As various critics organisations hand out their annual awards, speculation over who'll win the Oscars grows ever more feverish, at least among numerous pundits and commentators--even if your typical cinemagoer isn't too fussed about the outcome.
Amid all the awards' hoopla and hype, one group continues to exert an unholy influence which is wholly disproportionate to its size and individual members' power: the mob that doles out the Golden Globes.
Since 1944, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has been handing out these awards, ostensibly to “recognise outstanding achievements” by the US and international entertainment industries.
This secretive body won't reveal how many members it has (widely believed to be no more than 85, mostly freelancers) or even who they are. In 2003, Vikram Jayanti's documentary The Golden Globes: Hollywood's Dirty Little Secret claimed many HFPA members were known more as star-struck fans and 'moochers' than as serious reporters.
The docu quoted LA Weekly film critic John Powers as describing them as “essentially just bottom-feeders around the industry, who've somehow been inflated to this point where their judgment is supposed to be very, very important.”
It's long been suspected that the HFPA nominates actors as much with an eye to which stars will front up to their glitzy January awards ceremony as to their actual performances. And that its members can easily be swayed by being glad-handed by studios with dinners and junkets to film sets.
This year some of its nominations are truly bizarre, such as the three nods to The Tourist (for Best Musical or Comedy and for co-stars Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp) and one for Burlesque. Both films were critical and commercial disasters in the US and you'd be hard pressed to find any nominations for either by any reputable critic. The organisation did accord seven nomination for The King's Speech and six apiece for The Social Network and The Fighter.
But many pundits were scratching their heads over The Kids Are All Right and Red being nominated for the musical or comedy category, and asking why Mike Leigh's critically praised Another Year and the Coen brothers' True Grit remake were overlooked entirely.
The NBC network is a willing party to this farce as it pays the HFPA an annual license fee of $US13.3 million to broadcast the awards, which last year drew 16.9 million viewers in the US—not bad, but dwarfed by the 41.3 million who watched the Oscars.
Shamefully, many actors, directors and producer play along with the pretence that the Globes actually mean something, rushing out statements (no doubt concocted by their publicists) to say how honoured and thrilled they are to be nominated.
Reality check: Only once in the in the last six years has the winner of one of the Globe's top film prizes gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscars, and that was Slumdog Millionaire.
Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells derides the Globes as “unethical, whorish, an annual laughing stock.”
Deadline.com's Nikki Finke is even more acerbic, observing, “It's a completely meaningless awards show by a scandal-riddled organization on a network desperate for ratings.”
Adds Finke, “The entire entertainment industry props up this pathetic broadcast because it's seen as a night-long marketing tool. Therefore, it's ridiculous for anyone to consider the movie categories as a window on the Oscar frontrunners.”
True enough, but no doubt there'll be a sizable audience in the US and in Oz for the Globes ceremony on January 17 our time.