Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Open letter the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

We have a saying in the writers room – “Never sacrifice a character for a joke.” If you have one of your main characters say something incredibly dumb or homophobic or borderline racist – even though you know it will get a huge laugh – you are forever establishing that character as stupid, intolerant, etc. It’s not worth it. Good writers protect their characters.

My issue with you, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is that you are sacrificing your biggest asset for the sake of a rating point.

Award shows are supposed to be elegant. They’re supposed to be glamorous. Or at least present the pretense of glamour. Attending your award ceremony is supposed to be a big deal. The message that glamour and sophistication sends is that your award show bears a certain degree of importance. And credibility. And respect.    Now we all know that that is bullshit and people really tune in to see celebrities wear horrible dresses and stumble over the teleprompter.   But at least the format needs to appear significant. 

Ideally, for the home audience there’s a level of suspense. They care who wins. And when they see that not only do the nominees not care, but the host – who YOU select – tells the audience the awards are worthless you are tarnishing your already damaged brand.

You let your host shit all over you. And that’s just for starters.

You destroy the legitimacy of your organization by letting people buy your awards.  You still haven't lived down Pia Zadora.  And the thanks you get is they humiliate you in public. You give Denzel Washington a lifetime achievement award and he admits during his horrible acceptance speech that he essentially bought the first Golden Globe he ever won. You’re not mortified by that?   Or the mere fact that he had no speech and must've known for weeks or months that you were giving him this honor?   He didn't think enough of you to prepare something? 

A major pop singer is hired on a television show as a publicity stunt and you give her an award for acting? This doesn’t strike you as pandering for ratings? Last year Will Ferrell did a TV special where he played all nine positions in spring training games. You don’t see Major League Baseball naming him the Most Valuable Player of the Year.

Winners are telling you to fuck off during their acceptance speeches when the “wrap it up” music begins.

It doesn’t stick in your craw that you’re throwing this lavish party for an industry that has little regard for you? If anything, they’re using you. They’re using you to help generate buzz for the Oscars (the only movie award that does still mean anything to Hollywood), help promote their TV shows, get national exposure, and enjoy a lot of champagne and swag on your dime. And for that disrespect you’re HONORING them.

Do you think for one minute the Motion Picture Academy will invite Mel Gibson to be a presenter this year?

I love seeing self-important Hollywood assholes skewered as much as the next guy. And if this were a Friar’s Club Roast I’d beg Ricky Gervais to be the host. But it’s not. It’s your organization’s shining moment.

Now you could point to the small uptick in ratings and say you're doing the right thing and people think this is all a big joke anyway so who cares how you look?   If anything, you're good sports.   You're the nerd in high school who does the cute girl's homework while she sleeps with someone else, but hey, you get to sit next to her in Geometry. 

Or you could make efforts to re-claim a semblance of respectability by re-thinking your approach. Do you consider your awards important? Okay... not important, no one actually thinks that, but let's say "worth something?"   Harder to get than a People's Choice Award. 

There is a line that can be drawn. You can needle without being offensive. You can poke holes in pretense while still maintaining dignity. Tina Fey & Amy Poehler proved that three years running. You can cut off some winner who tells you to go fuck yourself when he wants to continue a long pointless speech. It’s YOUR show. (That will put an end to that practice and trust me, your home audience will be saying “thank you!”).  Don't give THE MARTIAN the award for Best Comedy over TRAINWRECK and SPY -- two ACTUAL COMEDIES.   And don't nominate people for their sheer publicity value. Or let your host set a beer on the podium.

Actors will still make whopper faux pas.  Some will still dress like Carmen Miranda.   Every acceptance speech will have the following words:  "Journey" "Artist" and "You can go to bed now."  All that entertainment value will be there.   We'll be talking about the fuck ups the next morning.  That's all there.  But if all of that is framed in the semblance of dignity, I think the show will carry more weight.  Or at least some weight.   Your ratings are not going to go down if people don't think your organization and awards are a big goof.    And who knows?  You might even get some legitimate respect in the industry.   You're right.  I'm pushing it.  But they might take ten minutes to prepare a speech when you honor them for lifetime achievement. 

44 comments:

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Beautifully said.
The awards ceremony felt as if someone said just 2 weeks ago, "Oh geez...we're supposed to host this thing coming up. Anyone have ideas about hosts? Nominations?"

The Grammys shitted upon themselves years ago with horrible nominations, nonsense and hosts.
Now the Grammys mean nothing. At least not to the acts or the audience.
They dumbed it down and now they are dumb.


The Oscars still somewhat mean something.
The CMA Entertainer of the year means something to the acts.
The Tony award means something to the winners.
Emmy awards means something to some networks.

Tom Quigley said...

I've turned hearing the word "journey" in acceptance speeches into a drinking game. It makes most of them actually bearable.

Tom Quigley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan from Canada said...

Great post and I couldn't agree with you more. I did think that the most cringe-worthy part of the evening was Denzel Washington screwing up his speech. Like you said he must have known months prior about it, but he accepted the prestigious award as if it caught him off guard.

MikeN said...

Why shouldn't Academy invite Mel Gibson to present at the Oscars? He is one of the biggest stars in the history of the industry. This is the same audience that cheered Roman Polanski so maybe he to get invited he needs to do some misdeeds like one of the Bill C.

Michael said...

Friday question: Can you discuss the process for casting single episode guest stars?
For example, how far in advance are they usually cast? Do they usually audition? If so, is an advance copy of the script for the audition used or an old script? Is the showrunner and/or network involved in the final casting decision for the larger roles?

Rock Golf said...

Ken, you're presuming the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had any dignity in the first place.
The Oscars are to a $10,000 per night high-class escort service as the Golden Globes are to a crack whore.

J. Allison said...

Don't get so riled up, Ken! Remember that the Globes is just a big commercial...see this article in the LA Times about the impact they have http://www.latimes.com/business/la-et-ct-golden-globes-impact-cable-tv-20160112-story.html It's pretty people in fancy clothes. NBC gets to show it and draw viewers. Movies and TV shows get advertised ("Hey, there's Leo DiCaprio...isn't he in that movie with the bear? We should see that.") Actors and actresses get in front of the camera. Nobody knows who the Hollywood Foreign Press is and nobody cares.

As for Ricky Gervais I'm deeply conflicted. I think the original Office is brilliant. Some of his stand up is hilarious. But it's really hard to make fun of the system you're in. He can mock Hollywood forever, but without TV and movies nobody knows who Ricky Gervais is. Kind of like when U2 tried to mock commercialism with their "PopMart" tour, a gigantic commercial enterprise in and of itself.

Gary Benz said...

Ken, You raise valid points but those points only make sense if the Hollywood Foreign Press wants its awards to mean something. It seems like either they've always known they're meaningless or they've given up on it. Either way, they are more vested in making it an interesting, goofy party. In that sense, the broadcast works as a piece of performance art. It's as if the broadcast exists in an alternate universe and we're both observers and active participants.

Elf said...

Ken, you just laid out all the reasons I enjoy watching the Golden Globes. I know it's bullshit, they know it's bullshit and the viewers know it's bullshit. Viewers are smart enough to know that you can't take any award show seriously that puts "The Martian" in the Comedy or Musical category. This is not the Oscars or Emmys where people at home root for their favorite movie or show to win. No, this is the one where we know the nominees, host and presenters are getting drunker as the evening progresses, and we're hoping we get to see a major trainwreck. Just imagine had Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum been scheduled to do their shtick later in the show when they'd be about fifteen sheets to the wind.

Dan Ball said...

Shock comedy is the technically-worst form of comedy you could possibly do. Ricky Gervais...I don't get how he's still around. His jokes evaporate before he delivers them they're so time-sensitive. Not only does the current zeitgeist lay the foundation for his humor, but he builds on it with instantly-outdated references. Once the audience isn't shocked anymore, he's got to find something new. "Shock 'em again? Why not?" It's a vicious cycle. Shock, yawn; shock, yawn. There's only so much you can do. Someone help this man.



Roger Tunney said...

The Roman Polanski/Mel Gibson comment really hits home, and says a lot about the skewed outlook that permeates the entertainment industry. Both are loathsome human beings from a personal standpoint but for entirely different reasons.

Gibson: Says horribly racist, misogynistic things, is ostracized and condemned by the industry, and his career is effectively dead.

Polanski: Drugs and rapes a 13 year old girl (and there is no consent possible, not for a 13 year old, no matter how sophisticated she is), flees the country to escape sentencing, and is the beneficiary of unending support from Hollywood.

I guess the moral of the story is that you can screw a child and still be a revered member of the movie industry elite, as long as you don't call her any racist names while you're doing it.

I sometimes think the entertainment industry could use a collective smack to the back of their heads, with the admonishment to, for the love of Jeebus, get your priorities straight.

blinky said...

I know you liked SPY but I thought The Martian was funnier.
*”I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.”

tavm said...

I can relate to this sentence-"You're the nerd in high school who does the cute girl's homework while she sleeps with someone else, but hey, you get to sit next to her in Geometry."

Jeff Maxwell said...

Élégant, Monsieur Levine.

Oliver said...

Ehhh, they're the Globes. They're goofy, they should be fun and a little edgy, and they constantly choose off-beat weird choices, which I particularly like in the context of rewarding new TV shows with a boost. The Globes are inherently not salvageable as a fully-fledged "proper" award, they've never had and will never have that sort of credibility. I can't stand Gervais, largely because I find him obnoxious and unfunny, but I don't have any inherent problem with the concept of hiring him and his shtick for the Globes. They just need to get someone less tired and inherently punchable

I have far bigger problems when a genuinely prestigious award like the Oscars hires the classless McFarlane or the Emmys choosing the same few tired winners year-after-year.

Pat Quinn said...

I admire you Ken and agree with almost everything you write. When I don't agree with you I usually end up softening my resolve on a subject that you write about.

But this seems like a misdirection of your focus.

It's like you are telling a regional after-work softball league that they should not go celebrating a season's end at a local bar, because MLB has a more professional playoff and world series.

The Golden Globes need to be stupid, funny, and irreverent. Perhaps even more so than they already are. Foreign correspondents? Have your awards show in France. In England. No? Have it in Beverly Hills? Well no one is going to take you seriously then. It has nothing to do with merit...everything to do with a rush week at a fraternity or sorority.

Asking it to change is like asking a beer league to be about softball more than it is about drinking. Actually, it seems like asking it to change is like asking the Golden Globes to be more about art than it is about drinking.

Andy Rose said...

I think you're mistaken to believe anybody outside of Hollywood actually cares who wins a Golden Globe. I have never, ever, not once heard anyone say the day after the ceremony, "Can you believe that person won a Golden Globe?" like they might for an errant Oscar or Emmy. People watch the Golden Globes to snark on the fashion and see if anything crazy happens. That's it.

Anonymous said...

Dignity? I think Ken might be a little dissociated from reality.

Ken seems to think if he just doesn't acknowledge "the fappening" as an element in how low too many our entertainers have gone, the matter will disappear. It can be like it never fappened.

I'm here to tell you, Ken. That's not fappening. Too many people have seen it, and cannot unseen it.

During "the fappening" incident, so many of the actresses who would potentially be up at that podium accepting an award, are on the internet, bent over and naked, I think dignity isn't really an option for them.

Whenever I see Krysten Ritter, I just think she needs a trim. The world will never not have seen Krysten Ritter in creepy naked selfies, forever.

You want dignity? Start with the people you're trying to give an award.

As it is, you're trying to advocate for dignity in what amounts to a Vegas Porn Convention.

Dave Bell said...

"You destroy the legitmacy of your organization."

There's your problem, Ken. The Hollywood Foreign Press isn't a legitimate organization.

Mike Barer said...

I would agree with you, even though some people say awards shows take themselves too seriously.

H Johnson said...

I gotta go with the crowd on this one Mr. Levine. The whole celebrity self worship award thing is silly and the Golden Globes are the goofiest of them all. I thought Gervais was funny if not a little crude. But look at some of the films and it's hard to hold him to a higher standard.

On a dignity scale the whole show was on a par with most of what passes for TV comedy these days. So it's probably a big "Meh who cares?" Hard to get worked up about it.

Aloha

Jacob said...

The bigger surprise to me is that there are so many people who actually watch any of these stupid award shows. Golden Globes, Emmy, Oscar...whatever. I find them all a colossal bore.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I guess you don't care for Ricky Gervais. Fine, but why pick on Carmen Miranda?

Maybe if the GGs followed Oscar, it would seem like an amusing parody. I cherish the year when the last presenter was Sir Sean Connery, who had clearly spent the evening with his good friend Glen Fiddich. He was in a merry condition, but he got through it like a pro. Alcohol should be a requirement of every award show. Maybe Kanye wouldn't be so angry every time he gets near the microphone. And viewers should drink, too, not just when someone says "journey" or "craft."

Lighten up, Ken. Awards season is just beginning.

Mark Fearing said...

That's a better POV I think, a more centered one. Basically what happens when you through an awards show no one cares about, and after awhile you don't either. I think the abuse piled on RG is off key. His show Extras is truly wonderful and I can't believe anyone who abuses themselves so much in a show like that (showing the willingness to endure untying if it leads to fame and attention) isn't very self aware. I don't buy that he actually thinks he is better than anyone. It's an act. It's a character he plays on the awards show. No matter which awards show it is - they are all part of a ridiculous self centeredness where the people involved need constant attention and adulation. Being paid millions to act or write or make stuff up isn't enough. Nothing is ever enough I suppose.

MikeK.Pa. said...

The problem is that the HFPA are more fans than critics. To get Leo, Denzel, Matt, and Brad front and center for their crappy awards show? Start the bidding for the awards! Plus endless bottles of the finest champagne and wine, and free p.r. for stars, directors and producers to position for the Oscars? Sign them up!

Let's not be fooled, the Academy Awards (whites only, please) has its own problems and still 20 years behind recognizing diverse performers, even with the occasional lapses when they give one out. For 11 months of the year they plan, film and promote movies that are the equivalent of cotton candy to pander the teens and tweens, and then one month a year they pull out the February and October releases and say, "Look what we made!"

You don't think the Oscars can be bought? Just look at "Shakespeare in Love." (and when was the last time you saw that on TV?) Granted, the pickings were slim that year, but "Saving Private Ryan," as much as you dislike it, was better than anything starring Gwyneth Paltrow. She hasn't lost that stupid English accent since, which probably drove Chris Martin nuts. Speaking of which, Paltrow on her best day isn't close to Meryl Streep (who lost to her, along with Cate Blanchett) on her worst day.

Todd Everett said...

I thought the studios determined the category their project would be submitted in; generally for crass reasons like not pitching two stars of the same film against one another;; or figuring that a film would fare better against the competition in one field than another. If so, that should be changed, but it would give studios less control of the awards (and this goes far beyond the Golden Globes).

Johnny Walker said...

Warning: I'm feeling grumpy.

I completely disagree. Sorry. The only chance I see the Golden Globes having for being even remotely relevant is by basically becoming a roast. It's the only reason I watch clips of what would be an otherwise unbearable, excruciating, and completely pointless exercise. The Golden Globes are a joke. They have terrible nominations (The Martian is a comedy?), they are voted for by god knows who, they clearly give awards to the highest bidder (The Tourist wins best film?), and ultimately they mean less than an MTV Movie Award.

Consider this: The morning after the show, everyone in my office gathered around a computer to watch Gervais's opening monologue. You think that happens in offices around the world for any other award ceremony? Acknowledging what a joke they are is the only way I see the Golden Globes surviving. The last thing the world needs is another dull, drawn out exercise in self-aggrandizement -- the Oscars is already quite enough (and I'm a big fan of the Oscars!).

D. McEwan said...

"MikeN said...
Why shouldn't Academy invite Mel Gibson to present at the Oscars? He is one of the biggest stars in the history of the industry. This is the same audience that cheered Roman Polanski"


When did this happen? Roman hasn't dared set foot in America in decades, so he certainly hasn't been to the Oscars.

"MikeK.Pa. said...
Just look at "Shakespeare in Love." (and when was the last time you saw that on TV?)"


As a matter of fact, I watched it on TV, on a cable station, aslt month. Still a very good movie.

Jon B. said...

Ken, you seem to like the idea of Ricky hosting a Friars' Club Roast. Me, too! I think that means you believe you could enjoy Ricky's style of humor in the right setting. Me, too! I just happen to think that Ricky is also a good fit for the ersatz Golden Globes, which, in my view, are just as phony as most award shows outside of the Big Four.

Anonymous said...

D McEwan, he hasn't set foot at the Oscars, but he was nominated, and I think won.

I remember Steve Martin joking about him being there,"Get him!"

canda said...

Many people feel "Saving Private Ryan" was hurt by the fact that many of the Academy Members saw it on DVD in their homes, and the scope of the picture was lost on them, or couldn't be fully appreciated. "Shakespeare in Love", however, looks great on the small screen.

emily said...

Thinking of the Oscars and the Super Bowl...I'm wondering if the Golden Globes aren't produced by the same folks who bring us the Puppy Bowl.

Ellen said...

"My issue with you, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is that you are sacrificing your biggest asset for the sake of a rating point."

I have the same issue with Lorne Michaels's decision to let vulgarian Donald Trump host SNL. Appalling.

Thanks for another great post, Ken.

Breadbaker said...

Polanski won for The Pianist in 2003. He quite obviously did not attend, and his standing ovation was not participated in by everyone, but there were a large number of very prominent people (Jack Nicholson and Martin Scorsese most visibly) who were egging on the crowd to stand and applaud. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXnNOBj26lk

Gerry said...

Ooooh, now I'm sad I missed it.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Having now seen the relevant portion, it's not clear to me that Denzel Washington was drunk; he was quite clear about having forgotten his glasses and being unable to read what he'd prepared. He actually asked his wife, but she hadn't brought hers either. I don't know why he didn't just hand it to one of the kids.

wg

CarolMR said...


"Gibson: Says horribly racist, misogynistic things, is ostracized and condemned by the industry, and his career is effectively dead.

Polanski: Drugs and rapes a 13 year old girl (and there is no consent possible, not for a 13 year old, no matter how sophisticated she is), flees the country to escape sentencing, and is the beneficiary of unending support from Hollywood.

I guess the moral of the story is that you can screw a child and still be a revered member of the movie industry elite, as long as you don't call her any racist names while you're doing it." - Roger Tunney


This is a little similar to the Charlie Sheen/"Two and a Half Men" situation. The network and Chuck Lorre knew about the drugs, hookers, and violence. Sheen even shot his fiancée, Kelly Preston, although she never pressed charges. But this was all fine and Sheen was hired and worked for years on the show until he says something remotely anti-Semitic and he's immediately fired.

Aaliyah Miller said...

Some interesting posts about the GG. While I see Ken's points I think all award shows are bogus marketing ploys where insiders acknowledge and pat each other on the back publicly. I haven't watched since college and prefer to read and see the highlights the next day. The media does a phenomenal job of highlighting the best and the worse versus reporting real news.

Although awards shows are meant to be prestigious and show us the glamour, even they too have to compete and be relevant in a world where people's attention spans are shorter and social is the main event. It's not going to get better, just worse.

MikeN said...

Then there was Hollywood awarding best song to a movie about murderer Che Guevara, with Salma Hayek calling him 'an idealist'.


Don McCulloch said...

It's the Doo-Dah Parade of awards shows.

Oliver said...

"This is a little similar to the Charlie Sheen/"Two and a Half Men" situation. The network and Chuck Lorre knew about the drugs, hookers, and violence. Sheen even shot his fiancée, Kelly Preston, although she never pressed charges. But this was all fine and Sheen was hired and worked for years on the show until he says something remotely anti-Semitic and he's immediately fired."

The treatment of Sheen has bugged me too. The WB and Lorre made millions upon millions off him and his persona and ruthlessly dumped him as soon as it became a little too real for them. It was gross and exploitative.

D. McEwan said...

"Anonymous said...
D McEwan, he hasn't set foot at the Oscars, but he was nominated, and I think won."


Well, unfortunately, the little child rapist is a very talented director. The award is not for "Best Direction of a Movie By a Non-Child Rapist." Would it have been better if the entire audience sat there unclapping, instead of only part of them? Yes. Similarly, I objected to honoring Elia "The Rat" Kazan, but there's no way around what a great director is he was, despite being a cowardly piece of shit.

Did you forget how to type your name?

Anonymous said...

Ricky Gervais explains why he thrashes Hollywood and the Golden Globes while hosting them in this BBC interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfbPlRseDPU