We know these don’t really matter, but it’s not like we can get away with simply ignoring them entirely.
That’s been the basic sentiment present in nearly every article I’ve read about the 2014 Golden Globe nominations, which were announced early yesterday morning. It’s sort of like how any conversation of box office records must always come with an asterisk, an obligatory statement acknowledging the old “If you adjust for ticket price inflation Gone With the Wind would have actually made more than….blah, blah, blah.” So, with the Golden Globes you’re kind of obligated, every year, to acknowledge that no one who actually votes on The Golden Globes also casts a vote for the Academy Awards. That’s how you can have Ben Affleck winning a Golden Globe for Best Director (Argo) in the same year that the Academy didn’t even freakin’ nominate him in that category.
I have read that argument so many times that I’ve never even questioned it. Not once. It turns out that it’s not technically true.
Okay, it’s pretty much true. It’s just that until yesterday I’d never heard there is technically one person who gets to vote for both the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.
Here’s how it breaks down: The Golden Globes are decided upon by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), an odd cabal of around 90 European writers who are just as likely to be mocked as they are thanked in an acceptance speech (See Christian Bale’s acceptance of Best Actor for The Fighter). By comparison, the Oscars go through the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, which has over 6,000 members. That means that the HFPA is only 1.5% the size of the entire Academy. That’s not to say that over 6,000 people decide every single Academy Award, though. As I understand it, every member of the HFPA votes for every single Golden Globe, which you’d think would be pretty necessary what with them having less than 100 total members. For the Academy Awards, members from each individual branch determine the votes for the nominees within their own category. With 1,176 members, the actors branch is the largest while at 108 members the costume designers is the smallest. All Academy members vote for Best Picture, but the voting system utilized means it only takes 301 votes for a film to secure a Best Picture nomination. That’s still 3 times more than the total number of people in the HFPA.
The only person who is a member of both the HPFA and the Academy is Lisa Lu, an 87-year-old Chinese actress-turned-journalist. She is, therefore, the only person who gets to vote for both the Globes and Academy Awards. There is literally zero overlap between the two organizations beyond her.
However, just because there is no direct overlap doesn’t mean that the Golden Globes don’t influence the Oscars. Here’s how The Hollywood Reporter explained it yesterday:
A Globe nomination — and the resultant publicity that can create for a film or an individual — does, undoubtedly, elevate the awareness of and interest in that film or individual among Academy members, and so the same films and people do often wind up with noms from both groups. Consider the following years in which both groups were able to nominate as many as 10 films: Of the five annual best picture (drama) Globe nominees, five from 2010, 2011 (when there were six nominees due to a tie) and 2012 went on to land best picture Oscar noms, as did four from 2013. The track record is less stellar when it comes to the best picture (musical or comedy) category: going on from Globe noms to best picture Oscar noms were only one nominee from 2010 and two nominees from 2011 and 2012, although, it must be noted, 2013 produced four examples.
Based on that recent history, at least 4 of the 5 films the Globes just nominated for Best Picture-Drama are shoe-ins for an Academy Award nomination whereas it’s a total crapshoot on the comedy side. So, here are the movies the Golden Globes nominated for Best Picture this year:
- The Imitation Game
- The Theory of Everything
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Into the Woods
Here’s the thing: two summers ago,Theo Kingma was elected as the new President of the HFPA. Kingma had previously been the Executive Secretary for the HFPA, with his professional background coming as a film projectionist, production assistant on multiple films, and journalist for over 20 years. There were whispers that Kingma meant to bring a new legitimacy to the HFPA and, by extension, the Golden Globes. You don’t want to sacrifice the fun of the awards show, which is increasingly inebriated film stars hobnobbing it with increasingly inebriated TV stars. However, you also can’t let it all become an embarrassing joke.
The Tourist. Would this film still be a punchline if it hadn’t been nominated for Best Picture by the Golden Globes?
Even knowing all that, many were surprised when last year’s Golden Globe nominations turned out to be somewhat respectable. There were inevitable snubs (nothing for Lee Daniels’ The Butler on the film side, nor for Mad Men, Homeland, or Boardwalk Empire on the TV side), and a couple of European-leaning films (Rush, Philomena) were over-represented in comparison to the other awards bodies. However, there was no real Tourist-like joke in this bunch, and repeatedly where they could have given into old ways and awarded star power the HFPA instead nominated more in line with how the Oscars were expected to go.
Well, none of that was an anomaly as the HFPA has again delivered a batch of nominations that repeatedly resisted the urge to embrace the big name celebrity. Here are just some of the people who did not get nominated this year who almost definitely would have at the Golden Globes in years past: Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Robert Downey Jr. (The Judge), Clint Eastwood (American Sniper), Anne Hathaway (Interstellar), Angelina Jolie (Unbroken), Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar), Christopher Nolan (Interstellar), Al Pacino (The Humbling), Brad Pitt (Fury), Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), Chris Rock (Top Five) and Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars).
Instead, the HFPA embraced films like the Martin Luther King biopic Selma (Best Picture, Director, Actor) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Screenplay), and Pride (Best Picture) along with the more expected heavy hitters, Boyhood, Birdman, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, etc. Even so, the HFPA still passed over some actors whose only real chance of a nomination was at the Golden Globes, like Jenny Slate for The Obvious Child or anyone from Begin Again.
But regardless of any overlap with the Academy, ultimate impact on the Oscars, or changes in philosophy under new leadership I love that The Golden Globes is still an awards body which could hand out a Best Picture nomination to Pride. Why? Because there’s a good chance you’ve never even heard of that movie before. It’s a British film about an actual historical event from 1984 where gays and lesbians raised money to support families effected by a local miner’s strike. I only know about it because BBC film Critic Mark Kermode gave it a rave review on his radio show.
And now because the HFPA gave it a nomination maybe a bunch more people are learning about Pride, seeking it out. That’s what I want from something like the Golden Globes just as I want to learn that Selma is apparently fantastic and its director, Ava DuVarnay, is an up and coming talent in this industry. I want them to remember back to the summer when The Grand Budapest Hotel came along and delighted everyone. And I didn’t even get to the TV side of things where Jane the Virgin became the first ever CW show to pick up a Best Comedy nomination!
For a full list of the Golden Globe nominations, head here.
What about you? What do you want from the Golden Globes every year? Did you actually prefer it when they would nominate something like The Tourist just to get to hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie? Let me know in the comments.