Hollywood awards season kicks off with Golden Globes
Anyone working in the film industry is today waking up to the news of this year’s winners at the Golden Globes. Hogging all the headlines is Best Actor in a Drama Colin Firth, who might even be starting the day with a stonking hangover; the Globes have long been known as the Oscars’ boozy and boisterous older sister. But although Firth might be feeling justifiably pleased with himself, the battle for ultimate awards glory isn’t over just yet.
Conventional wisdom has it that the Golden Globes and then the BAFTAs (which announce their nominations tomorrow) give a pretty good indication of what’s going to happen at the all-important Oscars on 27 February and a sure-fire prediction of the overarching story of this year’s awards season. But over recent years this has been less and less true.
Last year’s Golden Globe winner for Best Picture, James Cameron’s Avatar, was subsequently (and all the more memorably) shot down by Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. In previous years, Atonement, Babel and Brokeback Mountain have all won Best Picture at the Globes only to have their hopes dashed come Oscar night.
But I actually quite like the fact that each awards ceremony produces its own quite distinct set of winners. The Globes are voted for by just 85 entertainment journalists belonging to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association rather than the nearly 6,000 Academy members working in a range of professions, from actors to camera operators. As well as honouring outstanding achievement in television, the Globes split their film awards into two categories – Drama and Comedy or Musical. Because of this, often quite fun or trashy pictures make it onto the list, such as this year’s Love and Other Drugs, Red and even Burlesque. The result is that it’s more difficult to take the event seriously, hence the drinking and the irreverent, off-colour style of hosting by the likes of Ricky Gervais.
The BAFTAs on the other hand, always used to have a tendency to be slightly chin-stroking and worthy. As they’re voted for by members of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, they often favour British (and sometimes European) talent over American candidates. They take place in the classy surroundings of London’s Royal Opera House and traditionally haven’t been afraid to honour the most intelligent and even intellectual talent on the film-making spectrum.
Although in recent years there’s been a move to mould the BAFTAs into a sort of “warm-up” event for the Oscars. This started in 2001 when the organisers brought forward the event from a few weeks after the Oscars to a few weeks beforehand. The worry at the time was that the BAFTAs were being overshadowed by their American cousin and that their late placement in the awards season calendar meant that the atmosphere was often anticlimactic. There was also growing concern that it was getting more and more difficult to attract the big stars once Oscar night was over. And to a certain extent the change of date has worked and given the event an added sparkle.
But despite this effort to tweak the branding of the BAFTAs, I’ve actually been relieved to see that their identity has remained intact. And its an identity that’s still quite distinct from the Oscars and the Golden Globes.
And the reason I think that this is a good thing is that the awards season stopped being a means of honouring talent and achievement in film long ago. Instead it became nothing more than a promotional tool for marketing a certain type of typically middle-brow film. Anyone working in the film business knows that producers mount often quite aggressive promotional campaigns to secure nominations and then votes for their candidates, purely as a means of publicising their film. They do this by sending out screening copies of their film to all eligible voters, taking out full page “For Your Consideration” adverts in the trade press, and even lining up print and TV interviews for some of their front-of-camera hopefuls. Which to me isn’t that different to a film company spending money on pasting posters onto billboards or broadcasting trailers on TV. It’s just a little less honest.
Now I don’t want to sound all po-faced and purist about film awards. But ultimately, what matters to me is the creative talent behind the films themselves, not how much money a film company has spent on a promotional campaign. Which is why I like to think that each awards body is incorruptible even on the most subtle level and nominates and then gives their awards to exactly who it thinks should win. And if this is in fact what happens, then different outcomes will arise from the different awards ceremonies.
So I’m thrilled that the hugely talented Colin Firth has walked off with a much-deserved Golden Globe for Best Actor overnight. And I sincerely hope that he repeats his triumph at both the BAFTAs and the Oscars over the next few months. But at the same time I hope that this year’s awards season throws up at least some surprises.