Call them Oscars Lite and you won’t be far off the mark.
In terms of being an imprimatur of prestige or a booster of box-office, the Golden Globe Awards are of questionable value—worth more, perhaps, than a quote-blurb rave from Larry King, but likely not as much as viral hosannas from the Twitterati. Still, the annual Golden Globes telecast is practically must-see TV, if only because of its well-deserved reputation for being more uninhibited and unpredictable (and, yes, far more obviously alcohol-fueled) than the relatively staid shindig produced by the Motion Picture Academy.
And when—as happens to be to be case this year—the Globes are bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association a week or so before final balloting for the Academy Awards is complete, there’s always the possibility that publicity generated by an unexpected win could help turn a dark horse into a front runner (or at least a stronger contender) in the race for Oscar gold.
This year’s Golden Globes show—which will air live from 7-10 p.m. Sunday on Channel 2—promises to be even livelier than usual with the saucily acerbic Ricky Gervais on board as master of ceremonies. And it doesn’t hurt a bit that the line-up of stellar presenters includes Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Gerard Butler, Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson (who, one can only hope, won’t be the least bit alcohol-fueled), Tom Hanks, Neil Patrick Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Taylor Lautner (cue the screaming Twilight fans), Sophia Loren, Paul McCartney, Helen Mirren (reason enough for me to watch any awards show, anytime, anywhere), Julia Roberts, Zoe Saldana, Kate Winslet and the cast of The Hangover (Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms).
But wait there’s more: Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio will present the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Cecil B. DeMille Award to Martin Scorsese for his “outstanding contribution to the entertainment field.” It might be a lot of fun if De Niro and DiCaprio really did get liquored up, and started arguing over who Marty loves best. But, alas, I don’t think that will happen.
What probably will happen is the announcement of an award or two that will leave viewers scratching their heads in WTF befuddlement. Keep in mind: Members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are, well, critics and journalists who cover Hollywood for foreign publications. Many (if not most) are stringers, not full-timers, and rely heavily on paychecks for other gigs. (Which may explain all those snarky jokes about HFPA members toiling throughout the rest of the year as waiters at other Hollywood events.) And some of their choices for Golden Globe honorees have inspired equal measures of shock and skepticism, along with deep suspicions that HFPA voters can be easily swayed with the right amount of wining and dining, along with some discreet osculating of posteriors.
(Indeed, the Golden Globes were banished from network TV for more than a decade in the wake of accusations that Pia Zadora—as in, “What ever happened to Pia Zadora?”—got a 1981 “Newcomer of the Year” award after her wealthy husband primed HFPA voters with an all-expenses-paid junket to his lavish Las Vegas casino. You think The Hangover stars will make a joke about this?)
What follows are a few semi-cynical predictions of winners in the top Golden Globe categories for cinematic achievement. I know: The HFPA also gives Globes to TV shows as well. But, hey, as Bill Murray used to say about lesser Oscar categories: Who cares?
BEST PICTURE, DRAMA: Avatar (because I bet James Cameron and 20th Century Fox threw some swell parties for HFPA voters).
BEST PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL: Nine (because producer Harvey Weinstein is hurting, and may not be able to throw swell parties in the future if his under-performing movie doesn’t start attracting ticket-buyers).
BEST ACTOR, DRAMA: George Clooney for Up in the Air (because, in addition to giving a great performance, he’s George freakin’ Clooney).
BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA: Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side (which will, no kidding, practically guarantee she gets an Oscar nomination).
BEST ACTOR, COMEDY OR MUSICAL: Robert Downey Jr. for Sherlock Holmes (but only if Harvey can’t wheedle a win for Daniel Day-Lewis in Nine).
BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY OR MUSICAL: Meryl Streep for either It’s Complicated or Julie & Julia (unless HFPA voters are really in the tank for Harvey, and decide to honor Marion Cotillard for Nine).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Penélope Cruz for Nine (because she’s Penelope freakin’ Cruz, and Harvey produced her movie).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds (because he’s won every other damn award so far this season). (And, by the way, Harvey produced his movie, too.)
Follow longtime Houston movie critic Joe Leydon on his movingpictureblog.