The Hot Button
The Hot Button
THB #218: HFPA Will Kill Oscar
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THB #218: HFPA Will Kill Oscar

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It doesn’t matter. None of it matters.

This is not how I feel. Bur I will keep it (relatively) brief, because who f-ing cares anymore?

It’s a standard notion in genre filmmaking that when a genre starts mocking itself in films, the cycle of greatest success is over and the genre will be minor for a few years until it emerges yet again.

The Golden Globes are a mockery of the idea of critics awards. They have been this through most of their existence. But honestly, I didn’t have a front row seat on the group and its nature until about 25 years ago. I don’t know what they were like and what their best intentions were before then. I know the scandals, but as we have seen, people slide into bad behaviors without necessarily being ill-intended. And indeed, I quite like many of the HFPA members and don’t think they are villains as individuals.

But as a group, they are a bottom-feeding industry cash suck that somehow managed to get exposed and make themselves exponentially less responsible and less transparent in reaction… which according to the LA Times, is now leading them to return to NBC this January.

What about race? They added 8 black people.
What about voting? They added 100 or so random people who are not actually members - so they don’t get to feed at the trough - so we can pretend things have changed.
What about cheating the IRS as a not-for-profit? They are now a for-profit.
What about transparency moving forward? We told you… we are for-profit… go away.

The simple reality is that too many publicists are making too much money off of HFPA for them to let it die. Moreover, even if it does kill Oscar, these publicists expect to be retired by the time it happens. So, who cares?

Todd Boehly, who has no interest in any standards in (ha!) journalism, is a billionaire who is spending into this sewer organization because he thinks he can milk it for more and more millions of dollars. Is there any other reason? Is this a reason to embrace the group? Because Todd wants to buy you too?

NBC/Universal has a show with the same declining ratings as The Academy… but it can probably get back to 10 million viewers again, which would be The Globes’ 2nd worst recent showing… but they can get premium advertising because of the perceived high-end audience.

Of course, key to even that not-so-impressive return in the ratings is Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Brendan Fraser, Michelle Williams, Cate Blanchett, etc. If they are willing to bend the knee to greed and cynicism, greed and cynicism will win.

In the last 20 years, the Globes rating has been, on average, 54% of the Oscar rating. It’s never had as many as 21 million viewers.

We have all had the conversations about why award show viewership is diminished. I am not going to repeat that list again right now.

But I believe, even amongst some very smart people, that the perceived success of The Golden Globes has devalued Oscar year after year after year. Whataboutism becomes a reflective response.

And the more that smart people are willing not to separate the nature of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences - for all its flaws - and the HFPA, the organization that loses is AMPAS. Every. Single. Time.

The greatest single lie about HFPA these days is that letting them disappear would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. There is no baby. Only bathwater. You want to soak in the dirty, lukewarm, filthy water? I can’t tell you that you can’t. But I cannot pretend that it’s in any way pure. Todd Boehly is laughing as he pisses in the tub and tells us all - never directly - that he’s paid for a great new water heater and that’s why the temperature is rising slightly.

Like so much of Hollywood publicity, the power of The Golden Globes is not that the show or its awards actually increase the liklihood of winning an Oscar (the only real goal). We know historically that the field is set FOR The Globes, not the other way around. And that even as the Globes chases the buzz in January, the winners are not a reflection of who and what will win Oscar most years.

By January each season, it has been the norm that 2 or 3 acting Oscar winners are well locked in before The Globes happen. It’s absurd to say that Brendan Fraser, Cate Blanchett, and Michelle Williams have already locked in Oscar wins on September 13. Things can change. But…

In the hype of the season, people will convince themselves that the trio winning Golden Globes matters on the road to Oscar. There is absolutely no objective evidence of this. But we choose to believe all kinds of tales.

The significance of The Golden Globes is that NOT being nominated and/or NOT winning is seen as failure. So people show up. And Oscar obsessives pay attention.

Should then 7-time Globes nominee and 2-time winner Denzel Washington, who defines an honorable career, turn down a lifetime achievement honor in 2016 from The Globes? I can’t expect that of anyone. But I’m sorry… it diminished him by manipulating him and his human nature.

Anyway…

Oscar ratings have been the lowest in their history in the last 5 years… not just COVID. Why? I believe legitimacy is a big part of it. And I believe that the industry overvaluing The Golden Globes is a major factor in the loss of legitimacy.

It’s not the iPhone vs Samsung Galaxy. It should be. But it isn’t.

There are a few ways this argument goes. 1. The Academy isn’t Apple… it doesn’t deserve that level of respect after doubling its membership and putting inclusion over quality… it’s over. 2. HFPA is not only the #2 show… it’s the better show. We like it. Let it come back. 3. Every group is greedy. There is no point in arguing. They are all the same.

My argument is that HFPA isn’t worthy of the comparison to Samsung Galaxy. They are a cheap iPhone knock off, wholly dependent on Apple tech, praying on people by coming up with a low price point, a more fun package, and a lot of irrational praise.

It is true that The Academy has made itself more and more vulnerable in the Dawn Hudson decade, much more likely to be reactive than proactive. But fixing The Academy is a different conversation.

And maybe it all doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s all just trash on the side of the highway, blowing around as the traffic speeds by. Who cares?

Well… that’s a choice. If nothing matters, we are just living the old joke about the person who offers a million dollars for sex, the other person agrees, and then the offerer reduces the offer to $10. “What do you think I am?” “I know what you are, now we’re just negotiating.”

What gets me is the high value that some place on The Golden Globes. I don’t think it’s just a call-and-response cash issue. At the least, people see The Globes as an important marketing step on the road to Oscar. It’s not. It’s a familiar and convenient marketing step. When box office was normal, it didn’t have much effect on box office. It probably does better for streamers, where subscriptions were already paid for.

You know what does move the bar? Oscar nominations. And those usually happen right before or right after The Globes. Such a coincidence!

Okay… I’m done. I would wish HFPA well, but there is no indication that the organization has any intention whatsoever to do anything but to go back to business as usual and worse.

Unless The Academy gets much more aggressive about reigniting Oscar, the cynical acceptance (intentionally or otherwise) of The Golden Globes and the Boehly moves to cash in will continue to infect the well-intended, if flawed, AMPAS. It is members of The Academy that will decide how things go for HFPA. We have seen the enemy, and it is us.

Until tomorrow…

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The Hot Button
The Hot Button
An inside perspective on the Film/TV/Streaming Industry from a 30-year veteran seeker of truth.
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