If an award is handed out in Hollywood but no one is there to tearfully collect it, did anyone actually win? The film industry will be grappling with this philosophical conundrum this Saturday evening at the 79th annual Golden Globe Awards, an event which is taking Covid-era asceticism to daring new extremes.
For those who can’t bear awards shows, it sounds in many respects like the ideal ceremony. There will be no red carpet, nor any celebrity presenters, nor determinedly grinning nominees in attendance. No acceptance speeches will be given, no ribald monologues delivered, and no press will be on hand to schmooze. And while the venue is the Beverly Hilton as usual, a live audience won’t even be present in the room, aside from a masked, triple-vaccinated, PCR-tested and socially distanced coterie of “select members and grantees”.
In place of the usual drunken beano will be a sober string of announcements, as the winners of the 25 categories spread across film and television are revealed over the course of the night. And to pad out proceedings to a respectable length, there will be clips detailing the tireless charity work of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who have run the Globes since the 1940s, plus details of their new initiative “to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion across the global entertainment industry”. In the past, the Globes were often memorably hosted by Ricky Gervais: today, they sound like the kind of function that would be attended by David Brent.
And quite frankly, I’m relieved. Traditionally, the Globes have signalled the slightly shambolic start of awards season: the annual sequence of film-industry prize-givings that leads, eventually, via the Baftas and the Independent Spirits, to the Oscars. But over the last couple of decades, the cycle has become so regimented and relentless – every gown, every speech, every carefully engineered viral moment felt like a campaigning chess move – that it could stand to be thinned out a bit.
Is Covid the sole architect of this austere new approach? Of course not. A global pandemic is one thing to contend with, but pales next to Hollywood publicists. And it was that latter group whose wrath the HFPA incurred last year, necessitating this year’s abstemious, zero-showbusiness-calorie approach. For years, the organisation was beset by various controversies, from accusations of cartel-like behaviour on the press circuit (the membership are all Los Angeles-based entertainment journalists who write for publications overseas) to mutterings about their, ahem, persuadable nature come voting time, when expensive gifts happened to turn up on doorsteps.