The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Golden Globes: Is the media too obsessed with a second-rate awards show?

December 15, 2010 | 12:01 pm

Cher After reading the avalanche of coverage about Tuesday's Golden Globes nominations, including a lengthy post focusing on the hapless nature of the awards from yours truly, a friend in the business asked a fair, but uncomfortable,  question: If all you guys in the media think the Globes are so lame, why do you give them such wall-to-wall coverage?

I started to argue with him -- journalists are congenitally defensive about criticism -- but I had to admit that he had a valid point. Entertainment TV and showbiz bloggers fell over themselves doing Globes updates while my newspaper devoted most of Wednesday's Calendar section to extensive Globes coverage, even as we pointed out all of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s many flaws, including nominating for best picture for comedy/musical such critically drubbed clunkers as "The Tourist" and "Burlesque."

For years, reporters have published embarrassing stories about the HFPA, whose 81 voting members are for the most part obscure foreign entertainment journalists with little of the cachet of the 6,000-plus voting members of the Motion Picture Academy. Globes voters have been involved in all sorts of scandals and gaffes over the years. If you talk to the top award-season consultants, they can barely disguise their lack of respect for the HFPA members, who often put themselves in indelicate situations, as with this year's crew, which took a Sony-sponsored trip to Las Vegas to see Cher in concert, then gave her film a stunning best picture nod.

So why do we lavish so much attention on the Globes? The honest answer is that we are largely following Hollywood's lead. The movie studios campaign hard for Globes victories, running tons of Globes-centric trade ads and making all of their stars available for post-nomination interviews as well as other events leading up to the awards ceremony. It is a firmly held industry belief that a strong Globes showing can help influence Oscar voters, even though the Globes' track record as an Oscar barometer is scattershot at best. For a number of years, their nominations portended Oscar triumph, but since "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King's" win in 2005, only one Globes best picture winner ("Slumdog Millionaire") went on to win the top prize at the Oscars.

The Globes are sort of the Hollywood equivalent of the New Hampshire presidential primary, which inspires a tsunami of media coverage, even though as a small state its voters represent a tiny fraction of the overall presidential voting public. Like the Globes, it once had a reputation as an accurate predictive force, but in recent years its winners have a barely better than .500 batting average: Only two of the last four Republican primary winners went on to land their party's nomination while only three of the five last Democratic winners went on win their party's nominations (and some of those winners were sitting presidents). So why give New Hampshire so much respect? Old habits die hard.

The same goes for the Globes, which are a star-studded equivalent of an early presidential primary. There's no getting around it. If you put a ton of celebrities in a room together, the media will show up, which is why Comic-Con International in San Diego inspires days of endless blog dispatches, even though the event has long since evolved from a bona fide fan festival into a giant Hollywood promotional vehicle. No one can say we didn't cover the Globes with a critical eye, but I'd be the first to admit that the media now finds itself lavishing far too much attention on an awards show of questionable importance. 

-- Patrick Goldstein

RECENT AND RELATED: GOLDEN GLOBES TO JOHNNY DEPP: WE'RE SENDING A LIMO--OR TWO!

Photo: Cher, left, with Christina Aguilera at the Crazy Horse cabaret in Paris, promoting "Burlesque." Credit: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

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