Golden Globes 2019: Decline to Diss

For the past several years, I’ve been attending Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globes. It’s one of the few events where questions in Spanish are not translated and there is no attempt to transcribe the Spanish. That should tell you something about the membership.

I’ve been to other multi-lingual press conferences that included Japanese and dialects of Chinese and even some French. I understand all of these languages to a certain degree, but not usually fast enough to type down my translation in English and in Chinese, not enough to translate at all.

The ballots were out by 21 November 2018 and the deadline for their return was 2 December 2018 at 8 p.m. Members are to select five nominees for each category. The balloting is based on majority voting and not a preferential balloting system (where one ranks by preference).

All of the HFPA members work in English to a certain extent, because they live in the United States, but in Los Angeles one can get away with minimal usage of English and revert to Spanish. There are other language enclaves in Los Angeles County and foreign language channels. That’s part of Los Angeles’ charm. In some ways, the choices of the HFPA seem a better reflection of Los Angeles County that the Oscars because Los Angeles County is 47.5 percentage Latino (of any race) and some cities with over 90 percent (e.g. ELA with 96.7 percent). HFPA choices have directed me to “Ugly Betty,” “Mozart in the Jungle” and “Jane the Virgin.”

“Ugly Betty” won two Golden Globes, Best Actress (America Ferrera) and Best Comedy Series. The series won three Emmys: Best Casting in a Comedy Series, Best Direction in a Comedy Series and Best Actress in a Comedy Series (Ferrera). “Mozart in the Jungle” won two Golden Globes (Best Television Series and Best Actor for Gael Garcia Bernal) but its two Primetime Emmys were for Sound Mixing. “Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy, but no Emmys.

Instead of denigrating the HFPA and saying a win by “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a fail because it was not the best movie of the year, let’s look at the logistics. First, the nominated movies must have been seen by a certain number of members before the nomination date, 6 December. That might be too early for some movies and their PR machines. Then the nominated movies must be seen by as many members as possible. Some movie distributors like Netflix were extremely aggressive in the award campaigning with DVDs. Some movies may have come out too late and done too little in terms of distribution.

I’m not a member of the HFPA, but as a member of other groups, there were movies that I didn’t have access to and the studio offered no award screenings (e.g. “Stan & Ollie”). There were doubtlessly some other review screening that might have made some films more available to the HFPA, but how many and how easily the members had access is another question. Even going online might not always be the best answer. Some of the online screeners were plagued by problems (stalling) depending on your internet service or the server used by the distribution company.

Consider that these members of the HFPA might not be US citizens and have different experiences. “On the Basis of Sex” may mean less to people from a country that has already had a female leader (e.g. Great Britain) unlike the United States. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s studies in Sweden influenced her concept of what should change in the US.

I wondered if both “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “BlacKkKlansman” would be too specifically American. Spike Lee’s only other Golden Globe nomination was for “Do the Right Thing” for screenplay and direction.  Those members who supported “Moonlight” in 2017 or “12 Years a Slave” in 2014  for Best Motion Picture – Drama wins, might have been divided between “Beale Street,” “BlacKkKlansman” and even “Black Panther.” However, no super hero movie has won in that category. The last science fiction movie to win a Golden Globe was “The Martian” in 2016 in the Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical category. Yes, I don’t understand why “The Martian was considered a comedy either.

While “A Star Is Born” might have been heavily favored, that might have been wishful thinking. Although neither was a musical, the music behind “Bohemian Rhapsody” had more international appeal with a wave of nostalgia. One has to wonder if “A Star Is Born” might have done better in another category. The 1976 version of “A Star Is Born” won five Golden Globes–Best Motion Picture, Best Actress (Barbra Streisand), Best Actor (Kris Kristofferson), Best Original Score and Best Original Song (“Evergreen”), but it only won one Oscar for Best Original Song (Streisand and Paul Williams).  That version was entered in Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical category and not Best Motion Picture – Drama.

In the Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, both “The Favorite” and “Vice” were black comedies and that might have split the vote. “Vice” is the United States during a certain period of time but Adam McKay’s “The Big Short” had a similar tone and intellectual smarminess. Despite being nominated for Best Screenplay, Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (Christian Bale) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (Steve Carell), the film won no awards in 2016. At the Oscars, “The Big Short” was nominated in five categories and won for Best Writing for an Adapted Screenplay (Charles Randolph and Adam McKay).

The original “Mary Poppins” only won a Golden Globe for Julie Andrews (1965) and that one had superior songs by the Sherman Brothers. That year, “My Fair Lady” won for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.

“Crazy Rich Asians” might have been more than a movie, but an Asian movement doesn’t make it a great movie. In comparison, “Green Book” has some moral weight, even if the movie is a simplistic rendering of black and white relationships and definitely told from the Italian-American’s point of view. In comparison, “Green Book” had better flow and overall tonal balance.

Because the Golden Globes is the first awards ceremony of the year, it does bring attention to certain movies. The HFPA has sometimes been swayed by PR, but this is a small group and allows for more focused campaign attention as opposed to other much larger organizations included the Academy. It’s odd to see headlines like “HFPA Ignores Films Critics and Makes Good on TV Kingmaker Role” (Variety) or “‘Bohemian Rhapsody'” Critics Be Damned, Say Golden Globes” (Goldderby_ because I thought some members are film critics, just not prominent US film critics because they are the foreign press.

So I’ll decline to diss. There are other awards and I don’t always agree with their top ten or best film picks either. These are just opinions and the beauty of individuality is that people have different opinions and that can spark good conversations.

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