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Criticwatch - Golden Globes, Can You Spare A Nomination or Three?

by Erik Childress

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association have always been a shady bunch. Literally shady, remaining mostly in the shadows with their identities hidden from the public record as much as the MPAA, who decide what is and is not appropriate for your children. 30 Rock has been having a lot of fun with them lately as being easily influenced by the usually rowdy and clueless Tracy Jordan dressing up like a beatnik to sell his serious dramatic performance in "Hard to Watch, based on the book Stone Cold Bummer by Manipulate". If they can be sold on that, imagine the manipulation of a free Vegas weekend just before voting. At least, that is what is being reported as one possible reason why their choices for in their Comedy/Musical categories this year were so...suspect.

Over at Cinematical, I followed up on Guy Adams' piece in The Independent, touching the surface of the story. What we know is that Adams claims that HFPA members were flown to Vegas for an all-expenses paid trip that included hotels, meals and a free concert by Cher. Cher is the star of Screen Gems' Burlesque, a division of Sony Pictures that Adams reports is the financier of this trip. Nominations are released on Tuesday, Dec. 14 and the film is the recipient of three Golden Globe nominations including two for song and one for Best Picture (Comedy/Musical). Also nominated for three Golden Globes - Sony's The Tourist. Coincidence?

Well, let's look at what we can surmise over the Globes history. As pointed out in the Cinematical piece, usually if you are a musical (or a film about a musician) you are almost guaranteed a nomination in this category. Only once in this 21st century (2003) can the category deny having this distinction. Some could suggest that Disney's Tangled would have made a better fit to fill their Musical quota this year. Alas, the Golden Globes added a Best Animated Feature award in 2007 and deemed all such films ineligible to compete in either of the main Best Picture categories. So, even without the Vegas incentive, Burlesque was probably still going to get in. Crappiness has never deemed a film ineligible at the Golden Globes.

Debating the quality of one choice over another is one for the masses. Experts, critics, journalists or whatever you want to call the groups that hand out awards to the best in film, crooked charlatans is not the label we should be associating with a voting body of any type. Are their choices so outrageous though? Can we get over the hump of reasonable doubt and speculate that a free vacation led to these nominations? Absolutely.

Burlesque received not one, but two Best Song nominations from the HFPA including Cher's big number in the film ("You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me" - which seems like a fitting addition to her Caesar's Palace show. To date, that particular song has also been nominated by critics groups in Houston, Phoenix, as well as the Broadcast Film Critics Association. That is more than can be said of Sony's The Tourist, currently rated 21% at Rotten Tomatoes (Burlesque is at 39%), which has received all of three nominations this season. All from the Hollywood Foreign Press.

In 1999, after Sharon Stone sent gold watches to each of the HFPA voters, she received the only nomination of any kind for Albert Brooks' The Muse from any voting group that entire season. Of course this isn't the first Vegas treat bestowed upon them. Pia Zadora's husband in 1981, the producer of her film Butterfly, got the members out to sin city before turning in their ballots and, what do you know, she wins Best New Star of the Year.

Call it bribery or a "long-lead international press junket" as Sony called it in a Daniel Frankel piece for The Wrap, the studios are just doing their job for their films. Whether the actual words "Hey, nice room and concert, huh? How about a free vote for Burlesque?" were ever uttered is unknown. The integrity of awards season is not in the best interest of studios trying to reap a little extra publicity for their films. That is supposed to fall squarely within the individual critic, journalist, voter, or whomever. If put into such a position, it is their job to look temptation in the eye and say, if necessary, "Hey, thanks for the fancy spread and hotel room. Your movie still sucks."

That is why Criticwatch has continually come down on the junket system and what it breeds. We blame the studios not for offering swag to easily susceptible quote whores. We blame them for being uncreative in their marketing. If all they want are crappy interviews and critics who can't think up the word "Awesome" by themselves without it being suggested to them by the studio's version of Dom Cobb, mission accomplished. Pull quotes are not difficult to find though. One trip to Rotten Tomatoes, a quick look at a few positive reviews (which you can find for 99.5% of all films no matter how bad), and something can be used in the ads. Think of the money that can be saved. Think of the integrity. At least then we can just mock people with bad taste and not question what was on the silver spoon that led to it.

PopEater's Rob Shuter reports that Cher had no idea the studio had flown the HFPA in to see her. "She just assumed this group was another group of fans for her to meet and greet." According to Frankel's piece this backstage rendezvous happened sometime between Sept. 24 and Oct. 31 (Burlesque opened Nov. 24) and that their backrow tickets cost $82, just squeaking in the $100 limit allowed for HFPA members on accepting gratuities persay. Out of curiosity what is the limit for members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association?

To paraphrase my colleague and pal, Scott Weinberg, at this point the People's Choice Awards holds more credibility than the Golden Globes, because at least we know the public is voting honestly. Did a Vegas weekend for Burlesque extend HFPA's Sony love over to The Tourist, a film that was not even screened for critics in New York and Chicago until two days before its release? How appropriate is it that the group nominated Kevin Spacey for his performance as notorious Washington lobbyist, Jack Abramoff? Not only is it also the only nomination that Casino Jack has received this season, but it was also placed in the Comedy/Musical category. Few, if any, critics believed Casino Jack to be a comedy, but between that, the song-and-dance of Burlesque and the mistaken identity plot of The Tourist, this year's Golden Globes has certainly turned out to be a farce.


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3136
originally posted: 12/22/10 03:33:57
last updated: 12/22/10 03:38:42
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