Exposing the fiction that is the Golden Globes

It's hard to find the elusive members of Hollywood's foreign press

Television

December 21, 2003|By Steve Johnson | Steve Johnson,Chicago Tribune

It is OK, I suppose, to watch the Golden Globe Awards next month and pretend along with everyone else that they are important and / or interesting.

But it's better to understand what the Globes really are: a fiction that's convenient for everybody, stars, studios and certainly the members of the secretive Hollywood Foreign Press Association who determine the awards and the NBC Television Network that has helped inflate their presence in popular culture.

The Golden Globes: Hollywood's Dirty Little Secret, a new documentary on the Trio cable channel (8 p.m. Sunday), makes clear in the most vivid fashion how scantily clad this emperor is.

Piggybacking on reporting that has been done in the print media for years, filmmaker Vikram Jayanti (an Oscar winner for When We Were Kings) sets out to explain the Globes.

But nobody from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will talk to him, despite being nominal members of the press themselves. Jayanti fails, however, to try the one strategy that would have surely worked: offer them the opportunity to interview him about his film in a hotel room, with a free buffet.

Instead, he goes to outside critics, who point out that only a very small minority of the Foreign Press Association membership appear to be serious working journalists. And foreigners who would seem to add credibility to the group, such as the L.A.-based Le Monde writer he talks to, keep getting blackballed by it. About the Globes, she says, "As long as it glitters, it must be gold."

"Let's sell the public a lie," says Michael Phillips, a producer whose credits include The Sting. "That's what it is." He bitterly denounces a "collusion" of studios and agents who cynically exploit the Golden Globes. Or as he puts it, "Let's co-opt it, and make it our thing."

Trio, so named because it focuses on the modern trinity of pop, culture and television, is a cable channel that feasts on pop culture while gently mocking it. Dirty Little Secret is part of an awards theme festival on Trio that also includes the documentary The Award Show Awards Show, which aired earlier this weekend and looks quizzically at the entire Hollywood award industry, which is reaching epidemic proportions.

In Awards Show, it's stated that there are 565 award shows each year, and 100 are televised. They range from the Oscars to the Electronic Retailing Awards, a ceremony honoring the best infomercials of the year.

L.A. Weekly film critic John Powers calls the Globes a "great comedy about small people with huge aspirations," a movie industry recognizing it can put those aspirations to good use, "and yet at the center of that is actually nothing."

Still, Powers allows that despite the Globe voters being "by and large, idiots, they often make better choices than the Oscars."

What's most telling is the one apparent star Jayanti lands. She (I think it's a she) is critical of the awards, saying they're about "who kisses butt best."

But she nonetheless insists on being photographed in shadow, with voice disguised. That way, the posterior kissing she'll have to do to help her next film win a Globe, which will help it and her earn money, will seem much more credible.

The New York Times News Service contributed to this report.

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