And the award for the best non-Oscar awards show goes to … whom?
For many years, the twin pillars of movie prizes have been the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. Traditionally, the Globes kick off the season in early January, while the Oscars wrap it up in late February or even March. For many TV viewers, the two star-studded, red-carpeted ceremonies seem to be on equal footing. They’re not.
The Oscars are presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which was founded by 1927 by a group of industry professionals including Canada’s Mary Pickford. Membership has swelled over the years to almost 10,000, with 17 branches devoted to actors, directors, cinematographers, editors etc. Much of the growth has been over the last decade, as the Academy sought to diversify.
Now look at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which votes on and hands out the Golden Globes. Its membership is not widely publicized but consists of fewer than 90 journalists and photographers who report on the entertainment industry in America for media based in other countries.
That out-of-America stipulation would suggest an already diverse membership, but a scathing report in the Los Angeles Times in 2021 found that the group had not inducted a new Black member since Meher Tatna, its former president, in 2002. The group vowed to increase both membership and diversity, but the damage had been done.
And it wasn’t the only damage. In 2018, actor Brendan Fraser claimed that a former HFPA president, Philip Berk, had groped him in 2003. It was already an open secret that the tiny membership could be easily bought by granting access to the stars, doling out expensive swag or offering swanky restaurant and hotel bookings to junket attendees.
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Then, shortly after the 2021 awards show in February, Berk sent a racist email to the membership, attacking Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors and calling BLM a “racist hate movement.” The 88-year-old was ousted from the group. Tom Cruise returned his three Golden Globes. Several companies, including Amazon, Netflix and WarnerMedia, said they would not do business with the HFPA.
In May, Scarlett Johansson joined the chorus, saying she had boycotted HFPA events for years after “sexist questions and remarks” from members “that bordered on sexual harassment.” She added that the organization “was legitimized by the likes of Harvey Weinstein to amass momentum for Academy recognition.” Then NBC said it would not be airing the ceremony in 2022, and the HFPA put the show on hold, a first since its founding in 1943.
But last week came a new wrinkle in the affair, as the HFPA announced that its awards would go ahead after all, televised or (more than likely) not. The chosen date: Jan. 9, 2022.
That set off the Critics Choice Association. Founded in 1995 as the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the 500-strong group comprises film critics from across the United States and Canada, including Anne Brodie, Peter Howell of the Toronto Star , the CBC’s Eli Glasner, Radheyan Simonpillai of CTV and Now , and (full disclosure) yours truly. The group had months earlier chosen Jan. 9 as the date for its Critics Choice Awards, to be presented live at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles, and on the U.S. network The CW.
In an emotional email to the membership, CCA head Joey Berlin decried the move by the “scandal-ridden” HFPA, adding: “Our 27th annual Critics Choice Awards show is going to be our biggest and best yet and can only be helped by this hostile announcement from the new leadership of this other group.”
And to drive the point home: “For years we’ve been trying to draw the comparison between the tainted HFPA and the legitimate Critics Choice Association — which has five times as many members and no stink. Our awards are the considered judgment of almost 500 active critics and entertainment reporters who cover film and television and collectively reach virtually every entertainment consumer in the U.S. and Canada every day.”
So far the HFPA has not blinked, although no one in the industry seems to know what form its awards show will take. A webcast? A dinner followed by press release? Also uncertain is who will attend the event (if it is an event), with the much more PR-friendly CCA dinner and show taking place on the same day.
Finally, it doesn’t help that the HFPA has made some oddball decisions over the years, all the way back to 1982 when it crowned Pia Zadora “Newcomer of the Year” after a performance in Butterfly , an erotic drama bankrolled by her billionaire husband. (Zadora was named Worst New Star by the Golden Raspberries for the same performance.)
More recently have been such clangers as Hugh Jackman winning best actor in a comedy or musical for 2002 Kate & Leopold ; best comedy or musical in 2011 going to The Tourist , with stars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie nominated for their roles; and a win by Get Out in 2018 – for best musical or comedy. (Dumbfounded, director Jordan Peele declared on Twitter that the horror film was, if anything, a documentary.)
Awards season moves quickly once the wheels start turning, with submissions due Nov. 15 for the Golden Globes. The Critics Choice Association does not require potential nominees to submit their names, but nomination ballots will go out to members on Dec. 7, with a nomination deadline of Dec. 10.
All of which is to say that the competing awards shows impasse will have to break soon or not at all. In the meantime it’s an old-fashioned cliffhanger, with the HFPA cast in the role of the heavy, and the CCA having the potential to emerge as the hero. Stay tuned.