It’s time for the Golden Globes to step out of the bubble, says Anupama Chopra
In February, the Los Angeles Times published a report on the many dubious practices of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA; which hands out the Golden Globe awards) that ended with a source saying: “If the studios wanted to kill the Golden Globes, they could overnight.” That seems to have happened.
Earlier this month, NBC announced that it will not air the 2022 Golden Globes ceremony. Tom Cruise has returned his trophies. Scarlett Johansson has called the HFPA sexist. And studios such as Netflix, Amazon and Warner Bros have declared that they will not participate in next year’s awards.
The Globes are in a state of implosion. The mounting criticism — among other things, the current 87-member group doesn’t include a single Black journalist — has forced HFPA to consider broad reforms. The board has revealed plans to admit new members with a specific focus on diversity, and to review questionable ethical practices such as allowing members to accept junkets and promotional gifts.
The Globes have a long history of controversy and derision, the latter coming from the often-baffling choices of nominees and winners. Nominations for best picture in the comedy/musical category, for instance, have included critically panned but star-studded films such as The Tourist (2010). This year, the frothy Emily in Paris won two nominations but the brilliant I May Destroy You was shut out.
In one of its most enduring scandals, Pia Zadora won New Star of the Year in 1982 for her critically panned performance in Butterfly — and not long before, her then husband Meshulam Riklis had flown select HFPA members to Las Vegas for a private screening!
Still, studios, production companies, artists and publicists courted the HFPA because a win at the Globes was seen as a boost in the Oscars race. Besides, the Globes were a blingy, boozy, pleasurable party.
I attended in 2015. The ceremony was held at the Beverly Hilton hotel. Waiters served Moët minis — soft-drink-sized bottles of the champagne, with straws — on the red carpet. In the ladies’ restroom, there was a designated area for touch-ups where L’Oréal artists primped guests for free. Adjacent banquet rooms had counters offering Godiva chocolate, and caviar that cost $4,000 a box. And the star power in the room was staggering. A-listers such as Robert Downey Jr, Harrison Ford and Gwyneth Paltrow showed up just to present awards.
My connection with HFPA was via two of its Indian members — journalists Meher Tatna, who served as president from 2017 to 2018, and Noel De Souza. In 2019, Meher invited me to an HFPA party at the Cannes film festival. Once again, it was a dazzling evening, this time of music, drinks and furious networking on the beach. Among the guests, I spotted five-time Oscar-winner Alejandro Iñárritu, who was president of the Cannes competition jury that year.
HFPA was launched in 1943, when 23 foreign entertainment journalists came together to lobby studios and, the official website says, “to share contacts, information and material”. The Golden Globes were launched the following year. The organisation’s 78-year history has been so dotted with scandal that in the official programme for the group’s 75th anniversary celebration in 2018, Meher acknowledged the many tangles, which included the awards being thrown off the air and being “pariahs one year”.
Clearly history is repeating itself. Hopefully, HFPA will use the current crisis to reinvent and emerge stronger. The association has clout, reach and substantial funds. And post-pandemic, cinema is likely to require a heftier celebration.
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