[16 January 2012]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Once again, the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press have raised more questions than they answered. While handing out their annual gaudy glam golden glad hands on 15 January, they sent very mixed signals over which films and filmmakers should be preparing for Oscar glory. Granted, the Globes are never a good indicator of future success, but they still become the first piece in a six week puzzle that hopes to crown the year’s best. Still, what is one to make out of Martin Scorsese’s Best Director nod for Hugo? And if that movie was so expertly helmed, how did it not win one of the two Best Movie awards? In the same vein, if both The Descendants and The Artist were deemed the Best Drama and Comedy/Musical of 2011, how were directors Alexander Payne and Michel Hazanavicius seemingly snubbed?
If you jump further down the junket rabbit hole, the queries continue. Both George Clooney and French actor Jean Dujardin won for Best Actor, again supporting The Descendants and The Artist in their push for frontrunner status. Yet neither film walked away with another major award, leaving Best Supporting Actor to the aging (if still amazing) Christopher Plummer and Best Supporting Actress to The Help‘s sole soul salvation, Octavia Spencer. Heck, even the no longer relevant Woody Allen got a chance to claim a bit of his old glory back by snagging the Best Screenplay trophy for Midnight in Paris. As for star turns, Madam Meryl Streep showed up and claimed yet another accolade for her work as a befuddled Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady while Michelle Williams walked back into the Oscar conversation for her turn as a certain blond bombshell in My Week with Marilyn.
While it’s no surprise that the Best Animated Film went to Tintin (he, like Slim Whitman, is just so gosh darn popular in Europe), the unnecessary acknowledgment for Madonna (Best Song for something called “Masterpiece”) continues the argument for the Globes incompetence and cluelessness. Many have debated the real purpose behind the awards, noting that many unworthy entries are tagged just so their incredibly famous (and media friendly) participants show up and turn the evening into a true spectacle. Perhaps that would explain why Angelina Jolie received recognition for her directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey, or the otherwise mediocre Ides of March earned so many mentions.
Of course, the Globes aren’t beyond obvious snubs. While the DGA and PGA picked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as one of its end of the year contenders, it barely earned a meaningful mention. Similarly, Brad Pitt’s Moneyball walked in with several important possibilities, but walked out empty handed and while his motion capture take on the beloved Belgian boy reporter found favor with the foreign press, Steven Spielberg’s other major award season entry - War Horse - was DOA. And then what do we make of poor Bridesmaids. They never thought they’d make it this far, then started to believe in their own humor hype. By the close of business Sunday, all involved must be hoping for an AMPAS miracle. With Oscar expanding its Best Picture category to ten, it has a chance, but it’s no longer a lock.
In fact, all that the Golden Globes have done is accentuate the obvious. For weeks, critics groups have volleyed back and forth over a few certain titles - Descendants, Artist, Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive - so the inclusion (and win) of the first two is no real surprise. Streep was also a given, while Williams’ win helped pull her back from the ‘peeked too early’ brink. Actor has always seemed to be Dujardin’s to lose (though for the life of many professional critics, the reason remains vague and unfocused) and Spencer and Plummer seem like nice, nominal, noteworthy choices. There was no major shake-ups (Tintin, perhaps, the exception), no selection seemingly made by madmen (and women). But the Globes remains an unfathomable, insular bunch. Give them a bandwagon to jump on, and not only will they ride it, they’ll frequently leap off and back onto the vehicle again just for fun.
In fact, Scorsese remains the one real stunner here. Hugo, for all its 3D invention and classic film homage, was a real stretch for the grit and grime crime auteur, and many believed he would see little support for this flight of fancy. Now, with over $125 million in box office both home and internationally, and omens of increasing year-end relevance, it could be the long shot many continue to hope for. After all, awards season is so predictable (A Separation? Didn’t see that one coming, right?) that anything straying from the script is seen as a victory. Too bad the wealth is spread so incredibly thin.
With the might of the menacing Weinsteins behind it, however, The Artist seems like a shoe-in and Clooney can ride The Descendants much like he did his last chance at real major Oscar glory - the criminally underappreciated Up in the Air. Yet don’t feel flummoxed if March comes along and many of the same names you’ve heard mentioned over and over again aren’t standing in the winner’s circle, wondering aloud how God and other members of the entertainment entourage helped them land there. The Golden Globes did what they always do - set the conversation and then slowly slink away to stifle a champagne and chutzpah hangover. As usual, the questions remain…and the answers fail to fully satisfy.