The Golden Globes have experienced some variance in their respectability index over the years. From their long years in obscurity, culminating at long last in the in wild (untoward) ridicule for giving Pia Zadora an award (Pia Zadora rules, you assholes), to a vertiginous ascent to heights so high there was a year or two where there was actual debate about whether the Globes were the equal to or even superior to the Oscars (spoiler alert: they weren’t), the Globes have now regressed to a mean somewhere between those two extremes. As an awards show the Globes are a bit shaky, with an infamous tendency to value fame over merit – though, to be clear, the Oscars have this same problem, just with better PR insisting otherwise – but as an awards show the Globes are fascinating.
Everyone’s drunk. They have a comedy category. The presence of TV people and movie people without armed guards separating them means we’re never more than one cutting remark away from an all-out brawl. It’s a marvelous formula for entertainment, even before you factor in the weird array of nominees, Christine Lahti being in the ladies’ room when she’s announced as a winner, Ving Rhames awarding his award to Jack Lemmon, and in more recent years host Ricky Gervais taking a flamethrower to a room (which was funny the first time) then Fey and Poehler doing a less mean but just as funny version of that template.
That’s the glass half-full read on the Globes, and since everyone’s drunk they must have drunk the other half of the glass. That half is the weird, awkward silences, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association being an odd, opaque organization, those years when no one has any good explanation for what the fuck Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie are doing there nominated for The Tourist, and the inevitable issue of having both TV and movie people there not only not resulting in an awesome bloodbath but running to excessive lengths, the cardinal sin of any awards show. We all grumble about awards shows – “art shouldn’t be competitive,” “none of the best movies were nominated anyway,” etc – but all watch them anyway because we’re monkeys and the jewelry’s shiny, demanding the lone courtesy that the damn thing not last all night. That an overlong Globes is rarely anywhere near as overlong as a poorly-planned Oscars doesn’t matter, too long is still too long.
Here, then, is the buried lede, as in this article, as in life by all the desperate celebrity-chasing: the Golden Globes, each year, raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for film preservation. And there, all bullshit finally aside, is the source of my fondness for the Globes. The structure of it all, seen in total, reminds me a bit of a deleted scene in Major League, where right at the end, the villainous owner reveals to her long-suffering general manager that she secretly assembled the team of low-wage and/or superannuated players according to a proto-Moneyball system involving a sophisticated evaluation of market inefficiencies, then selflessly offered her own apparent miserly perfidy to motivate the players, through hating her, to grand success. She had, indeed, always loved baseball and the Cleveland ball club, and was willing to sacrifice her own image and dignity to achieve that end. Now, they didn’t use that scene in the movie – it would have been fucking ridiculous – and the HFPA are certainly in part motivated by the chance to rub shoulders with celebrities, but film preservation is a noble goal, which is the larger point.
As I’ve written before, film is a precarious medium, with so much of its early history existing at the whim of an errant cigarette ash, often unknowingly possessed by people without a complete inventory of the contents of their attic. The realization that proactive measures need to be taken to preserve film came late enough that those measures are concordantly more urgently needed. If only for this, the HFPA’s efforts, and the vast sums they contribute to the cause, should be lauded. But, despite the fact that they’re not always so, when the Globes are fun, they’re fun. Tacky weirdness is an inherent good in itself. In the service of a greater cause, it’s actually quite noble.