Sunday, January 17, 2010

Putting the "Golden" in the Golden Globes

In the immortal words of Deep Throat: Follow the money.

Ricky Gervais may have been joking about bribing the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association...but it sure does look like the movies that won the big awards tonight were (for the most part) the ones that could have afforded to buy them!

You have the two best picture prizes, as well as best director, going to two of the biggest box office hits of the year - AVATAR for drama, THE HANGOVER for comedy. (Side note: Seriously, THE HANGOVER? Granted, I'm one of a minority who hasn't seen that movie and so have no standing to complain...still, I devoutly hope that win's not a harbinger for Oscar nominations. And was it really necessary to invite Mike Tyson on stage?)

You have best actress for drama going to Sandy Bullock, who's had her most commercially successful year evah and won for her role in a $200m+ hit (THE BLIND SIDE). And you have best actress for comedy going to Meryl Streep for JULIE/JULIA (though the latter was probably due more to the fact that everyone bows down to the awesomeness that is Meryl Streep.)

You have best actor for comedy going to - probably the biggest WTF of the night, for me anyway - Robert Downey, Jr. in SHERLOCK HOLMES. I mean, really, HFPA? He was good enough in an entertaining enough film, but hardly the best of the year. On the plus side, Downey's was one of the funnier acceptances of the night. (Though I agree with his wife: Matt Damon should've won for "The Informant!")

Ok, so Jeff Bridges did nab the other best actor award for a still relatively unseen indie movie about a washed-up country singer...but that one was pretty much in the bag ever since buzz started building for "Crazy Heart." After all, Bridges is a well liked and highly respected actor who's never quite gotten the recognition he's deserved, and people in the industry (I'm told) see this as his year.

Anyway, tonight's ceremony was otherwise relatively uneventful. Several people acknowledged the ridiculousness of the event when juxtaposed with the devastation in Haiti; even more took cheap potshots at NBC, notwithstanding that's who was televising the event. Other points of note:

THE GOOD

Meryl's speech. Classy and heartfelt.

"The Weary Kind" winning Best Song. (No one seemed to get T Bone Burnett's Ryan Bingham/"Up in the Air" joke, but I did!)

"Glee" winning Best TV comedy! No, I don't necessarily, objectively think it deserved the award, but I do love that show...and I was already tired of "30 Rock" winning.

"Mad Men" winning Best TV drama again. I'm not tired of that.

Drew Barrymore. Is so adorable - just took the lead from Amy Adams for the annual Hollywood cuteness award.

Martin Scorsese making the Cecil B DeMille award presentation mercifully short, and using it to show just how much the man loves movies. It's positively heartwarming, even if his own movies usually aren't.

James Cameron mellowing out and actually sounding almost humble - no more "king of the world" from him! Even gave a nice nod to his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow - though I, too, was hoping she'd sneak a win for Best Director for "The Hurt Locker." I can't really quarrel too much with Cameron getting it; while "Avatar" isn't perfect, Cameron's vision is undeniably extraordinary in a lot of ways. I just wish he could have split picture/director honors with Bigelow somehow. I guess I can hold out hope for the Oscars, but I'm not holding my breath.

THE BAD

The abovementioned correlation between Big Box Office and Big Awards. Come on, HFPA, try to set the Academy a good example. Not that big box office necessarily means a bad movie...but still. ("The Hangover"? Really?)

Harrison Ford mispronouncing Vera Farmiga's name.

What was with all the plunging necklines and eye-popping cleavage? Not a fan. Then again, I'm not the target audience for that kind of thing.

THE UGLY

Sally Hawkins' dress. Sorry, darling, that eyesore stood out - not in a good way - in a fairly tame evening. Even Chloe Sevigny's mass of ruffles (ripped or not) wasn't that outlandish.

THE RANDOM

Paul McCartney giving the best animated film award - a point he himself noted before implying that all animation was the product of trippin'...Maybe the last animated films he saw were "Dumbo" and "Fantasia."

STARTED OFF WELL BUT WENT OFF THE RAILS

Christoph Waltz's acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor. That planetary metaphor got a little out of hand - it ended up making Quentin Tarantino sound like the center of the universe.

STARTED OFF BADLY BUT GOT BETTER

Ricky Gervais: his opening fell flat - he seemed extremely ill at ease, and I don't think it was just his usual schtick - but he improved as the night went on (maybe it was the beer he was swigging), and got away with a fair number of oh-no-he-didn't zingers. Loved how he snuck off the stage before Mel Gibson could take a whack at him.

And that's it from me...time to go revise my Oscars predictions!

4 Comments:

Blogger David said...

It's ironic that after making the $$$ = awards link, the one award you defend is Avatar, which is the mother of all "afford to buy them" movies. If you spend $300 million and 10 years on a single movie, it better be worthwhile. I haven't seen Avatar yet or any other film nominated in that category except Up in the Air, so I'm obviously not qualified to make a judgment. That said, if you harken back to 1998 when Cameron's other juggernaut Titanic won the best movie Oscar, it beat out L.A. Confidential and Good Will Hunting, two movies that IMO were significantly better. I wonder if the same will hold true this year.

As for The Hangover, I guess the question is how you are supposed to "judge" the "best" comedy or musical? The other movies in that category were snoozes. I literally could not get through Julie & Julia, and It's Complicated got tepid reviews. Nine seems to have been universally panned. (500) Days of Summer was okay but if you take away the non-linearity of the movie, the plot itself is relatively banal. Also, it's really only loosely a "rom com," and the film itself is actually somewhat depressing and bittersweet. That leaves The Hangover by default, and at least you can argue that it was the funniest of the 5 nominated movies.

11:32 PM  
Blogger lylee2 said...

Well, there's perhaps a distinction to be drawn between movies that cost bezillions of dollars to make and movies that bring in bezillions of dollars at the box office (though of course movies like "Avatar" end up being both). My quarrel is more with the latter group winning awards that in an ideal world should go to the most worthy, not just the most popular. Granted, more often than not that's not the way it works out, but this year's Golden Globes were a particularly blatant embrace of the commercial over the artistic.

However, don't get me started on "Titanic," a movie I grew to hate with a passion over the course of the 1998 Oscars season. Especially since, as you point out, it beat out and totally overshadowed "L.A. Confidential," one of the best movies of the '90s and one of my favorite films of all time.

About "Avatar," my feelings are more ambivalent. Yes, in a way it's just another "Titanic"-sized project of Cameron's that's dwarfing the competition and will probably dominate the Oscars at the expense of other, better films, but having seen it, I can tell you that in its own way it's a remarkable achievement. It's absolutely amazing to look at, but more than that, it really sweeps you into another world, almost another plane of existence. Given what Cameron accomplishes as a director, I can't say that he was totally undeserving of that particular award. (Now if he'd only hired a better screenwriter to add a touch of shading here, a dash of nuance there...)

I will, with difficulty, reserve judgment on "The Hangover" since I haven't seen it, but it seems to belong to a particular brand of humor that I just don't find very funny.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I think the "filmspotting" types have had it pretty good for the past few years. The Reader, Milk, Frost/Nixon, Slumdog, Atonement, There Will Be Blood, Babel, The Queen, Capote, Crash, Munich, etc., etc. These are not exactly box office hits. I think you're completely right that award distributors are swinging toward the "popularity" end of the spectrum (i.e., 10 best picture Oscar nominees this year), and Avatar is in the perfect position to capitalize. They will inevitably swing too far to the other side of the spectrum, but I think in part it's a backlash against little seen "indie" movies sweeping up the awards.

It's funny how you describe Avatar (which I haven't yet seen) because in many ways that paragraph could almost entirely describe Titanic, when it first came out. At the time it came out, the movie was heaped with praise because it was "amazing to look at," "sweeps you into another world, almost another plane of existence." Meanwhile it desperately needed "a touch of shading here, a dash of nuance there." Really, truly the same reaction. (Keep in mind when it came out in '97, it was a special effects marvel for its time.) My argument is, if we know now that, despite its visual marvel and unprecedented box office success, Titanic clearly did not deserve to win Best Picture (and L.A. Confidential is also one of my top 5 favs of all time BTW), why should those same factors lead one to conclude that Avatar deserves to win this year? Won't we all be kicking ourselves in 2020?

5:34 PM  
Blogger lylee2 said...

I know that's the kind of thing they said about "Titanic," too, except "Titanic" didn't work for me, even at the time. Maybe this was partly because unlike "Avatar," it was at least ostensibly recreating a historical event, only I found a lot of it laughably unconvincing. It didn't sweep me away.

By the way, I'm not saying "Avatar" deserves to win Best Picture this year - only that there have been bigger travesties in Oscar history.

11:28 PM  

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