*Note: Since the publication of this article, Sam Smith has gone onto pulling one of the biggest upsets on Oscar night and won the Best Song Oscar for “Writing’s on the Wall.” Spotlight defeated The Revenant for Best Picture.
Last night The Golden Globes contradicted a vast majority of pundits, award specialists, and critics with its seemingly random, often perplexing choices for winners. Spotlight, which was the frontrunner, saw itself empty handed. Game of Thrones, despite winning Drama Series at the Emmys last year, saw itself empty handed as well. Even Comedy Series was considered an upset with Transparent losing to the new Amazon series Mozart in the Park. Now before people get riled and worked up about what happened last night, let us acknowledge the bitter reality about the Golden Globes: They aren’t a reliable award ceremony. They haven’t been for a decade.
The Golden Globes is comprised of 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press. What does that mean? It means the Golden Globes is the outlier of ceremonies since its voters are not in association with the SAG, DGA, WGA or the PGA. When it comes to the Academy Awards, all guilds are comprised into a single voting body, which is what has always made the Oscars more credible than the Golden Globes. For the Foreign Hollywood Press, their minimal voting body severely indicates a potential for favoritism, which can be proven when looking at their winners over the years. Yet what makes their voting body even more questionable is the lack of a rule indicating they must view all nominees in categories before voting, unlike the Oscars where it is a requirement to view the nominees in specific categories before voting. What am I insinuating? I am suggesting the Foreign Hollywood Press votes more based upon name recognition than actual acting and filmmaking clout.
Last year was the clear-cut example of the Golden Globes neglecting to stay on par with the Oscars or the vast majority of award ceremonies. Birdman was neck-and-neck with Boyhood the entire award season, making it clear they were the blatant frontrunners for the year. However, not only did the Golden Globes deny Alejandro González Iñárritu a Golden Globe for direction (which he would ultimately win an Oscar for), but Birdman failed to win the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Movie. Instead they awarded The Grand Budapest Hotel, which on the surface seemed to make sense, but it didn’t. Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel were both films that relied on two components: Its Lead Actor and its Screenplay. Therefore, whoever won in those categories clearly had the better constructed film. Birdman won for Screenplay and Michael Keaton won the Golden Globe over Ralph Fiennes, therefore the Golden Globes clearly indicated Birdman was the better film in construction. Yet they denied the film the overall Comedy Film win. That’s essentially saying Birdman was the best film in form and content, yet somehow not the best movie. That makes no sense. It was a blatant contradiction last year that served as evidence of the Golden Globes’ unreliability with awarding the rightful film.
To be fair, the Golden Globes once had a good track record that was on par with the Academy Awards. For example, between 1990 to 2000 the Golden Globes and the Oscars were in agreement with the Best Picture winner 7 out of 10 years. This made the Golden Globes a credible precursor prior to the eventual Oscar ceremony. To give some additional credibility to the Golden Globes, they currently remain accurate in their Motion Picture winner choices in the acting categories (television is another story!). However, its Best Picture choices are where the Golden Globes begin to expose itself for the weak and unreliable ceremony that it has become.
Let’s look at a handful of Golden Globe winners versus who eventually won Best Picture at the Oscars:
2005: The Aviator wins the Golden Globe…Million Dollar Baby wins the Oscar
2006: Babel wins the Golden Globe…The Departed wins the Oscar
2007: Atonement wins the Golden Globe…No Country for Old Men wins the Oscar
2009: Avatar wins the Golden Globe…The Hurt Locker wins the Oscar
2010: The Social Network wins the Golden Globe…The King’s Speech wins the Oscar
When looking at this list and include the Birdman loss last year, that is 6 years of inaccuracy out of 10 years, the opposite result in comparison to the 1990s. Yet what is more telling from the choices the Golden Globes made instead? It is evident, when looking at the winners, the voters opted for the more grandiose, popular films and deviated away from artistic films. The Aviator and Avatar were excellent films, but mere popcorn films in comparison to their competition. The Social Network, outside of Aaron Sorkin’s script was a film comprised of nostalgia (not to mention, the film was largely inaccurate in its facts). As far as Babel and Atonement goes, both films were culturally diverse, which obviously appealed to a voting body that would have preferred a more culturally diverse film. There is nothing wrong with that preference, but by having that mindset, it blinded voters from recognizing The Departed and No Country for Old Men, two brilliant films from recent years that were filmmaking perfection.
Let’s say we forgive the Golden Globes for tripping when it comes to awarding the rightful Best Picture. Can we do the same for the Golden Globes and the television categories? Absolutely not. When observing the choices the Golden Globes have made over the years regarding television, it is not only a dagger in the heart, but they also twisted the blade as well. Am I being harsh? Perhaps. Is my point valid nonetheless? Unfortunately it is.
The Golden Globes should be banned from ever awarding in the television categories because their rationale of who is a winner has no correlation with any other award ceremony in the business. Their choices are random, sometimes inexplicable. Yet this is a trend when one does a careful analysis of their winners. Bluntly said, voters opt for the newer shows and place preferential treatment for them over veteran shows. In that regard, it is more difficult for a veteran show to win a Golden Globe than a freshman show. For example, Breaking Bad, despite being one of the most popular shows of all time, didn’t get its first Drama Series nomination at the Golden Globes until the first half of its final season (that’s season 5, people! Season 5!). Modern Family, despite winning the Emmy 5 years in a row, didn’t win its first (and only) Golden Globe for Comedy Series until its third season. These two examples here function as contemporary evidence of the disconnect the Golden Globes have in correlation with the Emmys.
But let’s look more closely at a handful of the winners in the last 10 years:
2004-2005: Desperate Housewives win…Loses at the Emmys in its first season, wasn’t even nominated for its second season
2006: Ugly Betty wins…It loses at the Emmys that year
2007: Extras wins…It wasn’t nominated at the Emmys
2010-2011: Glee wins…Loses both years at the Emmys
2011: Boardwalk Empire wins…Loses at the Emmys
2013: Girls wins…Loses at the Emmys
2014: Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Andy Samberg win…Both weren’t nominated at the Emmys
2015: The Affair wins…It wasn’t nominated at the Emmys
See the disconnect between the two ceremonies?
Yet there is something much more glaring when observing this chart. Every single one of these Golden Globe winning shows, including this year’s Mr. Robot, all won during their freshman season. It is evident the Golden Globes do not award in the television categories based upon artistry or clout, but rather based upon what is supposedly new. There is no way to suggest this is a coincidence because when looking at the history of winners it is an obvious Golden Globe trend. Therefore, if you are nominated and your show is brand new, you stand a stronger chance of winning over a veteran show. Mr. Robot winning over Game of Thrones this year reinforces this claim. Game of Thrones was the highest rated, most talked about show of 2015, even winning the Emmy for Drama Series. Yet it lost to Mr. Robot, a low rated show that only recently concluded its first season. Award disconnect does not get more obvious than this year.
This now leads to another point of fact about the irrelevancy of the Golden Globes and that is their favoritism towards name recognition. This year Lady Gaga won her first Golden Globe for American Horror Story: Hotel, which is one of the most absurd wins in recent years regarding the Golden Globes. This is not about being “a hater” or diminishing the obvious talent Lady Gaga has. Let me emphasis this: I believe Lady Gaga is a very talented individual. What I am writing about is awarding the rightful person in their respective category. Lady Gaga was magnificent in her season of AHS (which hasn’t even concluded yet, by the way), but let us be honest: Her acting had close to no range throughout the season. She was excellent for what she did, but her performance was limited, at best. Kristin Dunst in Fargo, in comparison, was one of the most profound, most astonishing performances in television this year, perhaps this decade. The level of metamorphosis she applied to her acting and her character throughout the Fargo season ought to be taught to prospective actors and actresses of HOW to construct a character beautifully and realistically on television. Dunst losing was where the Golden Globes truly lost much credibility last night. Not to diminish Lady Gaga’s acting, but she won solely due to nostalgia, not because she was the best actress in her category. But again, this is a Golden Globe trend. They tend to award based upon nostalgia. If an actor has a recognizable name, the Golden Globes will lean towards that said performance.
The best evidence to support this claim can be linked with the Golden Globes’ Best Song category. Out of every category within the Golden Globes, Best Song is the one category that the ceremony has a complete disconnect with the rest of the world regarding what is actually a best song. Bluntly put, Best Song is entirely awarded based upon name recognition and nostalgia, not because it is, in fact, the best song. Last night, to the horror of millions of James Bond fans, Sam Smith won Best Song for the reviled “Writing’s on the Wall” he wrote and sang for Spectre. In all honesty, I personally don’t mind the song. As a standalone song, I think “Writing’s on the Wall” is an excellent song. It’s when it is put in association with the Bond franchise that the song suddenly becomes weak and inferior to its competition. Nonetheless, out of the nominees, Sam Smith was a recognizable name and was a relative newcomer with a stunning voice and the Golden Globe voters couldn’t resist voting for him due to those reasons. It was nostalgia and name recognition that got Sam Smith the win, not because he wrote the best song.
Now before some of you panic about Sam Smith getting an Oscar nomination for “Writing’s on the Wall” (Again, I wouldn’t mind if he got nominated, or even won), let us recognize one final thing about the Golden Globes: It is a Oscar trend that they do not even nominate the Golden Globe winner for Best Song. In the last 10 years, 6 of the Best Song Golden Globe winners didn’t even get themselves an Oscar nomination afterwards. Let us now look at these winners turned snubbed individuals:
2005: Gustavo Santaolalla and Bernie Taupin – “A Love That Will Never Grow Old” in Brokeback Mountain…Wasn’t nominated for an Oscar
2006: Prince – “Song of the Heart” in Happy Feet…Wasn’t nominated for an Oscar
2007: Eddie Vedder – “Guaranteed” in Into the Wild…Wasn’t nominated for an Oscar
2008: Bruce Stringsteen – “The Wrestler” in The Wrestler…Wasn’t nominated for an Oscar
2010: Cher and Christina Aguilera – “You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” in Burlesque…Wasn’t nominated for an Oscar
2012: Madonna – “Masterpiece” in W.E.…Wasn’t nominated for an Oscar
If the Best Song winner list doesn’t scream name recognition bias to you, then here’s one final piece of evidence that discredits the Golden Globes: The Golden Globes did not award the extraordinary “Let it Go” song from Frozen. The song has become an anthem, a song that everyone knows and loves. Idina Menzel’s vocal range was stunning and so impactful that aspiring singers now use “Let it Go” to not only show off their singing ability, but as a metaphor to shed away the obstacles of life and be who they want to be in life. “Let it Go” is still so loved and beloved that only a week ago Channing Tatum lip-synced the song in drag as Frozen’s lead character, Elsa. Any arguments claiming the Golden Globes are relevant or award correctly should cease right here, if they haven’t already.
So what does this all mean?
This means, don’t fret about the Golden Globes. Don’t fret about who wins a Golden Globe. Why? Because the Golden Globes are disconnected and irrelevant. They are nothing more of a litmus test that hints of where the eventual award ceremonies will go. If you want a true indicator of what the Oscars will favor, place focus on the Guild awards (SAG, DGA, PGA, and the WGA). Those ceremonies may not be as glamorous to watch, but those are the true indicators of what deserves to win. So don’t fret, cause the Golden Globes are irrelevant.