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Confessions/Observations of an Awards Season Skeptic, Part One: How I Was Compelled To Stop Worrying and Be Okay with the Golden Globes

We are all prostitutes.

The politically-enraged post-punk outfit The Pop Group hurled that accusation our way back in the late ‘70s.

The [Academy Awards]’s notorious commercialism and hypocrisy disgust many of the millions and millions and millions of viewers who tune in during prime time to watch the presentation…We pretty much all tune in, despite the grotesquerie of watching an industry congratulate itself on the pretense that it’s still an art form, of hearing people in $5,000 gowns invoke lush clichés of surprise and humility scripted by publicists, etc.—the whole cynical post-modern deal—but we all still seem to watch. To care. Even though the hypocrisy hurts…

David Foster Wallace wrote that back in 1998. (And nowadays the gowns go for way more than $5,000.) As I prepared to watch the Golden Globes show last night, these were the citations that were swirling through my brain. And nevertheless. Not only did I enjoy not just laughing at but laughing with the ceremony (the material that hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler delivered had a 60:40 ratio of razor-sharp to cringe worthy, actually a pretty damn good number all things being equal), I went to bed with a feeling of contentment.

The reason is idiotically, even arguably venally, simple. In the categories I cared about, my guys won. Multiple awards for “Boyhood,” the number three film on my 2014 Top Ten List. Multiple awards for “Birdman,” number seven on my list. A mildly surprising award for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” my number four. No, I’m not high on “Whiplash,” but I love J.K. Simmons when he’s directed by the Coens or appearing on a “Law and Order” or doing a Farmer’s Insurance commercial or anything else. And truth to tell he’s enjoyable to watch even in so meretricious an effort as “Whiplash.” Yeah, I think “The Theory of Everything” is a crock (I do like how its standard deviation from the Great Man With Disability biopic is its acknowledgement that Marital Infidelity Is A Thing) and I think Eddie Redmayne’s performance, while virtuosic, is rather shameless in its telegraphing—still, Redmayne’s win, combined with Julianne Moore’s victory with “Still Alice,” set off a social media semi-frenzy of gifs from the incestuous Redmayne/Moore threesome (with Hugh Dancy) from 2007’s “Savage Grace,” so that’s something, particularly if you’re into indulging the more adolescent side of your sense of humor. So even when I wasn’t entirely happy, I discerned nothing to get angry about. It’s kind of like how, despite the fact that I found the Ronald Reagan administration morally and politically objectionable, I really have to force myself to work up any indignation about it, because the fact is that Ronnie and his doings really didn’t do all that much to inhibit my enjoyment of my twenties. Does that make me a shallow person? Maybe.

But there’s something to be said, if not for shallowness, then for the ability to relax into the climaxes of awards season rather than stress about what the Globe results mean for the narrative. This, I suppose, will be the task of all manner of self-appointed “gurus,” self-proclaimed reluctant prognosticators, ostensibly dispassionate industry analysts, and many more as various Guild and non-Guild awards ceremonies disperse various and sundry tea leaves prior to the big night less than eight weeks from now—The Oscars. The showbiz pundits whose job it is to predict sure things and/or front-runners might normally be flummoxed by the way the movie awards at the Globes were fanned out. The generosity itself was sufficient to make one suspect it was deliberate, for the sake of an entertaining show: a little love for “Serious Indie One,” a little for “Serious Indie Two with Movie Stars In The Cast,” a little love for “Comedic Quirky Indie”…okay, so, trending: “No Love For Blockbusters, and, Surprisingly or Perhaps Disturbingly, Little Love For Socially Conscious Drama.”

I did see in my Twitter feed several complaints about the paucity of awards for “Selma” and I do suppose its reason for pause, or question. The film is a fine one (number six on my 2014 ten best list!), so what’s the holdup? Did it get in the race too late? Was the notoriously shady Hollywood Foreign Press Association bought off by the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library lobby? Out there in the Oscar blogosphere you will find all manner of predictors talking of insect antennae and metrics that are too inside baseball for you, the puny human reader who does not live in West Hollywood, to understand. One thing to remember as you navigate the personal passions that roil under the surface of “trust me, I’m an industry veteran” chin-strokings (there may someday come a day when Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone gets over the fact that David Fincher has not won a Best Director Oscar) it’s useful to remember that even those of us who rail most vehemently about the absurd corruption of an industry that gives Jennifer Aniston a Best Actress Nomination (and that, as of 10:00 in the morning Eastern Time on January 12, 2015, is all she’s got with respect to awards) are functioning, in some sense, as adjuncts and/or accomplices of that industry. But hey. There’s a reason it’s called “show business.” And sometimes in show business, good things happen to and with art, and we saw some of that happen at last night’s Globes. 

Glenn Kenny

Glenn Kenny was the chief film critic of Premiere magazine for almost half of its existence. He has written for a host of other publications and resides in Brooklyn. Read his answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here.

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