It’s easy to make fun of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the notoriously rag tag group of journalists behind the Golden Globe awards. Their awards have been elevated to Oscar minor league status, even though it often seems like the voters are nothing more than a group of Euro fan boys, voting for their favorite stars.
As an organization, the HFPA is often mocked for its scruffy membership, which for many years hovered around 100 writers of mostly questionable backgrounds. In many cases, the writers were part-timers who seemed to spend most of their time at junkets, sucking down free food and gifts from the studios. Publicists were known to behave like squealing porn stars at the sight of a gaggle of drunk French cinema essayists.
But maybe that’s changing. And maybe it’s time to reconsider the ol’ HFPA jokes.
By honoring “Boyhood” this year, Richard Linklater’s simple story of a family growing up together, the Foreign Press Association has provided a real service to the industry. They have given credit to a worthy film, a piece of art, which will has been nominated for several Oscars, but more than likely will be largely ignored at the ceremony.
In this role, the Golden Globes and the HFPA’s growing legitimacy can help turn the spotlight to different types of pictures, even giving small films the coveted post-award sales bump. A Globe is not an Oscar, not even close. And, sure, the Golden Globes have had their embarrassments. (See: Pia Zadora). But the Oscars have made their share of bonehead choices, too. (See: Renee Zellweger, “Cold Mountain”; “Rocky” beating “Taxi Driver”)
The Oscars get it wrong over and over again, just in a different way than the Globes. The Academy’s bias toward schmaltzy Holocaust films and lovable elder statesman trumps logic year-after-year, and they have just as many fan boy favorites as the derelict Globes. The Oscars are just as clubby as the Golden Globes, it’s just an older and richer club.
The stuffy Academy is famous for giving a begrudging nod to small and quirky films, but withholding the real honors. This could be a completely wrong, but the Academy is unlikely to share the love with Linklater. He largely works out of Austin and while he is beloved, he doesn’t play the Hollywood game in the same way. And “Boyhood” was a subtle, moving work that played with film-making – elements the Academy rarely rewards. The Academy members prefer message films like “12 Years a Slave,” last year’s Best Picture winner, which was a fine studio production, hitting all the right notes.
The Academy could learn something from the grungy Foreign Press Association. Every once in a while it is OK to pay tribute to art, to forsake the model and give the statue to someone who is not targeting the multiplexes in quite the same way. The Golden Globes succeed in ways that should make the Oscars jealous. The Globes telecast is actually fun, capturing the glamour of Hollywood, without the pretense and arrogance of the Oscars.
By honoring “Boyhood,” the Foreign Press Association has taken control of the high ground this year, and we’ll soon learn where the Academy stands when it chooses its Best Picture.
Kevin Brass writes for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and many others. He is the author of “The Cult of Truland,” a satirical novel set in the world of celebrity journalism.