In Praise of the Golden Globes
They’re more fun than the Oscars, and they pick better winners, too.
“The Golden Globes are not taken seriously as artistic milestones and have a history of voting idiosyncrasies,” noted the New York Times recently. “The group tends to nominate based on star wattage instead of performance in an effort to orchestrate a red-carpet spectacle." As opposed to the rest of us, who like to take in Bresson films with the bed sheets tucked into our armpits, sucking on a lemon. I would put this the other way around: It is in the warmth of the welcome they give movie stars that the Globes give the slip to the insincere self-admonishments of the Academy and score their deepest consonance with the viewing habits of actual live human beings. They do not worship at the altar of Star Uglification. They do not give awards to anyone found within a 20-mile radius of a fictional concentration camp. While the academy was going bonkers for Roberto Benigni, the Globes handed best actor to Jim Carrey for The Truman Show. Nor are they in the lifetime achievement business. In 1999, while the academy was waxing nostalgic with Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules, the Globes were too busy being electrified by Tom Cruise in Magnolia.
In other words: The Globes recognize stars quicker and earlier, while they still have some life in them. In 1995, while the academy was coming over all mopey with Susan Sarandon for her part in the turgid death-row drama Dead Man Walking, the globes went to Sharon Stone for her part in Casino and Nicole Kidman for her frisky, star-making turn in To Die For—long before she donned a fake nose to win the Oscar. The list of performances rewarded at the Globes but not the Oscars goes on—Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, John Travolta in Get Shorty, Cruise in Jerry Maguire, George Clooney in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums, Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, Sasha Baron Cohen in Borat, Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada ...
It reads like a list from an alternate universe, where entertainers are rewarded for being, you know, entertaining. If the academy is serious about its search for younger viewers, I would suggest they take a leaf out of the Globes book, and: 1) supply more alcohol. Watching George Clooney get up and be witty on a couple of glasses of scotch is almost exactly what Hollywood should be about. 2) Loosen the fatwa against comedy and comic performances. And, 3) don’t punish stars for “being themselves.” It’s a rarer gift than mere acting. Bill Murray has won a Golden Globe. He has never won an Oscar. I rest my case.*
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The Golden Globes’ Best Calls
Alfred Hitchcock wins the Golden Globe for best TV show for Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1958)—not much, but it beats his zero wins at the Academy Awards.
Some Like It Hot (1959) wins the Golden Globes for best motion picture (musical or comedy), best actor (Jack Lemmon), and best actress in a musical or comedy. At the Oscars it wins only best costume.
Peter O’Toole wins the best actor (drama) for his role in Beckett (1964) and subsequently wins three more Golden Globes. Despite being nominated for an Academy Awards eight times he wins none, necessitating an honorary Oscar in 2003.
Doctor Zhivago wins best motion picture (drama). The Oscar for best picture goes to The Sound of Music (1965).
Al Pacino wins best actor for his performance in Serpico (1973). The best actor Oscar that year goes to Jack Lemmon for Save the Tiger.
Chinatown (1974) wins Golden Globes for best actor, best motion picture (drama), best director, and best screenplay. At the Oscars it wins only original screenplay. Best actor that year goes to Art Carney for Harry and Tonto.
Apocalypse Now (1979) wins best director for Francis Ford Coppola and best supporting actor for Robert Duvall. The directing Oscar that year goes to Robert Benton for Kramer vs. Kramer. Duvall wins the Oscar four years later for Tender Mercies.
E.T. wins best motion picture (drama). The best picture Oscar, like much else that year, goes to Gandhi.
John Huston wins best director for Prizzi’s Honor (1985). At the Oscars, best director goes to Sydney Pollack for Out of Africa.
Tom Hanks wins best actor in a comedy or musical for his performances in Big (1988). At the Oscars, Dustin Hoffman wins Best Actor for Rain Man.
Jim Carrey wins best actor in a drama for The Truman Show (1998). That year, the best actor Oscar goes to Roberto Benigni for Life Is Beautiful.
Tom Cruise wins best supporting actor for his role in Magnolia (1999). The best supporting actor Oscar goes to Michael Caine for The Cider House Rules.
Robert Altman wins best director for Gosford Park (2001). That year, the directing Oscar goes to Ron Howard for A Beautiful Mind.
Brokeback Mountain (2005) wins best director for Ang Lee and best motion picture (drama). At the Oscars, best picture goes to Crash.
The Social Network wins best motion picture (drama), best director, and best screenplay. At the Oscars it loses best film and director to The King’s Speech.
Corrections, Jan. 16, 2012: This article originally stated that Bill Murray had never been nominated for an Oscar. (Return to the corrected sentence.) This article also misspelled Gandhi.
Tom Shone is film critic of Intelligent Life and the author of Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Summer