Joining the Conversation from Berlin means shifting into Harry Caulesque eavesdropping mode when certain films come up - simply because they haven't opened here yet. Not that I'm one to catch every Globe- or Academy-nominated film each year in the first place, but we'll get to that. Every year, though, both ceremonies, complete with homemade pre-show chit chat, are broadcast live, in the dead of night, in Germany and probably a good handful of other European countries as well, and this year's no different. And people watch. Either at home or at midnight-to-dawn viewing parties (such as one in a theater on Potsdamer Platz, where you can gawk at the proceedings projected on a screen the size of Kansas), or they watch 90 minutes worth of dubbed "highlights" broadcast at a reasonable hour the following evening.
The fact that, short of a very recent transatlantic jaunt, there's no way they'll have actually seen a good number of the films nominated and yet they watch anyway (and by "they," I mean me, too), pretty much sums up what most of these awards races are about. They're shows, of course, and relatively cheap to produce, too, when you consider all that star power corralled onto a single location. The attraction: top talent playing famous people. See Johnny Depp as... Johnny Depp! A far more inviting proposition than watching him play, say, JM Barrie. Watch the delicate balance within his persona teeter towards the get-me-outta-here when the MC trumpets, "Sexiest man alive!," and yet it does not fall!
Well, living in a foreign country has saddled me with the task of looking into this whole Hollywood Foreign Press Association thing. Fortunately, I immediately recall a minor flurry of controversy following the airing of The Golden Globes: Hollywood's Dirty Little Secret, a doc I have not seen, directed by Vikram Jayanti, who co-produced a doc I have seen and quite liked, When We Were Kings. But reading about Dirty Little Secret may be as much fun as watching it, who knows.
For kicks, I'll point to two opposing views. In one corner, Phil Rosenthal (no, I hadn't heard of him before, either), who gleefully ticks off the basics: The HFPA is composed of just under a hundred scribes, all of whom claim to write for some media outlet out there somewhere and must prove it by submitting four clips a year. Four. Per year. The quote most often pulled in reviews of Dirty comes from the LA Weekly's John Powers: "What's different about the Golden Globes is that you're dealing with people who are outside the industry, who are essentially sort of bottom feeders around the industry."
In the opposite corner, and piping up in defense of the HFPA, is Tom O'Neil, who, of course, is the author of Movie Awards, host of GoldDerby and so on, and cannot afford to stand idly by when someone sprinkles arsenic on his bread and butter. So the bottom line he takes - the HFPA is no worse than any other awards-awarding organization, and specifically in his piece on Dirty, the Academy and the LA Film Critics Association - is something of a surprise: they're all scams. And wouldn't you know it, he's pretty convincing, too.
But most wars and elections are scams, too, and all these awards do far less harm, so let's watch and have good popcorn fun and, most of all, like the cinetrix says, talk about the films that really mattered. I don't have a top ten, but I'll mention two bests and one worst, far as I'm concerned, all three of which I caught at the Berlinale, always the frantic peak of my movie-viewing year. Of all the films I've seen since way back last February, none have moved me more nor stuck with me longer than Before Sunset and Gegen die Wand (Head On) and none have been as laughably bad as The Final Cut.
But more about more films - and about why I'm generally optimistic about the state of cinephilia these days - as more Conversationalists chime in.