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Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Hosting, roasting or toasting?

What I really meant to do this week was to follow up on my reference to the Joss Whedon’s sci-fi TV series Firefly, which I mentioned recently in my review of Serenity. Instead, I find myself compelled to do something I promised myself (with varying degrees of success) years ago that I wouldn’t do anymore. And that is to talk about the Golden Globes.

(Hard as it is to believe, my own first rant about the Globes on this web site is now a full decade old. Where does the time go?)

And, of course, I am doing this at the very time when everybody is now talking about Academy Award nominations. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, check out my annual set of (cough) predictions.

But back to the Globes. In fairness, I’m not actually going to talk about the Golden Globe awards (they’re meaningless, remember?) but about the Golden Globes telecast. I might as well. Everyone else is and has been. Those sneaky, conniving Hollywood foreign press people. Just when everybody seems to be copping on to the fact that these awards are meaningless, they have found a way of making everybody focus on them anyway. And that way is the way that every Hollywood movie publicist has known about for years: the Big C. And by that, I mean, of course, Controversy. They made the telecast controversial, and everyone seems to have fallen for it.

I don’t know if anyone has ever taken the Golden Globes seriously. Certainly, the people who win them seem quite happy to win them and so certainly one’s winning a Golden Globe makes it important to one. But the awards ceremony has never had the serious, self-congratulatory tone of the granddaddy of movie awards, the Academy Awards. The Globes ceremony has always felt like a party (a right piss-up, as my neighbors would say) with a lot of silly joking. After all, it’s not like the awards are coming from one’s peers or even filmmaking professionals. They are coming from journalists. And not even from real journalists, but from journalists working for the “foreign press,” whatever that is.

I took exception a couple of weeks ago when BBC film critic Mark Kermode praised the BAFTAs (aka “the British Oscars”) as being superior to American awards, a category into which he lumped the Golden Globes. Frankly, as an American, I don’t accept the Globes as being of my country. Sure, the ceremony is held at ground zero of the U.S. film industry in California and, for all I know, maybe all the people vote for the awards are American. But, by definition, they write for non-American publications, so I refuse to accept them as being of the same country I am. Anyway, the rumor (which, come to think of it, I started) is that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association consists entirely of an anonymous private mail box in Tijuana, Mexico.

So, as the Golden Globes are taken less and less seriously every year, what are the people behind them to do about it? The answer, of course, is to get in on the action. Go even further in making them seem silly and irrelevant. They made a good start last year by asking British comedian (and the 21st century’s answer to Don Rickles) Ricky Gervais to host. That went well because he raised a few eyebrows, but it wasn’t enough. So they asked him back this year and told him to wind it up a notch or two or three, all the way to 11. In other words, he turned it into a Friars Roast. I kept waiting for the pickled cadaver of Dean Martin to be rolled out to make a few choice quips about what a slut Joan Collins is.

The only thing I can’t figure out is whether everyone there was in on the plan. You see, I thought they were. Ever since the telecast, whenever anybody has been discussing or writing about it, they keep pointing out how upset the attendees were and they back this up by pointing out barbs shot back at Gervais by Robert Downey Jr. or Tom Hanks. But I thought that was what you are supposed to do at a roast. You fire back at the abuse. It’s all in good fun. (Downey did Gervais one better by turning his bit at the lectern into a dissertation on why all the women nominated for Best Actress would have had the quality of their work improved by sleeping with him.)

So was this really the outrageous scandale that everyone made it out to be? Or were these entertainment professionals in on, and participants in, the joke? I mean, even the president of the Hollywood foreign press people (clearly a low-rent actor hired for the occasion) seemed like he was trying to be a good sport when he misfired a zinger back at Gervais for the comment about needing help on the toilet and putting his teeth back in. Furthermore, clearly the only reason that Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp even bothered to show up was that they knew in advance what a skewering The Tourist was going to get—and they thrive on the attention.

People, it’s time you learned the cruel, hard truth. Awards programs are like reality television shows. They are based on the premise that the audience gets suckered into thinking that it is all happening for real.

But you want to know how I know for sure that all this phony outrage over tasteless jokes and jabs was all a set-up? Two words: Sandra Bullock.

I laughed all the way through Gervais’s poison-tipped remarks during the evening. Charlie Sheen a serious partier? Uh huh. No one saw The Tourist? Apparently. Bruce Willis is Ashton Kutcher’s dad? Good one. Tim Allen seems like nobody next to Tom Hanks? Well, duh. But when he began to introduce Sandra Bullock, I actually began to cringe? Would he go there? Would be bring up the whole messy Jesse James thing? I knew this would be the moment when we would find out once and for all if Gervais was truly out of control. He gave her a dig all right. You know what his big zinger for her was? He said the woman who became a star playing a bus driver in Speed and a train ticket collector in While You Were Sleeping was now too snooty to take public transportation. Ouch. Bet she cried all the way home.

So the beast had a heart after all. He pulled his punch for Sandy. And she deserved the considerate but not patronizing treatment. That’s why I think the people supposedly complaining about how mean and rude Gervais was know better. Acting offended is part of the joke. By doing so, they are building Gervais up as well as these strange awards called the Golden Globes.

But not too worry. All these people will all be back to taking themselves all too seriously in time for the Oscars.

-S.L., 27 January 2011

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