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Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Spun again by the Globes

Every year I promise myself that I will ignore the Golden Globes. But (cue my best Michael Corleone impression) they keep pulling me back in!

RTÉ, the Irish national broadcast doesn’t make it easy. They went and rebroadcast the awards ceremony right in the middle of primetime so that it was hard to avoid. And they took out most of the commercial breaks. So it felt like I wasn’t getting the full benefit of paying my TV license if I didn’t watch. (And by the way, when is Ireland going to get its own Tea Party to protest the inhumanity of forcing everyone to pay a license to own a TV just so they can pass the money on to the government-owned TV channels which, unlike the BBC, go ahead and bombard us with advertisements anyway? I’m just saying.)

My original plan was to not watch the telecast but to spend that time drinking the entire selection of Glenfiddich that my Scottish brother-out-law had sent me for my recent birthday. But in the end I couldn’t resist and watched the damn thing.

I still refuse to treat the winners as anything meaningful since they were, after all, chosen by a relatively small and anonymous group of people who are connected only marginally to the entertainment industry. (For my take on nominations that sorta kinda mean something, check out my Oscar predictions.) But they do throw a good party. The Globes are definitely more entertaining to watch than the Academy Awards, but only in the way that a spectacular train wreck is more interesting to watch than traffic queuing up to pay a bridge toll.

People’s behavior is really bad at the Golden Globes, which is what makes them so fun to watch. And the Hollywood Foreign Press Association seems happy to be made the butt of gags for the evening, as if they are in on the joke the whole thing is really a sham. But what really makes it all really entertaining is the way the cream of Hollywood treat the whole thing as a big joke—until the moment they win something. Then suddenly it becomes The Most Important Moment in their lives. And they live in fear of forgetting to thank the wrong person. I have never seen so many do-overs with people adding names they forgot to thank in subsequent speeches or, in a spectacularly odd moment, by having Ben Affleck’s speech addendum sent up with his wife Jennifer Garner, who was presenting some other award.

Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig’s bit in which they elaborately pretended not to have seen any of the nominated movies was funny but went on until it was cringe-inducing. Hey, is it just me or do the Globes seem mainly to be a platform for people who are currently, or used to be, on Saturday Night Live? Jennifer Lawrence may have given us a peek behind the curtain as to how the Globes operate when she thanked Harvey Weinstein for “killing whoever you had to to get me up here.”

While not as outrageous as Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were plenty funny and got off some good lines. I particularly enjoyed their alcohol-fueled sulk after both lost for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical or YouTube Video or on a DVD. They mocked the category’s winner Lena Dunham for having gushed that the other nominees had helped her get through middle school. (Hmmm, isn’t that code for saying that they all are, like, really old?)

There were lots of other great zingers and one-liners to quote, but I’ll just mention a couple of the more memorable moments from my point of view.

One was the moment that Adele won (deservedly, as it coincidentally happened) for her title song for Skyfall. The look of mystified disdain on the face of Taylor Swift (nominated for her song “Safe & Sound” in The Hunger Games) as the exuberant Adele emoted in her down-to-earth north London accent was as good as anything Bette Davis came up with in All About Eve. Could this be fodder for Swift’s next album?

Digression: I am reminded of a joke my daughter brought to me recently. It goes something like this. Taylor Swift waved at a boy across a parking lot and he didn’t wave back. Now she has new album coming out.

Anyway, it’s just as well that I have a 12-year-old daughter because, otherwise, I might not even know who Taylor Swift and Adele are.

The other moment that stuck with me was Jodie Foster’s acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. Hmmm, now there’s a good example of the fatuousness of the Golden Globes and much of what goes on during awards season: giving a “lifetime achievement” award to a 50-year-old still clearly in her prime and likely with many big accomplishments ahead of her. But I don’t particularly begrudge Foster getting the award. She is a talented woman who has earned any kudos that come her way.

Actually, Robert Downey Jr.’s introduction of Foster was actually better than her speech—mainly because it was a lot shorter and because it began, “The Cecil B. DeMille Award says every bit as much about the presenter as it does the recipient.” Foster’s speech was rambling and self-indulgent in the way that these speeches are now expected to be and, apparently, what everyone in the audience wants to hear. And yet… there was a lot of emotion and uncharacteristic self-revelation from the notoriously private Foster.

She playfully teased that she was leading up to a major “coming out” announcement but in the end made only oblique (but still clear) references to her personal life. And she made, if not exactly a plea, then an explanation of her desire for some sort of private space in her life. Normally, I find famous celebrities who have become rich, renowned, privileged and pampered because of selling themselves to the world to be crying crocodile tears when they moan about the lack of privacy in their lives. But with Foster it seems genuine. She clearly did not make a reasoned choice for a life of fame when she entered the business by appearing in a Coppertone ad at the age of three. And she has not tried to have it both ways, as some do, by courting the public’s gaze on hand while at the same time vilifying any paparazzi that dare to shoot unguarded snaps.

Some in the press didn’t like the way she seemed to be criticizing people who live their lives in the public glare or, by extension, turning their personal lives into political causes. After calling the speech “glorious, gracious” in the UK Guardian, Patrick Strudwick wrote, “It is every gay public figure’s social responsibility to be out, to make life better for those without publicists and pilates teachers. Those who cry, ‘It’s none of your business! Who cares who I sleep with?!’ shirk their public duty, and deny the shame that keeps the closet door shut.”

So the same people who don’t like fundamentalist Christians telling them how they should deal with their own personal lives want to tell other people how they should deal with theirs? I don’t criticize anyone for sharing too much or too little about their personal lives in the pursuit of political and social causes. But I think Jodie Foster actually has the right idea. The true essence of tolerance and liberty is respect for people’s privacy.

Keep up the good work, Jodie. Maybe someday you will become the first actor/filmmaker to get the Golden Globes lifetime achievement award a second time.

-S.L., 15 January 2012

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