It’s that time of the year again: the beautiful people are suiting up, Daniel Day-Lewis is making space on the mantelpiece, and gongs are being dished out left, right and centre. The big one – the Oscars – doesn’t roll round until 24th February, but of the rest it’s the Golden Globes that carries the most weight, and its 70th incarnation took place last week.
The film section of the ceremony was contended by a largely predictable core of movies: Ben Affleck’s hostage thriller Argo, historical drama Lincoln, Quentin Tarantino’s latest blood-splattered offering Django Unchained, rom-com Silver Linings Playbook, and musical adaptation Les Misérables. Of these it was Les Mis and Argo that came off the best; the former scooped three awards – the most of the night – and the latter took best film and best director for Ben Affleck. Affleck, who had been up against some of Hollywood’s biggest names, accepted the award ecstatically: “when they put your name next to the nominees… it’s an extraordinary thing in your life”. He also claimed: “I don’t care what the award is”, which is good because he’s almost certainly going to lose to Stephen Spielberg at the Oscars.
Spielberg’s own film Lincoln secured a win for Daniel Day-Lewis as Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama), with Day-Lewis looking decidedly less awestruck than the night’s other winners as he stepped up to receive the gong. If he goes on to win the equivalent award at the Oscars in a month’s time, it’ll be his third and he’ll set a new record for most decorated actor. Other than that though, Lincoln was probably the biggest underperformer of the night; of seven nominations – the most of any movie there – this was the only one.
It was a happy night for Les Misérables, with Anne Hathaway winning Best Supporting Actress, Hugh Jackman scooping Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) and the film itself taking Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy). Django Unchained also had a good night, with director Tarantino and actor Christoph Waltz collecting Screenplay and Supporting Actor respectively.
Triumphs in the television categories were similarly concentrated. US political miniseries Game Change took three awards, as did Homeland, whose stars Damian Lewis and Claire Danes both took away gongs. HBO comedy series Girls received two, and the rest went to a plethora of well-known shows.
The awards, though, are of course only half of the fun; the evening’s guest appearances and unscripted moments were, as ever, the most memorable. Sadly Ricky Gervais didn’t return this year to reprise his role as gleeful star-bullying circus master, but the list of presenters was more star-studded than the list of nominees themsleves, with Jessica Alba, Christian Bale, George Clooney, Will Ferrell and Julia Roberts among numerous other A-listers who adorned the stage. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone had a little back-and-forth, and Lincoln was introduced by no less than former President of the United States Bill Clinton (even if hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler preferred to announce him as “Hilary’s husband”). The most memorable and talked-about event of the evening, though, was Jodie Foster’s coming-out speech, a Hollywood swan song of sorts that simultaneously closed the ceremony and set Twitter alight with banal commentary. So that was the Golden Globes, and it provided more than enough glitz, glory, and shots of famous people hanging out together to keep us going until the Oscars.
Well no, since you asked. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t deeply flawed.
The Oscars are the high watermark of film recognition. The red carpet trampling, lovvie love-a-thon that is the motion picture awards season starts in earnest with the Golden Globes in early January and extravagantly culminates every year in late February with the Academy Awards in which apparently “everyone is just thrilled to be nominated!” but in actuality hopes are realised, dreams are shattered and the presenters are almost constantly underwhelming. When it comes to the big night though it can all seem like a bit of game. A cynical, industry driven game in which awards are doled out by the sensibility load and Martin Scorsese can win an Oscar through sheer bloody minded persistence (and a superlative body of work of course).
The awards themselves essentially boil down to the artistic whims of a group of voters who are predominantly older, whiter and male-er than your typical movie audience, and your typical movie audience they most definitely aren’t. The 6000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are a venerable bunch of industry professionals who once inducted are placed into their various pigeonholes of expertise. Actors, directors, cinematographers and writers all have their place to name a but a few with the experts in each category having more sway when it comes to the tricky business of voting. In the first round directors nominate the work of directors, writers of writers and so on with each member providing a list of their top five choices. These feed the candidates for the second round of voting to the Academy as a whole who then all submit their top fives in most categories. The exception is of course the be-all and end-all award of Best Picture which everyone votes for.
Oscar voters are people sustained and venerated by their own artistic endeavours and as such they won’t be voting for any hack produced hokum any time soon. Added to this we don’t get many surprises either. We get them plumping for the worthy over the cinematic (think the choice of The Help over Tinker Tailor), the traditional over the innovative (War Horse over Drive), the heroic underdog over the perverted sex-addict (Brad Pitt’s average display in Moneyball over Michael Fassbender’s powerhouse performance in Shame). Way back when in 1989 we got the starkest manifestation of this we could ever wish for with the triumph of the comfortably middle class over the radical and intelligent with Driving Miss Daisy winning best picture over Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing – a film that set the tone of black-centric cinema for a decade to come and wasn’t even nominated. A case like that more clearly than anything shows how the mass appeal of the facile and one-dimensional can almost always triumph over the confrontational and original. This may seem like I am throwing The Help and Driving Miss Daisy together into some sort of race rights for dummies cadre and it kind of seems like I am. But Driving Miss Daisy cleaned up at the Oscars so of course it’s brilliant. Of course it is! Anyone who says otherwise is stupid, or a Hollywood Foreign Press member. So both.
Speaking of which when you compare the Oscars to the Golden Globes our gold plated, statuesque friend comes out smelling of roses. The Golden Globes are the sort of unashamed silly affair that keeps re-hiring a presenter to hilariously lampoon their inadequacies in some sort of devil’s pact for viewers. It’s like someone building a house on a cliff using stone from the cliff face. At some point the Golden Globes, I mean house, ahem, will collapse and all of the viewers will leave and Ricky Gervais will have to find somewhere else to live out the creative death of his career.
What the Golden Globes do have over their more respected counterparts however is timing. If something wins at the Globes it’s often a good indicator for things to come. By the time the Oscars swing round films like The Artist will have won so many awards that they’ll we struggling for something to say other than “OMG OMG OMG OMG the Oscars are the best it’s been my dream blah blah blah” that we’ve heard all before. There’s none of the surprise that there should be for indie flicks like The Artist when they win a huge award as their expectations are already so high come February that a Best Picture victory will seem more like a relief than anything.
So why will I be staying up into the wee hours of the morning waiting to get my Oscar fix for yet another year? Well it’s because they are just so bloody important and despite everything that I’ve said up until this point they still hold the requisite amount of artistic integrity.
More often than not the Oscars get it vaguely right and if they don’t it’s not usually that bad (apart from the Academy’s complete disregard for Senna this year which is ridiculous beyond parody). Yes, last year The Social Network should have walked off with Best Picture never to be refuted but that on the night it went to The King’s Speech wasn’t terrible. The Social Network would’ve been (and had been) a success irrespective of awards attention but The King’s Speech, high on the Oscar buzz it was getting – and Colin Firth’s repeated walk-ons at every awards show imaginable – carried the film through its January and February release period to a humongous (and thoroughly deserved) box-office. That an artfully inclined arthouse flick about a king with a speech impediment made $400 million worldwide is testament to the power of Oscar buzz. Without the Oscars such deserving films would get much less mainstream attention and I think cinema would be poorer for it.
Recently this also proved true for Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, 127 Hours, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, Brokeback Mountain and the masterful Sideways to name but a few. Oscar buzz is the real force behind the Oscars. What happens on the night happens and will be raked over in movie posters for eons to come but the real relevance of the Academy Awards is in the bridge they build between the artistic medium of film and the mainstream engine of the film industry.
If you love films and hate to see the wrong things getting top recognition come awards night then yes it may seem like the Oscars are losing their relevance, but as an industry force they are nevertheless a force for good. Even if we do have to put up with the occasional give me a bloody Oscar already! film like I Am Sam (featuring the now famous Sean Penn going ‘full retard’ performance) or Seven Pounds (in which Will Smith begs for an Oscar so hard that I’m surprised he didn’t actually grab his nearest box jellyfish and jump into a bathtub for attention come nominations), ultimately they bring (albeit a small selection of) lesser known gems to the masses.
So come February the 26th 2012 I’ll be sitting down to watch 4 hours worth of film industry back patting, self indulgent montage and lots and lots of hysterical speeches. But I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Oh and Billy Crystal’s back. Which is nice.
The 2012 Golden Globes, the self-proclaimed drunker version of the Academy Awards and often the biggest hint as to who will win the coveted Oscar, took place on Sunday night and confirmed the award-winning credentials of silent film The Artist and actor George Clooney. The Artist won three Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical, Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical for Jean DuJardin, and Best Original Score for Ludovic Bource. Mr. Clooney received the Best Actor in Motion Picture-Drama award for his role in The Descendants, which also won the Best Motion Picture-Drama award. After Sunday night, it seems that both The Artist and The Descendants are the two favorites to win the Best Picture Oscar while George Clooney is the frontrunner for Best Actor.
Meryl Streep won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama for her depiction of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, further proof of the HFPA’s obsession with Streep and the fact that one can garner critical claim in a very mediocre film. Michelle Williams was Streep’s counterpart in winning the award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical for her depiction of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn.
While I would have loved to see comic actor Albert Brooks honored for his intense turn as Ryan Gosling’s enemy in Drive, it was not to be. Christopher Plummer won Best Supporting Actor for Beginners and Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for The Help. After much pre-awards show buzz, this award was the only one The Help picked up, casting doubt over whether it will do much better at the Academy Awards in February.
Woody Allen finally received the recognition he deserves by receiving the Best Screenplay Golden Globe for the wonderful Midnight in Paris, one of the most original films of the year. Martin Scorsese won the award for Best Director for Hugo, Scorsese’s first attempt at a family film. While Mr. Scorsese is most definitely not guaranteed to win the Oscar, this win increases his chances against War Horse’s Steven Spielberg and The Descendant’s Alexander Payne.
Overall, it would seem that The Descendants is the heavy Oscar favorite with The Artist at a close second. We shall see in a few weeks if the feelings of the Academy, whose nominations are released January 24, echo those of the HFPA.
Awards. They exist in all aspects of life, from academia to sports. And films are no exception. We’re deep into awards season now, and won’t be out of it until March. The awards may be numerous, but one thing is certain: winning one certainly doesn’t hurt your box office receipts. All term we will be reporting on the awards season, analysing the big winners and losers. But who determines which films win? What does it actually mean when the poster boasts “winner of 4 Golden Globes”?
The first major date is Sunday 17th January, the date of the Golden Globes. These TV and film awards are voted on and decided by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a collective of Hollywood-based foreign journalists (who must only publish 4 articles a year to maintain membership). The reason for their popularity is that they provide one of the few formal opportunities for stars in these two different media to socialise, and combined with the lavish budget it is generally considered a good party for everyone involved. However, their merit as awards can be questioned; because of the few voters it’s been suggested that films can win some categories with as little as 5 or 6 votes, and there has been more than a couple corruption scandals. Most recently, it was claimed last year that Sony had bribed voters with all-expenses paid trips to Las Vegas, receiving a nomination for critical disappointment The Touristas best musical/comedy in return.
Various industry awards take place towards the tail-end of January, including those by the Producers Guild of America, Directors Guild of America andScreen Actors Guild. These awards tend to focus on the interests of each particular guild, and often provide an accurate barometer for the more prestigious awards ceremonies. For example, in 62 years there has only been six occasions when the DGA’s best director has not gone on to win an Academy Award.
The British Academy of Film and Television Awards take place on 12th February, one of the few major awards ceremonies that do not take place in America. They are voted on by over 6,000 members, and voting takes place in three stages; initially a first vote draws up a longlist of nominees (available now on the BAFTA website), while the second vote narrows down the field to present the final nominations. After this, the final vote takes place for the awards. All the academy members can vote on the awards for Best Film, Best Film not in the English language and the four performance roles (Best Actor, Actress and Supporting). The technical categories are decided by chapters made up of at least 80 experts in that field, and are then opened up to the entire membership or decided by a jury. Finally there is a super jury made up of industry experts who vote on Best British Film, and a Rising Star award voted by the general public.
Finally the Academy Awards round off proceedings on the 26th February, decided by over 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Criticised and revered in equal measure, they remain the most prestigious awards in the industry.