Not-so-Golden Globes: Hollywood expects darker tone on awards night

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With the industry in a serious mood, and many stars in black to protest sexual harassment, the Oscars lighthearted sibling will be more somber than usual

Red carpet has returned to the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills for the Golden Globes’ 75th anniversary show on Sunday night, and jokes and champagne will flow. But there will be striking contrasts from the hosting era of Ricky Gervais when he would lampoon the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which organises the awards ceremony, as venal and celebrity-obsessed.

Hollywood is in a serious mood, simultaneously combative and defensive as it grapples with sexual misconduct scandals, racial and gender inequality and Donald Trump.

And the Globes, for decades perceived as a frothy prelude to the Oscars, have morphed into a cultural arbiter, its deliberations, nominations and snubs – such as the lack of nominated female directors – closely monitored by studios and industry observers.

Sam Asi, a BBC World Service correspondent and member of the 93-strong HFPA, which decides the film and television awards, defended the body. “The Golden Globes have been more progressive in terms of nominating diverse talent. That has contributed to the elevation of its status within the industry.”

An event famous as a looser, breezier contrast to the Oscars will still ply attendees with booze throughout the night – slurred acceptance speeches enter Hollywood lore – but this year’s NBC broadcast will feel heftier.

Police have ramped up security – reportedly more metal detectors, explosives testing and sniffer dogs – in the wake of atrocities at an Ariana Grande concert, a Las Vegas country music festival and other entertainment events.

The New York Times announced that it would dispatch a Pulitzer-winning photographer, Damon Winter, to cover the red carpet.

Many male and female stars are expected to wear all-black to protest sexual harassment and assaults in Hollywood.

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Ricky Gervais hosting the 73rd Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton. Photograph: HFPA/EPA

Oprah Winfrey is expected to use her speech accepting the Cecil B DeMille lifetime achievement award to plea for social justice and inclusion – and possibly rekindle speculation about a 2020 White House run.

Meryl Streep won the award last year and set a precedent with a barnstorming excoriation of xenophobia and intolerance which targeted Trump without naming him.

The late-night TV host Seth Meyers is expected to use his Globes hosting debut to put Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner and other alleged predators through the wringer, albeit it with jokes.

Award winners will have ample opportunity to link their films and shows to the zeitgeist.

Guillermo del Toro has billed his fantasy drama The Shape of Water, which leads with seven nominations, as a parable of acceptance and tolerance.

Steven Spielberg has billed The Post, which stars Tom Hanks and Streep in a retelling of the Washington Post’s publication of the Pentagon Papers, as an urgent plea for press freedom. It has six nominations.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, also with six nominations, stars Frances McDormand as a mother challenging male authority to seek justice for her raped, murdered daughter. Nominated TV shows such as Big Little Lies, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and The Handmaid’s Tale offer more opportunity for broadsides against patriarchy and sexism.

In this climate awards presenters – the list includes Halle Berry, Penélope Cruz, Gal Gadot, Greta Gerwig, Hugh Grant, Christina Hendricks, Isabelle Huppert, Shirley MacLaine, Amy Poehler, Sharon Stone, Kerry Washington and Emma Watson – are half-expected to turn the podium into a soapbox.

The political vibe underlines not just Hollywood’s mood but the Globes’ evolution.

A small group of international journalists and writers based in Hollywood formed the HFPA in 1943 and devised the Globes as a way to gain access to – and party with – stars.

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In the current climate, award presents may use the opportunity to make a statement. Photograph: Matt Sayles/AP

The association is a fraction of the size of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has thousands of members and decides the Oscars, but is still wooed by studios as a marketing tool.

Its rickety credibility dived in 1982 after Pia Zadora won an acting award for her performance in a derided film, Butterfly, a decision widely attributed to her wealthy husband wining and dining HFPA members at his casino in Las Vegas.

Other odd decisions, such as The Tourist’s nomination, fuelled Gervais’s mockery during his four hosting stints. “The Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. Bit louder, bit trashier, bit drunker, and more easily bought.”

Such criticism is unfair, said Richard Licata, CEO of Licata & Co, a veteran awards strategist who courts the HFPA. “To my mind they have carried the joke decades too long. I can’t think of another bunch of 90 or so people who are more committed to television or film. They seem to be very good at ferreting out what is excellent.”

The HFPA’s president, Meher Tatna, is from India, reflecting a membership at odds with Hollywood’s largely white, male demographic, said Asi, the BBC correspondent, who is of Palestinian heritage. “In the old days this diversity was considered eccentric. Now this has helped the Globes gain credibility.”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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