Between Reviews: The Prize is Right

Posted on January 22, 2011

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The 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards was nothing special. But at least it takes itself less seriously than the Oscars, and is therefore more fun.

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JAN 23, 2011A DECIDEDLY ODD CONTRADICTION appears at work with the Golden Globes, the annual awards handed out by an oft-derided bunch of journalists who club themselves under the reasonably impressive-sounding title of Hollywood Foreign Press Association. No one takes the proceedings seriously – and perhaps rightly so. For what respect can you accord an awards show that has Johnny Depp nominated for both Alice in Wonderland and The Tourist, in a category other than Best Pay Cheque Casher? The HFPA doesn’t help matters with its strange rites and rituals, like anointing a Miss Golden Globe each year, the scion of a showbiz family. (This time it was Gia Mantegna, daughter of Joe.) And what does Miss Golden Globe do but stand by the wings, directing stage traffic this way and that. Look beyond the privileged aura of a coming-out cotillion, and the position seems no more than a glorified usher. You won’t find a counterpart on the Oscar stage.

No wonder the winners are emboldened to make light of – even mock – their wins. Picking up his lose-or-gain-weight-and-win-an-award statuette (aka the Raging Bull trophy) for The Fighter, Christian Bale smirked that he wasn’t sure who the HFPA were, but now that he’d won, he realised how just wise and perceptive these guys really are. He omitted the part about what good and gracious hosts they are. Table after table had as its centerpiece a silver bucket of iced Moët, and the air of nonchalance so filled the hall that the host, Ricky Gervais, brought with him a glass of beer and wet this throat before uttering the evening’s first words. And yet, despite the jokes, the Golden Globes, once handed, provoke furious speculation. They are widely seen as a bellwether for the Oscars, and bookmakers are no doubt upping the odds that The Social Network will be much friended by the Academy, or that Colin Firth, the stammering ruler of The King’s Speech, will win the display-a-disability-and-win-an-award statuette (aka the Rain Man trophy).

The Golden Globes and the Oscars have often announced the same winners, but the latter have, over the years, acquired the well-buffed sheen of prestige – and that’s more than a little unfair. All awards, ultimately, are meaningless. At least, they don’t mean anything in any absolute sense – they’re just a reflection of the tastes and prejudices and biases of a given set of voters in a given year. And the Globes score over the Oscars not only in showcasing stars in a relaxed mood – there are, after all, those bottles of Moët; the camera caught Angelina Jolie resting against Brad Pitt’s shoulder as if this weren’t a globally televised event but an evening by the fireplace at the Pitt-Jolie mansion – but also by separately recognising comedy and drama. This is an awards ceremony where the deceptively lightweight The Kids Are All Right can walk home with Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, while The Social Network expectedly takes home Best Motion Picture – Drama. This is the feature that redeems the Globes, this acknowledgement of Best Apple along with Best Orange, unlike the Oscars that are notorious for sidelining lighter films (or at least, lighter-toned films) in favour of Motion Pictures with Mighty Themes.

Otherwise, an awards show is an awards show is an awards show. The emcee begins with a few poison-laced barbs, all in good spirit. (Sample shocker from Gervais: “I’d like to quash this ridiculous rumour going around that the only reason The Tourist was nominated was so that the foreign press could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. That is rubbish. That is not the only reason. They also accepted bribes.”) And then it’s an endless procession of (a) lame scripted banter between presenters (the lamest being Chris Hemsworth, the future Thor, and Chris Evans, the upcoming Captain America, commenting that the TV actresses nominated in the supporting category were “superheroes of acting”); and (b) tedious acceptance speeches with breathless thank-yous directed, apparently, at everyone in the phone book. Accepting her award for Temple Grandin, Claire Danes confessed, “I have to rattle these names off because everybody was so vital.” Well, who isn’t in the massively collaborative effort of making movies? Or do what David Fincher did, reading out a script from sheets of paper – at least the ums were minimised.

As always, the best acceptance speeches were the shortest. Clutching his prize for playing the gay student in the television series Glee, Chris Colfer negotiated a message-heavy meditation with heart and humour. “To all the amazing kids that watch our show, and the kids that our show celebrates who are constantly told ‘no’ by the people and the environments, by bullies at school that they can’t be who they are or have what they want because of who they are, well… screw that kids!” Through the other speeches, the mind roamed freely, alighting on the occasional interesting celebrity – here’s Michelle Pfeiffer; there’s a cadaverous Michael Douglas, scarily emaciated after his recent bout with cancer; but where’s AR Rahman, whose score for 127 Hours brought about the evening’s one true will-he-won’t-he moment? And is that what Olivier Assayas looks like? The creator of Irma Vep, you’d imagine, would ooze dangerous edge, but here he is, a cheerful cherub with what appears to be a headful of happy thoughts.

Jon Hamm just could not stop beaming when his name was announced as nominee for the superlative TV drama Mad Men. He was rightfully proud of his work, his show – and how many Indian television actors can say that? Looking at the quality and range of American television – through drama (Boardwalk Empire, Dexter) and comedy (Modern Family) and even musicals like Glee – you wonder why Indian television has no space for anything but soaps and reality shows. Instead of pursuing the fickle box office with feature film ventures, prostrating before vain stars and artless producers, why don’t talented filmmakers look towards TV? A weekly show even comes with guaranteed regular income, and you don’t have to second-guess what the audience wants. Looking at the astonishing variety of television shows at the Golden Globes, you have to ask why we don’t make better TV. Or are we a country where every filmmaker harbours one desire only, and that’s to see his name stretching across a big, big screen?

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Posted in: Between Reviews