As A-listers shun Golden Globes, have awards shows had their day?

By Vanessa Thorpe
Olivia Colman with her Golden Globe, for The Crown, at the 2020 ceremony.
Olivia Colman with her Golden Globe, for The Crown, at the 2020 ceremony. Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Those shining orbs, the Golden Globe awards, have well and truly lost their lustre. Unloved and almost unattended, the prize-giving ceremony that once promised more Hollywood entertainment value than any other, with closeups of tipsy stars in unguarded moments, will not even be screened on network TV. Its demotion follows a series of rows over its dubious practices and lack of diversity.

Yet the event at the Beverly Hilton hotel comes as Hollywood tries to cling on by its glistening fingernails to all the traditional allure and hoopla of the awards season. After two years of film-making against a background of Covid infections and international restrictions, the industry sorely needs to keep up the illusion of glamour and fun that helps to bankroll its biggest productions.

Despite efforts to quickly reconfigure the nomination and voting processes behind the awards and to emphasise its philanthropic arm, the 2022 globes are likely to make a fairly lame first outing, with no red-carpet buildup or even a livestream. As campaigner Melissa Silverstein, founder and publisher of Women in Hollywood, told the Observer this weekend: “If an award is handed out alone in a forest, with nobody looking, did it really happen at all?”

Silverstein, who also directs the Athena film festival, added: “The Globes were always the awards where the nominees would be a little drunk by the time they got up for their awards and people would turn up to enjoy themselves, but they have really fallen away this year. They can’t get anybody to go to it.

“It’s sad, but they deserved it as they treated people horribly. When women actors were put up in front of the press in the past they had to answer questions about their babies and their personal lives. The awards organisers felt they had all the power. Shame on everybody, though, for letting it go on for so long. I’m sure many nominees will be relieved they don’t have to go through that any more.”

Phoebe Waller-Bridge with her Golden Globe at the 2020 ceremony.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge with her Golden Globe at the 2020 ceremony. Photograph: Rob Latour/Rex/Shutterstock

The awards are run by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which was last year called to account for its ethical failings and failure to reflect the wider film world, as well as answer questions about its finances. In 2019 none of the 87 members was black and the recruitment of 21 more to improve diversity has been dismissed as tokenism.

These claims, echoed by stars such as Scarlett Johansson, who refused to take part in their events claiming that “sexist questions” from members “bordered on sexual harassment” and Tom Cruise who returned his three awards, led to boycotts from most of the leading public relations firms with which the HFPA was once hand-in-satin-glove. None of the industry magazines is promoting the event this year, NBC has pulled out of a broadcast arrangement, and A-list stars have refused to attend.

“The Globes have been the big loser of the season,” said Jeremy Kay, US editor of Screen Daily. “For months, the HFPA has been furiously issuing press releases to show it’s undergoing fundamental structural change to course-correct, bring in new membership and ingratiate itself with Hollywood, but it got the cold shoulder. The Globes nominations passed by with little fanfare and it is hard to see tonight’s ceremony registering anything like the level of interest it has enjoyed over the years. Its influence on the Oscar season seems negligible.”

It is possible, though, that this reversal of fortunes has had the accidental effect of modernising the Globes and making them more suited to our sombre, mid-pandemic era. Critic Robbie Collin suggested last week in the Telegraph that their low-key look would be more apt: short on pizazz, short on self-congratulation, and, most importantly he seems to feel, just plain short.

Yet the annual awards season is a key component of the marketing machine in Los Angeles, and organisers of the Critics Choice awards were hoping to benefit from the Globes’ loss of status this time around.

The Critics Choice ceremony was also due to take place this month but a fresh surge in Omicron cases has seen it postponed. So maybe it is now the Baftas, held in London on 13 March, that has the best chance of attracting attention before the Oscars on 27 March.

Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Helen Hoehne and rapper Snoop Dogg in 2021.
Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Helen Hoehne and rapper Snoop Dogg in 2021. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

The British academy has already undergone its own hefty shake-up and self-examination, following recent accusations that female directors and black artists were under-represented. It will also inevitably gain kudos this spring from the number of British actors winning plaudits. Among them are Olivia Colman, for The Lost Daughter, Benedict Cumberbatch, for Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, and Kenneth Branagh, for Belfast, starring Jamie Dornan and Ciarán Hinds. Each is in the running for a string of prizes, potentially culminating in golden statuettes at the ceremony that still outshines them all.

“Despite an ongoing decline in the TV audience for the Oscars telecast, the show remains the pinnacle of the US awards season,” said Kay. “But there’s also now a lot of love for other events, like the indie-skewing Spirit awards in Santa Monica, scheduled to take place in early March, and for last November’s Gotham awards in New York.”

For Silverstein all the jockeying for prominence between the awards is an unwelcome distraction: “I hope the really big story will also be noticed; the fact we could have a woman, Jane Campion, being nominated for the Oscar for directing twice. If that happens it would also be the second year running it goes to a woman. And her cinematographer is a woman too. That would be monumental.”

But the thirst for red carpet footage of women in frocks, she knows, will not go away. “It’s because of the pressure for eyeballs. The television networks are very worried about the disconnect between the films that make money at the box office and those that win awards.”

Silverstein argues that audiences can find quality content without any emphasis on glamour and high heels. The achievements of women behind the camera, as well as in front, should be marked, before the film industry then concentrates on opening its doors to a wider group of people and on moving away from the financial imperatives that drive a conveyor belt of action and superhero films.

“I’m really hoping to see a change in the way we define a successful film now. You really can make a profitable film without having a big budget. If you make any money, then you’ve had a successful film. So how do we de-couple the movie industry from this expectation of really big profits?”

Whether the tarnished Golden Globes can be buffed-up again next yearto help with this shift in perspective remains in doubt.

“It’s too soon to say whether the HFPA will be embraced and welcomed back into the awards community next season,” said Kay. “At a time when content creators and actors from under-represented communities have been making their voices heard, Hollywood finally is very publicly moving to a place where any whiff of inequity will no longer be tolerated.

“Over the past five years or so diversity has become the watchword and the industry has been vocal in wanting to embrace change. You see it in awards season and in the reporting of awards season, where outlets are quick to tot up how many women or people of colour, for example, are among nominees and winners. The Gotham awards recently announced their first gender-neutral winners in acting categories and I wouldn’t be surprised if other groups follow suit in future and we see new, ‘woke’ awards shows spring up.”

• This article was amended on 9 January 2022. Jane Campion has been nominated for a best director Oscar once before but she did not win it as suggested in an earlier version due to a misquote.


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