Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"The People's Globes"

Quick, name the most useless awards show on the planet!

If you answered "all of them", you're too snarky for your own good. If you answered the People's Choice Awards, I'm not here to argue. If you answered the Golden Globe Awards, you're being unkind. Like the Oscars, they've made choices both splendid and stinky over the years. But if you hear "People's Choice" and "Golden Globe" and suddenly wonder, "What's the difference?" you must have watched the Golden Globes this past Sunday night.

<--- Sandra Bullock Movies = $1,600,000,000+ over the past 16 years

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the giver of the Globes, has weathered many credibility issues in its 67 years. Will the HFPA’s latest "embrace the box office!" credo be seen as blunder or boon? Their "Best!" proclamations for the 2009 film year look more like a box office chart than the mix of critical acclaim, prestige elements and general (if unspectacular) success that such "Best!" pronouncements usually resemble.
  • Best Picture (Drama): Avatar
  • Best Picture (Comedy): The Hangover
  • Best Picture (Animated): Up
Together, those Best Pictures average a jaw dropping $358 million domestic gross...

Read the rest at Tribeca Film ... where we'll discuss the place of box office and popularity in "best" contests and how that relates to Sandra Bullock, too.I'll be holding court once weekly at Tribeca until Hollywood's High Holy Day.


Glenn said...

Look, while I don't really know if Sandra deserves it - the movie's not out here until late February - but if the Avatar and Sandra love continues at the Oscars people are going to complain that they're "pandering" to mainstream and box office. And yet if The Hurt Locker wins people are going to complain that they just keep rewarding movies nobody has seen.

People will NEVER be happy.


which is exactly my tangential point: damned if they do, damned if they don't.

this is why i think basically Oscar has always done a fairly good job of straddling that divide even if they never get any credit for doing so. I mean, i think it's worth noting that the lowest grossing best picture ever is CRASH and that was treated all year like a "sleeper hit". When have they ever fully embraced flops? Other than occassional nominations? And people get so angry when they don't vote for blockbusters.

seems very shortsighted to me.

Jim T said...

What resolves the dilemma is the answer to the question "How should they vote?" The answer is "by evaluating the quality of the film".

If the best film is one that no one has seen, it's the "no one"'s problem. Not the Academy's.

Michael B. said...

But honestly, it just so happened that their favorites of their year also made a lot of money.

If this was the 4th year in a row that the Globes picked the top grosses then okay, but really, come on.

Cristhian said...

I think it all comes down to undeserved wins such as "Blind Side" "the Hangover" and "Sherlock Holmes." By no means these films will be regarded in the future as great films nor the performers in it will be studied for their sensational acting nor make any "best of" lists. They're just multiplex fillers that for some strange reason philistines devoured.

City_Of_Lights said...

Well in terms of violating award show excitement I'd go for the American Music Awards. Not movies I know but you asked. Nominations are based on records sales. Top 3 are nominated, winner can be determined weeks ahead by looking up stats. Not fun at all.

I think with this years Oscars the most enjoyable things will be the dresses and *hopefully* Jeff Bridges' win. Other than that it will be a disappointing night in my view.

Robert Hamer said...

Yeah, but I'm still getting the feeling that a lot of this is a TDK knee-jerk reaction. Not because of Avatar, mind you. I've resigned myself to accepting that plenty of otherwise intelligent people can actually consider that film worthy of Best Picture awards.

What tips me off to their seeming desperation to pay lip service to the blockbusters is Sandra Bullock. I'm sorry for jumping on the bandwagon with my torch and pitchfork, but there is literally NOTHING in that performance that makes it an awards hook, save for the fact that it was from a big star in a surprise box office hit. I mean, can Michael Medved's hyperbolic review *really* have that much influence?

It's because of her winning that makes me believe that the HFPA wasn't really going for what they thought was the best so much as thinking "OMG WE CAN'T SNUB BLOCKBUSTERS OR THEY'LL THINK WE'RE OUT OF TOUCH!!!!!"

The same thing happened in the category of Best Actor - Musical/Comedy, and if there was a marginally decent lead performance from a male actor in a hit drama film last year, Jeff Bridges would be doomed.

O. Andrew D said...

I disagree with the premise:

Those movies you listed have an average of 86 on Rotten Tomatoes. They re critically well received. Now I am all for low budget indie, but just being low budget indie should not increase your chances of winning an award and I think many elitists immediately jump to that premise and backlash against films like Avatar just because it is loved by the masses (and elitists cannot be in the masses).

THese bigger movies are boiling with creative and talented people who put together a great product.

Being loved and successful should not be a negative point.


i agree with you fully. I'm just saying it's only a happy coincidence. Success ≠ quality. It only equals success.

p.s. i love Avatar.

Timothy said...

It seems like you're saying that being a blockbuster should be reward enough for those kind of films, and the Oscars should stay away from that and mostly embrace the indies unless the blockbusters are undeniable critical and commercial successes (like maybe "Return of the King"). Well, I enjoyed "The Blind Side" a lot, and I don't care what that makes me seem like around here. I'd like to see Sandra Bullock get nominated, and I wouldn't mind her winning the Oscar. There's an elitist overtone there with thinking that films like "The Blind Side" have no worth beyond populist appeal (the "people will watch any crap thrown at them" defense). I'm not claiming that "The Blind Side" is at the level of "The Dark Knight", but damn, it's not "Transformers 2" either. There's a place for everyone at the table. I'm rooting for "The Hurt Locker" to win best picture, but I don't think it'll be able to topple "Avatar", which I'm saddened by. If there had to be a "middle ground" choice, go with "Inglourious Basterds" or "Up in the Air." I know that I could live with that, and if "The Blind Side" made it into best picture (or for that matter, "The Hangover"), I'd be fine with that too.

brandz said...

no matter what happens come Oscar time it's worth remembering that most any actress could have played the Sandra Bullock role in The Blind Side, yet ONLY Meryl Streep could have pulled off Julia Child with such aplomb and nuance and dexterity.

Jason H. said...

I agree with Christhian that many of this year's winning films will not stand the test of time, but while Sherlock Holmes was not a work of genius, Robert Downey Jr. was excellent in it, and if not for his singular performance, then he deserved a win for an outstanding comeback to an illustrious career (Oscar does this too, you know). RDJ will be remembered as being one of the great actors of our time.

Alex said...

I'm having Scent of a Woman flashbacks...ugh


Timothy... i'm not saying Oscar should stay away from blockbusters. I'm just saying a films financial success should have ZERO to do with whether or not we name it "best".

i think it is fact that if Sandra Bullock were not this incredibly famous woman who is adorable nobody would think that performance was Oscar worthy. But her stardom and her box office pull are making people forget what these things are supposed to be about.

it's frustrating but it's hard to hate on Sandra. I actually think she's pretty good in the film but it's just not an OSCAR performance ....and that's perfectly okay. there's room for all kinds of successes. why can't this just be seen as a box office triumph for her and one of her best performances and leave it at that? Why must oscar get involved? SO MANY brilliant women who are brilliant consistently have never won and it seems like every time someone incredibly famous who is averagely talented does something slightly better than usual she wins an Oscar.

it's enough to convince actors they shouldn't try very hard so that the one time they do they can actually win.

Timothy said...

I think that Sandra's performance is Oscar-level, and I'll be happy for her when she's nominated. I do think that a lot of the recent appeal to get blockbusters nominated is for high ratings and public relevance. That might not be right for some people, but I get where they're coming from with it. Unless you want the Oscars to become entirely niche and air on A&E, you're gonna have to throw the public a bone every once in a while and hope the work's decent enough in a critical and/or commercial sense. So much of this could have been avoided if they had just nominated "The Dark Knight" for BP.

Anonymous said...


A couple of years ago someone on this very blog stated that Miss Saldana wasn't Black she was Dominican. Just to let you guys know Dominican isn't a freakin race. Latino isn't a freaking race. Yes, Zoe is a Latina and she is Dominican that's like saying Marion Cotillard isn't White she's French WTF?? As ZOE has stated many times before she is a Black woman.


Anonymous said...

Also wanted to add the Actress category is pretty weak this year. Meryl, Sandra, Gabby, Carey were all good, but none of them amazed me, so I really don't care if Sandra wins good for her. Unless the 5th nominee is Tilda Swinton.

Danny King said...

I've been wondering why "Avatar" has been so successful at the Globes and with Oscar projections because the critical reviews weren't astounding. Here are some of my questions, maybe someone can clear them up:

1. Is this the Academy finally rewarding blockbuster films (which they should have done with The Dark Knight), or is this just being praised with awards because it's James Cameron?

2. If James Cameron never made "Titanic", would this film be receiving awards buzz? In other words, if Avatar was directed by a no-namer, would it be the Best Picture frontrunner?

Anonymous said...

Don't you think Streep will win the big O at the end of the day and the rest is just a Bullock media frenzy?


Robert Hamer said...

Let me take a stab at your questions:

1. I think it's a little bit of both. AMPAS is now afraid of being seen as irrelevant in the wake of Readergate, which is why it expanded its Best Picture lineup to ten. But I also think that they are returning to a comfortable, feel-good, unchallenging, glossy epic that they have rewarded so generously over their history.

2. No one BUT James Cameron (or maybe Peter Jackson) could have convinced a studio to give him essentially a blank check to develop and test new technology on a film with no roots in any existing property or franchise. It wouldn't be a Best Picture frontrunner without him because the film - in its current form - wouldn't exist at all.

John T said...

To be fair, if there were no such thing as stardom, fame, and money at the Oscars, I seriously doubt that a lot of actresses would have their Oscars, which I'm guessing is Nathaniel's point-Roberts would have lost to Burstyn/Linney, Berry would have lost to Kidman, Kidman would have lost to Moore, Theron would have lost to the unnominated Thurman, Swank would have lost to Staunton, Witherspoon would have lost to someone (maybe Naomi Watts, as there would be no genre bias), Mirren arguably would have kept hers, Cotillard to Christie, and Winslet arguably to Melissa Leo. It just goes to prove that Bullock isn't really an isolated incident.

Though I think I just strengthened the argument for Nathaniel there with that Best Actress list.


John T... yeah... it's a long history BUT, given that their will always be disagreement about what is "best", I just wish they'd only reward the stars when they are somewhat approaching the best, not when they're working their own very limited best.

It's the 80s that permanently made me crazy about this. It was arguably the worst decade ever for the great actresses being ignored in favor of strange other factors so you have this whole crop of 48-60ish GREAT actresses that never won Oscars and then all these random people who did. And it's not like these great actresses werne't stars. Glenn Close, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Pfeiffer... ARGH.

It seems to be less common now to be a giant star who is also a great actress and not win but there's still an occassional victim (JULIANNE MOORE) of this never the heat-of-the-moment type of consistent player not getting their due.

Miko said...

I don't understand why people do not accept the fact that Sandra Bullock will get nominated (and perhaps be a threat to win) next month. I do not understand the premise of her role being not "Oscar Worthy".

Nat, you said it yourself, she's pretty good in the movie. It's perhaps one of her better performances, and has pumped major cash into the industry. So why not get Oscar involved?

I saw the movie twice and I can tell you it is a great performance. The movie as a whole is not an "Oscar Movie" (The actor playing Michael was blank) but hey, I have seen a lot of craptastic nominations come out recently (McDormand in North Country?)

I diligently read your awesome blog, Nat. I see your run down the reasons why actresses get nominated, you write the "percentages". Sandra Bullock's performance (or maybe just the accent) will correspond 10% of the bulk of her nomination. The other chunks will be because of her star power/America's Sweetheart status, her phenomenal year, "career best", her likability, and perhaps serve as a reward for breaking into an OK movie outside her comfort RomCom pratfalls.

So I don't think really get the case for what an "oscar" performance is, because some of the best performances of the year (I know you loved Swinton) will be overlooked. They will settle for top ten lists, Spirit nominations and perhaps a place on the Film Bitch honors.

Michael said...

To me it's very simple. I like Avatar, but awarding it with best picture honors is the same as awarding it for best achievement. And best picture of the year shouldn't be about that.

Yes, it had really good reviews but still no critics group found it good enough to be named best picture or director of the year. It has not, until after it began to make a ridiculous amount of money won these awards, and now it's suddenly winning awards for this and not just for the deserved tech awards.

If it wins the Oscar for best picture, there's no way around it. It will be because of the money. Even Crash had critics awards for best picture, acting and screenplay, and Titanic had several critics awards for best picture and director before it began making the big money at the box office. If Avatar wins it will be nothing like we have seen before in awards watching. And there's just one explatation to it. Money.

Anonymous said...


Is your hunch still with Meryl winning regardless of SAG and BAFTA? I can't see the academy going with Bullock --- it would be such talked about for years as one of the Academy's biggest debacle...

Unknown said...

Wah wah blah blah.

Avatar win was about far more than commercial success. It's a global phenomenon, and... oh, what's this? An excellent piece of filmmaking, too? Could it be true?

Same goes for Cameron's win. He didn't make a movie-- he made a universe, and one that's so vibrantly convincing and emotionally potent. Raves from all directions all around.

Streep worked wonders in J&J amid that mix of "critical acclaim, prestige elements and general success" that you say generally lies behind proclamations of "Best!" The same goes for Waltz and Mo'Nique-- only even more so for these two. And for UITA's screenplay, for that matter.

Despite mixed reviews for the film itself (a pan from Nick's Pick Flicks doesn't, in fact, represent the general critical consensus), RDJ earned a great deal of acclaim for his work in Sherlock Holmes. Was he stronger than some of his competitors? Maybe not. But he was more than game enough for the win. In the same playing field, at least. And there is no rule that a film must be a success for a performance within that film to be a success. You yourself preferred Sherlock Holmes over both Crazy Heart and A Single Man, I believe, and yet I'm certain that both Bridges and Firth will make a showing in your personal picks for the year-- over Downey I bet, too.

As for that Hangover win. We all seem to be forgetting that the film did quite well with the critical base, too. That is, not just at the box office. If any other film was more worthy of the win (according to general consensus), it was 500 Days. But each film had its champions and detractors.

If any of the winners was not potentially the worthiest, or at least able to contend with the worthiest, it would be the ever-endearing and gracious Sandra Bullock. But there tends to be a populist pick among the bunch, doesn't there? Her win is also quite reflective of the typical practices by the HFPA.

The Globes respond to a mix of acclaim, prestige, overall success, glamor quotients, and (or so I hear) maybe a bribe here and there. If anything, this year was business as usual with the HFPA, and I resent that it's being spun as anything else.

There is not a chance in heck's heck that the Globes will consider blockbuster schlock like GI Joe and Twilight for its awards-- not ever. There is a small correlation between box office success and awards traction, but more because box office success often reflects populist approval and that typically unpredictable "buzz" factor. In other words, it's not the commercial success by itself that propels these candidates into the awards conversation. This year's high box office tally among the winners is fairly incidental.

And if you think that box office success should PRECLUDE potential candidates from garnering awards and acclaim (I know that you don't think that, or at least I really hope that you don't), then I'd consider that a stance just as reprehensible as the misguided deduction that box office failure prevents worthy contenders from attracting awards attention.


if you think that i think that box office success such preclude awards attention, than you didn't read the article.

I adamantly stand by my statement which is that box office, whether phenomenally great or absymally bad should not be taken into account when voting on "best"... it's just two wildly different things.

*unless you're talking about maybe "best advertising campaign* in which case, the money is part of the 'best' equation... did the campaign successfully sell the movie without misleading audiences.

But last i checked there wasn't a category for that at the Oscars.

SOOOooooo... what i'm saying is we agree more than i think you think we agree (since i am also quite fond of Avatar)

but on one point i vehemently disagree: it's not a "misguided deduction" to say that box office failure prevents awards traction... it's a truism and a stumbling block every year for at least a handful of films. Just as box office success is a proven help.

Unknown said...


I still don't think it's the box office itself that determines awards success or failure. The box office is a separate reflection of public approval and cultural impact, which I DO think factors into awards consideration.

Think of it this way. Populist support and cultural influence form the trunk of a tree. That tree sprouts two branches on either side of itself. One branch is box office success. The other branch is awards consideration. Both branches sprout at the same time but in different locations-- that is, neither is causative of or influenced by the other. They simply share the same point of origin.

Or at least, that's how I truly believe it works.

O. Andrew D said...

maybe people think that Avatar was actually a better movie than Precious or Up in the Air

maybe voters liked Bullock more than they did Swinton

I agree Box Office success should not give a plus point for best of categories, but I feel that the extreme is often true as well that people backlash against the success and refuse to believe it has any artistic value because it is popular.

Danny King said...

Robert Hamer:

That's a good point, Cameron's most likely the only guy who could have made this film. I guess my point is just that the Academy loves Cameron more than they do blockbuster films.

Personally, I think the expansion to ten nominees is more of an indicator of AMPAS' shift in belief rather than giving Avatar Best Picture.

Anonymous said...

Streep and Bullock are both the populist choices this year along with Avatar. Neither one is technicality better than their younger counterparts who will also be nominated. I just don't think it's a big deal if they want to be populist this year and reward movies and people who will help Hollywood's economic future.

Mickey said...

@ John T

Surely Theron and Cotillard would have kept their Oscars. Uma Thurman was way more famous than Theron at that time, as was Julie Christie.

Glenn Dunks said...

"I've been wondering why "Avatar" has been so successful at the Globes and with Oscar projections because the critical reviews weren't astounding."

That literally made me LOL! Have you read those reviews? Makes me think you're not looking at it objectively.

Back to Sandra though, I am of the belief that people wouldn't be voting Sandra Bullock simply because they like her as a person. I don't think even Bullock herself would deny that she's made a lot of shitty movies and that if you looked over her resume it hardly reads like "GIVE ME AN OSCAR!" situation. So I go to thinking that people are legitimately loving this performance. I mean, they have Meryl to honour! They have Gabourey or Carey as big breakthroughs to honour! If they go for Sandy though it will be because they like her performance. It's not even a Julia Roberts situation where Roberts had two prior nominations.

And the fact that it is only Sandra getting buzz for the film and not the film itself means that it's not even a sweep type of deal where they're rewarding Sandra as consolation for not giving it any other awards. She is what people have latched on to and if she wins it will be because they like the performance, not because they wanna thank her for injecting some cash into Hollywood coffers. I don't think people think she SHOULD win the Oscar, but that out of the field of contenders, can you blame them for latching on to someone like Bullock?

Further more to that point, I also think it's the precursors fault that we're even in this situation. I think it's fair to say that they well and truly ruined this category this year with their blatant snubbing of people like Tilda Swinton, Abbie Cornish, Charlotte Gainsbourg and a few others in the face of more Meryl and Mirren.

And as an aside I'd like to just throw in that the "america's sweetheart" type of actress that gave the best performance last year was Jennifer Aniston in Management. But that movie made, like, $5.60 at the box office so...