I was reminded last night of just how hideously horrible the Golden Globe nominees for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) actually were this year. The Kids Are All Right (at best, a dramedy) won entirely by default. I mean … Alice in Wonderland? Burlesque? Red? The Tourist?!
Yet, the Globes have done worse. Way worse.
The dubious influence of the Golden Globes on the Academy Awards has thankfully waned a bit since the proliferation of hundreds of film critic awards. In the 1980s and 1990s, it seemed like if you didn’t win a Golden Globe, your path to winning an Oscar was all but blocked. Part of it was due to the Globes’ uncanny ability to predict which movies the Academy would probably want to award anyway — like, for example, the year Goodfellas won every last critics’ award known to man, but a Globe victory opened the door for Oscar to laud Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves.
But every once in awhile, the Globes have gone a few steps too far even for the Academy. What follows are a few of their most ignoble award winners. Winners that either most reeked of attempts to curry favor with Oscar, or examples of just how easily the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has been swayed by a little bit of well-timed schmoozing.
I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid citing bizarre Globe winners that were eventually repeated at the Oscars. What follows are the Globes’ shame and the Globes’ shame (relatively) alone.
2007: Best Drama Picture — Atonement
Many times both the Globes and Oscar have been served with the task of choosing among multiple “instant classic” contenders and reactionarily retreated into the most conservative definition of “traditional, quality filmmaking.” Atonement‘s win over No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood serves as a reminder that the Globes haven’t advanced that far from their Anne of the Thousand Days days.
1995: Best Drama Actress — Sharon Stone, Casino
Faced with one of the strongest Best Actress lineups of that era, the HFPA allowed themselves to be vetted by the award-flirty Stone. While it seemed like a reasonable choice at the time, Stone’s subsequent nomination for The Mighty put the whole sordid affair in perspective.
1992: Best Drama Picture — Scent of a Woman
This Globe was bought, plain and simple.
1988: Best Drama Actress — The 3-way tie
Is it really an honor when more nominees actually win than lose? Clearly, the Globes were riding high on their own ability to predict and redirect Oscar results.
1984: Best Comedy/Musical Actor — Dudley Moore, Mickey & Maude
The HFPA’s love affair with Moore is one of those “guess you had to be there” phenomena, but this win in particular is pretty difficult to reconcile when held against not only solid post-SNL work from both Eddie Murphy and Bill Murray, but also one of the all-time great comic performances: Steve Martin in All of Me.
1981: New Star of the Year — Pia Zadora, Butterfly
Zadora’s dubious award has gone down in the annals of showbiz history as shorthand for awards show oopsies. It’s almost a wonder the Globes bounced back from this clearly purchased award fiasco to become the influential precursor they emerged as just a few years later.
1980: Best Comedy/Musical Picture — Coal Miner’s Daughter
OK, OK. The movie is not bad at all and very well may be the best movie in the lineup this year. But if ever a winner drew attention to the conspicuously incongruous pairing between “comedy” and “musical,” this is it. See also Angela Bassett’s win for What’s Love Got To Do With It?
1975: The Male Comedy/Musical acting awards for The Sunshine Boys
OK, it’s bad enough that Richard Benjamin took Supporting Actor for basically acquiescing to sharing screen time with the two lead hams, but I choose to not believe that Walter Matthau and George Burns just happened to tie for the lead trophy. One coincidence too many in support of Neil Simon’s most irritatingly acclaimed “comedy.”
1970: Best Drama Picture — Love Story
You know, for all the times Oscar has rolled over for the dippy popular choice, at least they took a stand against said choice every once in awhile. (Their winner in 1970: Patton.)
1966: Best Supporting Actress — Jocelyne LeGarde, Hawaii
The HFPA occasionally gets a lot of weirdly jingoistic flack for their status as Hollywood outsiders. (They’re, quite literally, the foreign press.) But sometimes you’ve gotta wonder how much of that experience informs their votes. How else to explain their award for LeGarde’s performance in this bloated James Michener epic, a role whose lines of dialogue the Tahitian actress apparently had to learn phonetically.
It’s about at this point going back in Golden Globe history — roughly the mid- to early-1960s and earlier — that the organization and categorization of awards gets spotty enough as to disqualify any further judgment. Categories such as “Best Film Promoting International Understanding” pop up with the patently obvious intention of slipping just one more award in the direction of, say, To Kill a Mockingbird. Acting categories fluctuate wildly between 3 and a dozen nominees. And the definitions between comedy, drama and musical get even fuzzier. We’ll write it off as a learning curve and move on.
Eric Henderson is a web producer and film blogger for WCCO.COM.