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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Golden Globes to Johnny Depp: We're sending a limo -- or two!

Johnny_depp The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. is famous for its whoppers — let me just say two words: Pia Zadora. But when it comes to zany choices, it's hard to top giving two of the five Golden Globes nominations for motion picture comedy or musical to “The Tourist” and “Burlesque,” movies that critics everywhere have mocked for (how shall we say this?) their singular lack of filmmaking artistry.

“The Tourist” is an embezzlement drama with a hint of action; the only comedy category it belongs in is one reserved for movies full of unintentional humor. And when it comes to awards season indignities, try to imagine a supposedly respectable film organization giving three nominations to “Burlesque” — but just one to Pixar’s “Toy Story 3,” one to Ben Affleck’s “The Town” and zero to the Coen brothers’ “True Grit.”

The “Tourist” and “Burlesque” were joined in the comedy or musical category by “Red,” a film sold almost entirely as an action movie. No one will complain about Lisa Cholodenko's “The Kids Are All Right” earning a spot in this category, but “Red” could have easily been replaced by “Made in Dagenham,” an impeccable example of British comic entertainment, or “True Grit,” which is as much of a comedy as “Red,” and much better made to boot.

As for the acting nominations, I guess the HFPA wanted to make extra sure that Johnny Depp would show up for the Globes TV broadcast, so they sent a limo — figuratively, two limos I suppose — by giving him a pair of actor nods, one for “Alice in Wonderland” and one for “The Tourist,” even though the latter film might represent his worst performance since the days of “21 Jump Street.”

Trying to fix the Golden Globes is like attempting to salvage the Middle East peace talks — where do you start? But if there is one category in dire need of rehab, it’s the comedy or musical. The category was launched in 1952 as a way to broaden the spectrum of honorees, in much the same way that the Motion Picture Academy upped its number of best picture nominees from five to 10 last season. Unfortunately, the Globes comedy-musical category has been full of clunkers for years. Why?

In short, because the HFPA doesn't understand comedy. It's no secret that comedy rarely travels well. The vast majority of Hollywood comedies do far better in the United States than in foreign markets, largely because our favorite home-grown stars — think Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell, Jack Black and Seth Rogen — operate in a peculiarly American comic idiom. Adam Sandler is the only comic star whose films make as much money overseas as they do here, and it took years of promotional appearances across Europe and Asia to pull that off.

It goes without saying the Hollywood Foreign Press is, well, foreign. They just don't get American humor, which is why the reigning king of American comedy, Judd Apatow — who has produced a zillion classic comedies, notably “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Talladega Nights,” “Anchorman,” “Knocked Up,” “Superbad,” “Pineapple Express” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” — has never received a Golden Globes nomination.

This was an especially weak year for comedy, so it's hard to argue that the Globes did a terrible disservice to Hollywood by ignoring the likes of “Due Date,” “Dinner for Schmucks” or “Grown Ups,” one of the few films this year to get worse reviews than “The Tourist.”

But in the past, the HFPA has blundered time and again. In 2008, it gave a comedy or musical nomination to “In Bruges,” a film about two Irish hit men laying low in Belgium, ignoring such skillfully made real comedies such as “Role Models,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Tropic Thunder.” In 2007, “Knocked Up” and “Superbad” were passed over in favor of the forgettable “Charlie Wilson's War.”

Some Globes fans argue that the HFPA should simply abandon the comedy and musical category, offering instead 10 best picture nominees as the Oscars do. But it seems unlikely that the Globes would follow the academy's lead, since it is always eager to keep its distance from its rival.

My advice would be simpler: Keep the comedy and musical category, but open it up to any available movie. As it stands, the HFPA doesn't allow animated films to compete outside of the animated feature category. But why lock some of the world’s biggest-grossing movies in an animation ghetto? As evidenced by such films as “Toy Story 3,” “Despicable Me” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” they now provide most of America's best comic filmmaking. If allowed to compete as comedies, they would have made the category much stronger.

The Globes already have set worthy precedent with their treatment of foreign films. They allow only foreign films to compete in the foreign language film category, yet they allow the actors from those films to compete in any category.

They should grant the same freedom to animated features, which would add some real artistic zest to the woeful comedy or musical category. I know the HFPA is desperate to be taken seriously. But today's nominations were a reminder that the Globes are just as vacuous as ever.

 -- Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Johnny Depp at the European premiere for his Golden Globe nominated film, "The Tourist."
     

Credit:  John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images

 

 
Comments () | Archives (11)

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Wow, I know. I read that nominee list and did a double take on The Tourist and Depp's double nom. Usually double nom's cancel each other out, so no worries about Depp snagging that award, but the fact that someone thought The Tourist was a comedy or musical is a complete joke.

Um maybe you're sense of humor is "too American" but In Bruges deserved that nomination. It's what some like to call a "Black Comedy" and it is beloved in Europe, especially Ireland. If you couldn't find the humor in it then I don't know what's wrong with you but it certainly mixed very serious elements of drama with some very dark and biting humor. I loved it. Please don't use a good film like that when you're trying to bash the GGs.

Also, besides the obvious pandering of trying to get Brangelina on their red carpet, maybe this was just a big old "F You" to the critics? The Tourist was mediocre. Not great but certainly not horrible. Critics punished it by savagely tearing it apart simply because it starred Jolie and Johnny Depp. No way did that movie deserve the shellacking it got by a bunch of vulture critics. Its RT score puts it in the same category as Norbit, Gigli, The Happening etc. and in no way does The Tourist come close to being that bad. It is simply pretty "meh" and a let down considering the talent. Maybe the HFPA is just sending a message to pretentious, way-to-serious critics like yourself to lighten the heck up!

I really enjoyed Burlesque. Is everyone supposed to hate it because 5o year old, straight, male critics hated it? Did anyone expect them to like it? Isn't that kind of like screening The Expendables to Oprah's audience? Was "The Hangover" known for its "filmmaking artistry" when it won in that category last year? I don't quite get your logic here. Burlesque was a fun movie despite what critics said about it. I'm glad it got the nomination. Critics are not and should not be the deciding factor for any films award prospects.

Aherm.

What you meant to say is the HFPA don't understand American comedy, not comedy.

No wonder, most of it is dull, crass and most certainly not funny to anyone outside of America. We in other Western nations like our comedies to be a little more intelligent, original and, well, funny.

I mostly agree with this article--except I, too, believe that "In Bruges" definitely deserved a nomination in the Musical/Comedy category. It was only a tiny bit of a stretch--I don't feel like it really fit the Drama category any better than the Musical/Comedy one. Despite the dark tone and content, it was definitely--as Jay says--a "black comedy." I laughed more often and harder while watching "In Bruges" than most other so-called "comedic" movies I have ever seen.

I saw and enjoyed "The Tourist" as a subtle satire on action films like "Mission Impossible" and a subtle comedy which was well acted, well directed but had a mediocre ending. Apparently the quality of movies, as well as beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. That said, this years offerings are sub par except for the Social Network which was an award worthy movie. I haven't seen True Grit or Made In Dagenham.

Thank you Jay for one of the more intelligent comments I have seen this morning. I think Americans just do not know what to do with Johnny he is above and beyond anything most of us can comprehend especially the critics.

Duh. Since when have the GGs or even the Oscars been about talent? As if the Oscars weren't dicey enough (Ronni Chasen must truly have been the best there ever was if she managed the "Driving Miss Daisy Campaign") the Academy goes and gives an Oscar to a mediocre actress like Sandra Bullock for a horrible, cliche riddled humiliation like The Blind Side? Then we have a knot headed actress like Angelina Jolie nominated for a movies whose sole purpose to pander to Jolie's narcissism? Do-gooder Angie must have summon Ronni Chasen from the grave.

The GGs and the Oscars are shamelessly political, politically correct, buyable and simply unreliable. From Marissa Tomei to "Crash" the Oscars have a tendency to shine and stink like a rotten mackeral in the moonlight. We will never really know why marginal movies and performances win while worthy performances and movies are ignored. But somebody always does.

Your articles have reached the level of meaningless blogger ranting. Some of the most acclaimed and successful films of the year - "Social Network", Inception", "King's Speech", "Kids" - were honored with multiple nominations but you are upset The Tourist got a couple? You think "In Bruges" was unfairly recognized over "Tropic Thunder" - that one gets my own "Huh?". And apparently Apatow has made no fewer than SEVEN "classic comedies"? Do you mean classic in the sense that "Young Frankenstein" and "Caddyshack" are classics, because five of the seven you named don't even belong in the same conversation as those two. And, most hilariously, "Dragon" and Despicable Me" are two examples of America's best comic filmmaking? Those two films were fine, but even my ten year old would disagree with that assessment.

P.S. Judd Apatow is simply awful. From a European standpoint, he's every stereotype they believe about America and Americans - that we're stupid, crass, sexually juvenile and obnoxious. That's not even including Leslie Mann who is so irksome it's simply difficult to put into words what with that whiny high pitched voice and her utter absence of sex appeal or attractiveness. Apatow's movies appeal to "guys" (males who never really turn into men) period.

Europeans tend to gravitate towards more understated comedy while Americans gravitate towards Jack Ass 3d. So paleeese, spare me the second guessing of the FPA when it comes to comedy. And Sarah Marshall was cookie cutter at best. Apatow is actually the white Tyler Perry.

 
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