Before the snow melts and the down jackets come off; before the extra blanket gets tucked away; before the curtains billow in the spring breeze, nature’s first sign of the approaching season is the Award Show.
From January to March, the global entertainment community is abuzz with nominee lists, red carpets, telecasts and post-shows. Screw Christmas, this is the most wonderful time of the year.
Globes and Grammys and Oscars, oh my! The award show is a sacred ritual in a business that dictates and defines popular culture, not to mention the haute couture.
In film, this season’s nominees are rich and diverse, independent and blockbuster, Miramax and…everybody else.
The Golden Globes, coveted trophies passed out by the eccentric Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is first in line for the season’s festivities. Known for honoring both television and film in the same ceremony, the Globes often serve as a precursor for the mother of all award shows: the Academy Awards.
The Oscars don’t only command the second highest ad rates (after the Superbowl) but keep Joan Rivers in business.
Winners at the Globes such as Charlize Theron (Best Actress, Monster) and Sean Penn (Best Actor, Mystic River), both nominated in acting categories for the Oscar, will certainly beam on the red carpet at Hollywood’s Kodak Theater.
And heavyweight movies as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and indie princess Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation will be anxiously awaiting the envelope opening.
But so many of these events, from the Globes to the SAG’s to the Oscars, are the same: pretty clothes, long acceptance speeches, awkward and constant camera cuts to catch Jack Nicholson’s reaction. Why do we watch?
“We have such relationships with these stars…the shows are long and boring but they can be very dramatic. It’s like we’re rooting for our friends,” said Temple journalism professor Andrew Mendelson.
And why not? The consumption of tabloids and infotainment TV has replaced baseball as America’s favorite past time, and there’s no avoiding the “para-social” relationships Mendelson claims we share with the beautiful people.
And speaking of beautiful people, the Oscar’s promise loads of them. Nominees such as Holly Hunter (Thirteen), Jude Law (Cold Mountain) and Naomi Watts (21 Grams) will file in and pray to carry home the little gold man.
Pre-Golden Globes, Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain was all the rage. Yet when all was said and done, Lord of the Rings went home the big winner.
Multi-million grossing Pirates of the Caribbean, a typical butts-in-seats cash cow, was surprisingly graced with a best actor nom for star Johnny Depp.
And no award show season would be complete without a wealth of upsets. For instance, the little-known and little-seen Whale Rider snatched up two acting nominations for its lead and supporting females.
In recent years the film industry has seen a revolt by the independent film industry, art house movies making waves due to screening technology that allows distributors to show their films to voting academy members.
Some experts have suggested that the paradigm shift from overexposed, costly films to no-budget gritty flicks has seen a decline in enthusiasm for award shows. After all, we may have relationships with our stars but when they aren’t in our magazines and on our red carpets, how are we to bond?
“You may be alienating some groups,” Mendelson said, but ultimately the rise of indie’s in the biz is ushering in a more “affluent” group.
From college students to their professors, independent films and the niche groups that frequent them are starting to become the standard, giving our cherished celebs opportunities to flex acting muscle and gain critical acclaim. This, in turn, gains them nominations for must-have awards.
And just as award shows pass, winners win and losers faithfully try again, seasons change.
Matt DonnellyJosephine Munis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org