The Golden Globes are not the enemy, but the Academy Awards are

Perhaps we should dismantle the Oscars

by Barry Hertz

Golden Globe nominee American Hustle (Columbia Pictures)

The 2014 Golden Globe nominations were announced early Thursday morning—perhaps too early, for some on the West Coast—and almost immediately the attacks started pouring in. From the Globes’ oft-derided “comedy or musical” selections to its seemingly oblivious snubs, film critics were aghast, outraged, even!, that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association would dare to yet again force its nominations onto a vulnerable and defenceless public.

Yet as much fun as it is to mock Golden Globe choices from both this year (Rush as best drama? The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle as comedies?) and years past (Johnny Depp’s The Tourist should never have been nominated for anything except a Razzie), the awards show has a far better track record when stacked against the Oscars, which it forever will be compared to.

In 2011, for instance, the Oscars named The King’s Speech the best picture of the year, a move widely decried by critics who thought, justifiably, that its treacly sentimentality reeked of awards-bait stench. The Globes, meanwhile, gave its award for best drama to The Social Network, which proved far more palatable to critical tastes. (As is tradition, the Globes also bizarrely hand out an annual award for best comedy or musical—The Kids Are All Right won in 2011—though with a few exceptions, those films rarely achieve any Oscar-level consideration.)

The Globes trumped the Oscars again in 2012, when the complex and critically loved The Descendants swept the Globes, while the gimmicky The Artist took the Oscars. Ditto 2006 (Brokeback Mountain at the Globes, Crash at the Oscars), 2003 (The Hours at the Globes, Chicago at the Oscars), 1999 (Saving Private Ryan at the Globes, Shakespeare in Love at the Oscars) and on and on.

The Globes’ supremacy over the Oscars also extends to its choices of best director, awarding Martin Scorsese over Michel Hazanavicius (2012), David Fincher over Tom Hooper (2011) and Julian Schnabel over Danny Boyle (2009). Again and again, the Globes tend to award the critical darlings, whereas the Oscars trumpet audience favourites, films with more mass-market appeal.

So why the constant scorn from critical circles, which arrives with clockwork-like precision each year? Perhaps it’s animosity toward the HFPA, which is consistently mocked as a bunch of out-of-touch suck-ups who are only in it for the opportunity to rub shoulders with the celebrities they nominate. That’s a somewhat fair description of the organization—but the same can be said of members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who are also decried as out-of-touch fogeys. At least, when it comes down to voting, the HFPA gets it more right than wrong.

Hell, the Golden Globes even throw a better party than the Oscars, what with the flowing booze and unrehearsed Ricky Gervais-aided insanity (plus: no tedious musical numbers!). Instead of complaining about the Golden Globes, perhaps we should instead look at dismantling the Academy Awards. At the very least, it would give the film industry slightly less to complain about.




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The Golden Globes are not the enemy, but the Academy Awards are

  1. What a mess. The whole thesis of this article hinges upon the idea that, “Again and again, the Globes tend to award the critical darlings, whereas the Oscars trumpet audience favourites,” but this doesn’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny.

    Let’s start with the first example you give. The King’s Speech had a Metacritic score of 88. Sure, that’s not quite as good as The Social Network’s score of 95, but that still leaves it with the third-highest score from critics of any English-language movie that year, which is pretty far from being “widely derided”. Besides, it’s not as if the HFPA was immune to its charms, whatever they may be; they nominated it for seven awards (the most of any movie that year), and awarded Colin Firth for Best Actor – Drama.

    Most of the other examples you cite are even less convincing. The Artist, Chicago, and Shakespeare in Love each won the Globe for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy, so their winning the Best Picture Oscar can’t be any evidence of the Globes’ better taste. Furthermore, The Artist (Metacritic score: 89) and Chicago (82) received more critical acclaim than The Descendants (84) and The Hours (81), respectively. Also, how is the Academy selecting a mostly-silent, black and white movie with no bankable stars over a George Clooney vehicle supposed to indicate that the they are in thrall to the opinions of the masses? For that matter, Saving Private Ryan was the highest-grossing movie of 1998.

    The one example that might have some heft to it is Crash, which was not particularly acclaimed (Metacritic: 69) and was basically ignored by the HFPA, getting only one nomination (Screenplay) and no wins. However, this hardly seems like a sop to populism on the Oscar’s part; Crash was a low-budget quasi-indie that grossed substantially less at the box office than the better-received (and much more hyped) Brokeback Mountain.

    And, oh yeah, how exactly does 2010 fit into your thesis, when the Picture and Director Oscars went to indie darling The Hurt Locker, while the equivalent Golden Globes went to Avatar? I seem to recall that the latter movie was pretty popular with mass audiences, but I could be mistaken.

    Finally, Julian Schnabel actually won the Best Director Globe for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly one year before Danny Boyle won both the Oscar and the Globe for Slumdog Millionaire, so that comparison is just outright incorrect. For the record, Schnabel was beaten out for the Oscar by those lightweight, critically-derided crowd-pleasers, the Coen Brothers.

    Overall, if you look at the recent history of the awards, the Golden Globes and the Oscars award the same movies (and, certainly, the same kinds of movies) way more often than not. So, why so much more contempt for the Globes? You’ve already alluded to it: the HFPA has a real nasty habit of nominating out-and-out stinkers. In 2011, Alice in Wonderland, Burlesque, and The Tourist each got three nominations, and in 2010 Nine received five. Remember, the Golden Globes don’t have all the “technical” categories like Visual Effects or Art Direction that allow unloved big-budget crap to accumulate a few Oscar nominations; these movies are being nominated in “prestige” categories, like Picture, Director, and the acting categories. It only gets worse the further you go back, when they were giving awards to the likes of Pia Zadora and Twiggy.

    I do agree with you on one thing, though: The Globes almost always put on a better show. The Academy really needs to institute an open bar or start slipping the winners mescaline or something. After all, it can’t help but be boring; we’ve already seen most of these same people win the same awards for the same movies at the Golden Globes!

    • I enjoyed reading your well-reasoned rebuttal.

  2. Let’s face it. Hollywood, the Screen Actors Guild and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are all part of the Democrat machine. It’s nothing but politics from the movies being made to the awards they receive. That is why they are going broke. They are making movies “they” want to see not what the public wants.

  3. Maybe Canada could work on have a thriving film industry like the Americans ,
    instead of spending time on criticizing the Oscars

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