The 71st Golden Globes take place today, and while the stars are busy trying on their outfits, we're just trying not to groan. To their credit, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association sometimes shows better judgement than the Academy – most recently by awarding David Fincher and The Social Network over Tom Hooper and The King's Speech – but that's not always saying much.
Along with the actual awards they give out, the HFPA has come to be known for the controversy surrounding their selection thereof. So if you're looking to impress with witty banter come Sunday but find yourself short on material, we invite you to avail yourself of the following talking points:
During the red carpet: This may be the only part of the broadcast that's honest about what it is: a dog-and-pony show in which how you present yourself matters more than the caliber of your work. Who are you wearing?
During a commercial: The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is made up of fewer than 100 people, not all of whom are actually foreign. That this seemingly random bunch manages to put on the second-biggest awards show in terms of both prestige and popularity is something of an anomaly.
During the opening monologue: Don't hold your breath waiting for returning co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to acknowledge Ricky Gervais, who made everyone in the room antsy and every cynic at home gleeful when he hosted three consecutive ceremonies from 2010 to 2012. Gervais injected some much-needed honesty into the tony proceedings, polarizing viewers and attendees alike with lines like, “I like a drink as much as the next man, unless the next man is Mel Gibson.” The HFPA expressed hesitance to bring him back but did so anyway, which is to say that they got to have their cake and eat it, too. (Fey and Poehler are both wonderful, for the record.)
During any of actress awards: The Globes used to include a Best New Star of the Year award. Said laurel became a source of controversy in 1981, when it went to Butterfly's Pia Zadora despite both the film and its star receiving little in the way of praise. The choice became even more contentious when people discovered that Zadora's husband (who produced Butterfly) flew the HFPA to Vegas for a weekend getaway. Zadora received a couple other awards for her performance: the Razzies for Worst New Star and Worst Actress.
During Best Picture – Musical or Comedy: We're all for inclusivity, as this category actually leads to movies that might otherwise be ignored gaining some deserved recognition, but does anybody else feel uneasy by how much better the nominees in this category are than Best Picture – Drama? It's almost embarrassingly lopsided: Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, and The Wolf of Wall Street have all been relegated to the second tier, while Drama is packed with such decent-but-overrated fare as Gravity, Captain Phillips and Rush.
The field hasn't always been so strong. According to The Independent, Burlesque's nod went from bizarre to controversial just over three years ago once it was revealed that Sony took a page from the Butterfly playbook by flying HFPA members to Las Vegas, where “their all-expenses-paid trip included luxury hotel accommodation, free meals and a private concert performed by Burlesque's star, Cher.” The film's critical reception (it boasts a paltry 37 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) led to many a raised eyebrow when it was announced as a nominee.
During HFPA President Theo Kingma's speech: Even less likely to get mentioned than Gervais is former HFPA publicist Michael Russell, who sued the organization for $2 million and alleged that they “abuse their positions and engage in unethical and potentially unlawful deals and arrangements which amount to a payola scheme” after being fired in 2010. The case was settled last February, but don't expect the hatchet to be buried anytime soon. Oh well, there's always next year.
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