Lights, Camera, Conversation… “Argo amuse yourself!”

Posted on January 18, 2013


The Golden Globes ceremony, as always, was a lot of fun. But now we also seem closer than ever to predicting whom the Oscars will go to.

The narrative around the Golden Globes, acknowledged thus far as little more than a pre-Oscar party, has changed. Earlier, Anne Hathaway’s win (for Les Misérables) over sentimental favourite Sally Field (Lincoln) in the Best Supporting Actress category would have merely ensured Hathaway’s nomination for an Academy Award. Till this year, the Golden Globes were regarded as an indication of who would get to be one of the five Oscar nominees, based on the belief that there are far too many movies to see from the last year’s lot and it’s always easier to crib from a list drawn up by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which hosts the Golden Globes. But given that the Oscar nominations, now, are announced before the Golden Globes are handed out, Hathaway’s suddenly looking a lot closer to the most coveted space of real estate in Hollywood: the podium of the Dolby Theatre, where the Academy Awards will be handed out on February 24.

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Why do we watch the Golden Globes? They’re not as prestigious or as widely recognised as the Oscars. (You don’t hear an actor or actress being touted as a “Golden Globe winner” in the previews for forthcoming films.) The show itself is a series of thinly disguised promotions, with many of the presenters being picked according to whose film or television show is opening soon in foreign markets. (How else do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger got in there, to present the award for Best Foreign Film? It wasn’t so much his passion for art cinema – cinephile though he may be – as the fact that his new film, The Last Stand, is opening around the world this weekend.) And some of the nominations are really baffling. The Academy Awards have been embroiled in a few questionable decisions over the years, but at least they haven’t nominated Emily Blunt for her turn in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

But we watch the show all the same because it’s funnier than the Oscars, whose presenter (or presenters) would never stoop to a quip like this: “’Kathryn Bigelow’s nominated tonight. I haven’t really been following the controversy over Zero Dark Thirty, but when it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron.” This irreverence – and constant acknowledgement that this is a looser event, given all the boozing inside the auditorium – makes the show a decent time-killer. (There was even a dig at the more prestigious awards ceremony. Co-host Tina Fey intoned, “Anne Hathaway, you gave a stunning performance in Les Misérables. I have not seen someone so totally alone and abandoned like that since you were on stage with James Franco at the Oscars.”) You have to wonder if Jennifer Lawrence, winner of Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook, would have made this quip had this been the Oscars: “Harvey, thank you for killing whoever you had to kill to get me up here today.”

The jokes apart, this year’s Golden Globes had an unexpectedly touching speech by Jodie Foster, winner of the Cecil B DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, who left one wondering if she made the whole thing up on the spot (given the roller-coaster-like ups and downs of emotion, the exhilarated sense of letting go) or if she’s really that good an actress that she can make it seem as if she made the whole thing up on the spot. (The speech was just so… perfect.) More than her coming out, it was her reference to her mother’s dementia that left me in tears. (And you never expect to mist up at the Golden Globes.) Foster said, “Mom, I know you’re inside those blue eyes somewhere and that there are so many things that you won’t understand tonight. But this is the only important one to take in: I love you, I love you, I love you. And I hope that if I say this three times, it will magically and perfectly enter into your soul, fill you with grace and the joy of knowing that you did good in this life.” Beautiful.

As someone who’s always admired Foster’s work – the acting as well as the directing; I even enjoyed The Beaver, that charming comedy with slyly serrated edges – I was happy to see her win, but the reason I watch the Golden Globes is to get a sense of the latest in American television, which, through dramas and mini-series, has cornered the market on subjects that are a tough sell on the big screen (especially now that every film has to have global appeal). And in the process, we see great parts being populated by actors whom the screen no longer has any use for (former draws like Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Costner) or doesn’t know what to do with (oddball “character”-types like Julianne Moore and Claire Danes). Why don’t we have, here, the HBO model, where filmmakers can create works of vision without worrying about the box office? Is it because we won’t pay extra for such a channel? Or because, like our original pop or rock music is often crushed under the film-music juggernaut, we just won’t look at any form of cinema that doesn’t play in the local theatres?

Lights, Camera, Conversation… is a weekly dose of cud-chewing over what Satyajit Ray called Our Films Their Films. An edited version of this piece can be found here.

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