entertainingly inebriated speeches and chaotic mishaps – the night where a hammered Elizabeth Taylor couldn’t open the envelope for the award she was presenting, and when Renée Zellweger was in the loo when her best actress win was announced.

A frill-free ceremony – just awards, no production numbers, no emcee – was a key part of their informality. Then, in 2010, they introduced a tradition of suitably fast-and-loose hosts, including Ricky Gervais and the popular duo of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. This year, the job falls to a lesser-known comic, Filipino-American standup Jo Koy. It’s a big gig, though still comes with nothing like the pressure of hosting the Oscars.

Oh, and they’re not just about film

Where the Oscars’ viewership figures have declined in parallel with diminishing cinemagoing numbers, the globes have their additional television awards to lure in small screen-inclined audiences. Though the Emmys retain their reputation as the most prestigious prize in TV, the Golden Globes – drawn to shiny new things, and thus less inclined than the Emmys to pick the same winners year on year – can be more exciting on this front.

It’s the group that handed best series prizes to the Emmy-less likes of Brideshead Revisited, Twin Peaks, Girls and the original British version of The Office. This year, viewers can see if that trend results in wins for hot new series like The Last of Us and Jury Duty, or if past victors Succession and Abbott Elementary prevail again.

Meanwhile, a brand new category for best performance in standup comedy on television – with the nominees including Ricky Gervais, Amy Schumer and Chris Rock – gives the Golden Globes a unique selling point in a crowded season of awards shows: no other major ceremony has an equivalent.

The critically adored Past Lives is up for a Globe.
The critically adored Past Lives is up for a Globe. Photograph: Jon Pack/PR IMAGE
Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.