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Column: As Hollywood’s awards season sputters, the Golden Globes provide no boost

Ariana DeBose in 'West Side Story'
Ariana DeBose, foreground, stars in “West Side Story.” The musical scored well with Golden Globes and Critics Choice voters but disappointed at the box office.
(Niko Tavernise)

The Golden Globes is a brand that, for the moment, doesn’t have a televised show.

The Critics Choice Awards has a televised show, but no brand. So nobody watches.

Both groups announced their nominations Monday morning. Both groups will reveal their winners on Jan. 9. If that feels like a budding rivalry — and to the leadership of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and the Critics Choice Awards, it most definitely does — the stakes couldn’t be lower.

Neither group has any relevance in this year’s awards season leading up to the Oscars, which will take place on the last Sunday in March — a date that, right now, feels like it’s about eight years away.

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The beleaguered Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. announced the nominees for the 2022 Golden Globe Awards on Monday.

Studio and personal publicists spent the week leading up to the Globes and CCA nominations wondering how to respond. Awards recognition, even from a group as marginal as the Critics Choice, is something. And in a year where even well-reviewed, seemingly audience-friendly movies such as Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story” and the Will Smith biographical drama “King Richard” are struggling to find a theatrical audience, any publicity boost is welcome.

With the Globes, Hollywood’s anxiety regarding reaction was understandable. Following a Times investigation that revealed the association had no Black members and detailed allegations of financial and ethical lapses within the group, NBC announced it wouldn’t air the show in 2022, releasing a statement that voiced confidence that the HFPA was “committed to meaningful reform” but needed time to get it right.

But the HFPA didn’t want to take a year off, despite a boycott from publicists. Relations haven’t thawed, even after the HFPA enacted a handful of reforms — adding 21 members to its ranks, including six who are Black, and approving a new set of bylaws designed to police members’ conduct, address internal compensation and prohibit the kinds of perks studios can give to influence voting.

It’s natural then to look at Monday’s Golden Globes nominations and wonder if this slate is what HFPA members really liked or if it’s a set of nominations calculated to signal to Hollywood that a changing of the guard has taken place.

The answer falls somewhere in between. The choices had a few signature oddball wrinkles. The HFPA adores Marion Cotillard (“Annette”), so her nomination over Jennifer Hudson’s turn as Aretha Franklin in “Respect” felt as predictable as, say, Snoop Dogg cashing a paycheck by agreeing to show up and turn mispronouncing nominees’ names into a piece of performance art. (Ben Affleck should just go with Ben “Ef-flay” moving forward.)

'CODA'
The well-received Sundance dramedy “CODA” picked up nominations from the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Assn., including for supporting actor Troy Katsur, left.
(Apple TV+)

Siân Heder’s lovely coming-of-age drama “CODA” was nominated over the broad, mediocre “House of Gucci.” Likewise, “CODA” actor Troy Kotsur found favor for his moving turn as the Deaf father over Jared Leto’s insufferable “Gucci” mugging.

No nominations for Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming bloated noir, “Nightmare Alley,” could be seen as commendable ... until you realize that most voters probably didn’t watch the film, which only recently began press screenings. In fact, since studios did not accommodate HFPA members with the customary special screenings and lavish buffet receptions this year, there’s suspicion that the group really didn’t see many contenders.

“They haven’t been going to movies,” one veteran studio publicist told me, a claim echoed by many awards consultants I’ve spoken with this month. “Frankly, I think they’re just reading reviews and voting for the work they’ve heard is good.”

Perhaps that’s why HFPA President Helen Hoehne made a point of noting that the group had “devoured the works” in her introductory remarks, using a verb that, typically, has been associated with the HFPA’s fondness for free food.

An HFPA spokeperson insists the group had “access to the same content as everyone else” and “never stopped watching” movies through 2021.

Maybe any delinquent voters can catch up over the holidays, in time for the Globes’ Jan. 9 ceremony, which will take place in some form, likely without any of the nominees attending — not necessarily out of principle, but simply because the show won’t be televised. (The Critics Choice ceremony will be simulcast on the CW and TBS on the same day.)

The Globes’ broadcast absence does leave a void — not in terms of glitz and glamor, as Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”) and Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) will probably walk the red carpet at the Critics Choice Awards. But Hollywood could use the marketing boost that the show — which has drawn between 18 million and 20 million viewers since 2013, pandemic year excepted — reliably provided.

“‘West Side Story’ will probably win best picture,” one awards consultant says of Spielberg’s musical, “and that victory would keep it in theaters for another couple of weeks.”

“Right now,” another publicist adds, noting the gloomy box office news, “we’re almost desperate enough to welcome back the HFPA.”

Netflix leads the Golden Globes nominations across film and television, as entertainment industry shows a muted, indifferent response.


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