January is the month-long lull that no one looks forward to after the holiday excitement is over. The dreary climate can take a toll on one’s mood, but for those who pay attention to the entertainment industry, it’s also the start of awards season. The Grammys, Oscars and Emmy Awards are all giving away shiny golden trophies to celebrities draped in designer gowns and done up in luxury tuxes. It’s fun to watch your favourite movies and artists win, and anticipate who will go home with the most coveted prizes. But who decides which movies take home the gold?
When Golden Globe winners thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), they’re talking about the voting body that founded the Golden Globe Awards, currently made up of 90 foreign journalists that determine the winners. Comparatively, this group is much smaller that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose nearly 8,500 members vote on the Oscars. Movies and TV shows have a better shot at earning award recognition if they appeal to the much smaller group. One vote out of 90 carries much more weight that one vote out of almost 8,500. This is why it’s easier for studios to work the HFPA, and it’s no secret that they do.
The Globes are notorious for studios trying to woo the group’s members. Actress Pia Zadora won an award in 1982 and allegedly, her husband had paid for it with an elaborate promotional campaign. As a result, the awards show lost its deal with CBS. While accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement in 2016, Denzel Washington told a story in which producer Freddie Fields invited him to a Hollywood Foreign Press luncheon. He was told to take pictures with everybody and other such favours so he would win the award that year, and he did. Nicole Kidman did an interview for the film Billy Bathgate unlike her co-star Dustin Hoffman and in the end, she was nominated.
In 2011, Michael Russell sued the HFPA with claims that many members “abuse their positions and engage in unethical and potentially unlawful deals and arrangements which amount to a ‘payola’ scheme.” This came after Russell and his partner were fired from the Globes the year prior due to a dispute with association President Philip Berk. According to Russell, he and his partner tried to raise the ethical issues frequently but were always dismissed. Berk wrote a memoir in which he directly stated that the HFPA let more than just performances dictate Golden Globe results. The same year it was sued, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie received nominations for The Tourist, “a critical and commercial flop”. The Golden Globes has long been criticized for its nominations and favouring top actors.
On a more musical note, when Katy Perry came out with her most recent album, Witness, she said in a New York Times profile that “all the award shows are fake, and all the awards I’ve won are fake… they’re constructs,” alluding to the fact that they don’t represent the audience. She’s won several Teen Choice Awards, People’s Choice Awards and MTV Music Awards, among others.
So while it’s exciting to see your favourite celebrities walk down the red carpet and across the stage to receive their trophies, be aware that there might have been some more behind-the-scenes activities at play, in addition to just their performances.
Helen Jacob | Staff Writer