Our Not So Golden Globe

Each year the Hollywood Foreign Press ushers in a star-studded season honoring excellence in film and TV with the Golden Globe Awards.

It’s a televised party in Beverly Hills where celebs and film/TV makers drink, eat and try to make merry in the very tight quarters of an overstuffed hotel ballroom.

Think your rich Aunt Mildred’s chance for the over-the-top second wedding she never had or the bar mitzvah reception for the son of some tech giant classmate of yours who bought Apple stock early and married late that you only managed to get on the list for because you ran into him at the airport while trying to hide the fact you were flying coach.

and as a bonus – this guy harasses you on the way in!

Of course, that doesn’t quite do it justice.

The Golden Globes are often the most entertaining of all old show biz awards shows because for some god forsaken reason they consistently get almost every major star in the industry to show up and give or get one of those quite surprisingly small mini-replicas of our great golden earth.

Although, I am glad that they got rid of that ugly marble podium

Though even that was tricky this year because nothing about our earth or the product produced during this time period seems to represent anything particularly golden, at least not in the traditional sense.

No, in real life we citizens of the world are holding our collective breaths about the possibility of real global warfare between the United States and Iran.  Or we are obsessing yet doing very little about climate change as this weekend we watched large swaths of the real Australian sky burn an ominous blood red thanks to over 146 (and counting) environmentally induced brush fires.

Don’t worry, I’ll recycle the empties

Neither the evening nor few of the nominated and/or winning films provided much release from those catastrophic doldrums either.  For instance, I very much enjoyed Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in…Hollywood and its meticulous recreation of a 1969 Los Angeles.   But its win as best comedy/musical, director, screenplay and supporting actor still can’t help but remind us all of one of the most grisly crimes of our 20th century, the Tate-LaBianca murders; that is even as it tries to rewrite that history to give its victims (and us) our much more well-deserved (well, preferred) Hollywood ending.

Are you sure this didn’t clinch it?

The best drama and director award for Sam Mendes’ 1917 forced us to look back in terrifying detail at a fictionalized version of fact-based events in and around the battlefields of WWI.   While extremely well made, this also doesn’t so much as provide hope for humanity but hold a magnifying glass up to ALL the battlefields of our past and, inevitably, remind us of all those likely to come in our future.

On the television side, a miniseries win for yet another recreation of the catastrophic – the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl – brilliantly reminded even the most casual of viewers that another nuclear winter could even today be just one ignored safety regulation away. Not to mention that the recognition of Succession as best TV drama brought home every cynically snowflake propaganda worry we all ever had about Fox News and the Murdoch family through its fictional, though albeit much more entertainingly awful doppelgängers, the Roys.

He did! He did!

There were some small breaths of encouragement. Taron Edgerton and Renee Zellweger won best acting awards for personifying the real-life, stage and singing facsimiles of Elton John and Judy Garland as they rose to fame, slid into addiction and, well at least in one case, managed to survive.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her Fleabag season 2 gave some glamour and sympathy for those of us consistently making the wrong yet most human of choices even if it didn’t give us our full Hollywood happy Tarantino finale.  But perhaps that’s a clue to its popularity.  It doesn’t sugar coat our mistakes yet still shines some teeny tiny minuscule glint of light into all of our hopelessly aberrant collective futures.

Added bonus: Hot Priest!

Such was not the case with Globes’ host Ricky Gervais for most of the evening.  His shtick about being the worst possible choice to lead the festivities proved incredibly prescient given the world events of the preceding week and the jokes he chose to perform.

He opened by touting the Globes’ decision to this year serve an all-vegetarian menu but then chided its members for being, ahem, vegetables.  He attempted a timely jab at director Martin Scorsese for recently stating superhero movies were not cinema but more like amusement park rides he had no interest in and then cracked at the irony of the director’s statement because Scorsese was too short to actually meet the height requirement to ride in one. (Note: Har, Har?)

Me, during the opening monologue

Joaquin Phoenix, who won a Globe for playing the nihilistic title role in Joker, did try to be real and modest and world-aware.  Yet he managed to end his speech by saying it wasn’t enough to simply urge the Globes’ worldwide audience to “vote” their issues at the ballot box or voice concern about Australian climate change the way that others who came before him onstage had done. No, what he proclaimed from the podium was that what each one of the affluent in that room should do was to pledge to stop flying private jets to Palm Springs!  

Do not come for my Palm Springs trips!

Well, you gotta start somewhere, right?  And no, I am not paraphrasing.

Yes, of course, there were lovely moments.  Michelle Williams’ win for playing Broadway legend Gwen Verdon in Fosse/Verdon urging women to use their voices and votes to make the reality of the country better reflect its 51% female population.  Kate McKinnon’s tearful tribute to Ellen DeGeneres as the role model of what could be possible for her young lesbian self.  Tom Hanks on the true wonder of being a working actor who is nothing more than a small part of a larger team who must deliver in that moment to make each shot or the scene any good at all.

Everybody loves Hanks

Still, at the end of the evening one couldn’t help but think that our en masse feelings about the Globes/Globe, both in the ballroom and for those watching at home, were best captured by Mr. Gervais’ in his not very encouraging but thankfully closing line of the night to us:

Get drunk, take your drugs, f-k off.

This being a Hollywood production, needless to say that very last phrase was bleeped.

Complete list of the 2020 Golden Globe Winners

Sam Smith ft. Renee Zellwegger – “Get Happy” 

Getting Dirty

Watching the sheer number of “A” list celebrities appearing on this year’s Golden Globe Awards could give you a crick in the neck.  Or, if you thought about it, could be a pain in the neck.  But for totally different reasons.

First, the crick:  It became a bit dizzying keeping track as celebrities rushed, walked, ambled and stumbled their way across the stage of the Beverly Hilton Hotel this past Sunday.  Johnny Depp, Brad and Angie, George Clooney, Steven Spielberg, Meryl (Streep) and Glenn (Close), both present and competing for awards just like they did in the eighties, Martin Scorsese and Seth Rogen (no, there isn’t a reason to pair them except that I thought it would be fun and the one and only time you ever see them mentioned together), Madonna (who is no longer part of a pair but is now a director), Jane Fonda and Aaron Sorkin (the latter two, who will be working together on his upcoming HBO series “The Newsroom,” where she plays a sort of female Ted Turner) and so on and so forth.

Pia "That Girl?" Zadora, 1981

An impressive turnout for any awards show, much less one that is probably best known for honoring Pia Zadora (who?) as its 1981 Star of the Year for her memorable performance in “Butterfly,” a film which had not yet been released at the time the award was given but would become memorable, yet not for exactly the reasons that kind of award would indicate.

Evidenced here:

As the story goes, Pia’s multimillionaire (the 1981 version of a 2012 billionaire) husband at the time, Meshulam Riklis, wooed the Hollywood Foreign Press with free trips to his Riveria Hotel in Las Vegas and other perks and parties and that the award to his much younger wife was payback time.  Hey, whatever works, is fair game.  I mean, that’s show biz, right?

Well, exactly.  The biz fosters people doing all sorts of odd things. A studio chief once told me that the esteemed and classy screenwriter Eleanor Perry  desperately wanted a writing assignment in the seventies after she divorced her filmmaker husband Frank Perry and actually begged (his words) him to give her the assignment to write what would eventually become another Zadora vehicle, the adaptation of the campy pump novel, “Lonely Lady,” about a young pretty female writer’s rise through the dregs of Hollywood to screenwriting stardom. But unlike the heroine in the book, Ms. Perry never did get the assignment.  Knowing Ms. Perry’s intellect and dedication to meaningful characterizations, said studio chief vehemently refused the respected writer’s plea for the job, telling her, “Oh, Eleanor, you know that I can’t.  You’ll want to put all of that integrity into it.”  To which Ms. Perry, replied:  “No, there will be absolutely no integrity, I promise!”

The point being, to quote someone’s grandmother, “If you want to play with pigs, you have to roll around in the mud.”

It's exfoliating!

Not that everyone in Hollywood is a pig.  Far from it.  I would say that the majority of people are smart, fairly okay, and, actually, pretty cool.  But all of us, from time to time, do roll around in the mud with the rest of the livestock, as most living things must do.  Our mud is often prettier looking than pig slop, but mud it is, nevertheless.

Crude?  Snide?  Bitter? Cynical?  Sadly dismaying?  Not really.  Just truthful.  (And here’s where the neck pain comes in).  All of the aforementioned talent are at the top of their game – they can pretty much name their price and their property – and yet, they are choosing to appear live and in person and on television to pick up an award given by a very, very small organization of entertainment reviewers, many of whom work only part-time for their publications and who, as any of us who have worked in entertainment publicity know, can easily be persuaded to nominate a star from any decently reviewed high profile movie that comes out that year.  In other words, all is not kosher in Denmark.

Of course, this doesn’t make the stars that participate in this shell game any less talented.  In fact, it might make them more so.  Because aside from their creativity, they have recognized and mastered the art of both show and biz.  Show being the creative art – the acting, writing, producing, singing dancing, etc.  Biz being the, well, job creator part – or self creation, as it goes out here.  If at some point you’re not willing to “dig in” – which could likely involve some mud rolling, or persuade lots of people to get dirty with or for you – you will likely not be in the game.  (And this is where the pain the neck continues).  For stars, digging in means not only a smart agent, but “acting” nice to people if they won’t warrant it, and these days, doing publicity and marketing for your movies and  ass  hand kissing for your movies in the unlikeliest of places.  No one sits it out anymore.  Even Harrison Ford shows up at the Globes.  Woody Allen does press tours.  In fact, it’s hard to even think of a star under 30 that doesn’t do some sort of media because, well, given the competitive marketplace and our 24/7 global existence, that is just not an option these days.  And press doesn’t mean the New Yorker and Vanity Fair.  It means strange awards banquets, Access Hollywood, ill-gotten lobbied for or even bought spots at film festivals in and out of competition, maybe even an over the top chat show in England or Australia where you have to get dunked in water or have confetti thrown in your face. Or an American low-budget cable access show… in pajamas.

Ralph Fiennes and Holly Hunter in pajamas? Click the picture, and then explain this to me.

As for Ricky Gervais, (uh, yes, him too) he’s not the above-it-all Globes master of ceremonies you thought he was.  How could he be?   For the last three years he has sort of lent a patina of hipness to the proceedings, turning the corniness of the event on its ear and actually giving the attendees a sense of being “in on the joke” because, well, if Gervais is doing it, it’s not really mud-rolling and self-promotion, it’s sort of court jesterish.  And it means young, hip people are watching.  And it’ll be sort of fun because liquor is served and audiences are hoping more than one person will be tipsy and say something unrehearsed in the sound byte, pre-planned, post-digested world we live in.

"I can't explain the tux either"

Nice try.  Sort of.  And not all wrong.  Except for the fact that Ricky’s by no means above it all.  How could he be when he’s the main fixture of the program?  Because if indeed Ricky Gervais thinks the awards are a joke and has as much disdain for the validity of the Hollywood Foreign Press and the system of its award giving as we think, WHY IS HE HOSTING?  It can’t be the money unless he’s a spendaholic (and that tuxedo would suggest he isn’t).  Perhaps he’s having a very long post-modern moment where you embrace that which you find distasteful in an attempt at the kind of ultimate irony comics like Andy Kaufman were famous for.  Well, that would account for doing it for one year.  But for three in a row?  Not a chance.  Once is irony.  Twice is habit.  Three times – definitely mud rolling.  He’s mixing it up.  Staying relevant.  Plying his craft.  A famous actor once told me about choosing a role:  “It’s not that hard.  You look at what’s offered and take the best one.”  Best, of course, doesn’t always mean quality.  Sometimes it’s the best paying.  Sometimes it’s the best exposure.  Or the best strategy at the time for your career.  Or the best part, meaning a smaller but juicer role in a smaller or bigger vehicle.  (Think Jack Nicholson in the first “Batman” and add $10 million dollars).

Anyone who has had a career or wants a career must know that if you are or are to be among the lucky 1% that get to work in your chosen field, every day is not a romp in the hay.  Some days, more than one might think, involve a toss in the dirt, a poke in the knickers, a roll in the mud.  And you must be willing to get dirty.  Sully yourself.  Play with the little people.  Or get lots of help doing it.  Even if you are creating your own job.

It’s a badge of honor.  It keeps you human.  What’s inhuman is pretending that you’re not doing it.  That somehow, you’re above or beyond it all (Hi Ricky).  That’s worse than mud rolling.  It’s lying.  And it sets a bad example for everyone coming after you, nipping at your heels.  Because it means you’ve gone from mere pig to full swine.