The Golden Globes mark the official beginning of the end of the awards season frog march, which stretches from early-goers like the Gotham Awards in late fall to the Academy Awards in late February. After a string of nontelevised — and therefore nonexistent — critics and guild awards and junkets and luncheons, plus the occasional Hollywood Reporter roundtable, the Globes are the industry’s last major stand before the Oscars, and a useful predictor for the biggest awards of the year. Which is a reputation that’s rather rude to the Globes, because it automatically frames them as the Oscars’ lesser, sillier sibling.
But the Globes are not a lesser awards show. They are the best awards show. And they are superior for precisely the reasons they are constantly written off.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Is the Good Kind of Crazy
It’s easy to forget that the Globes are conferred by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group whose name has none of the consensus-cementing authority of, say, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Its membership doesn’t scream “definitive,” either: The Hollywood Foreign Press Association totals fewer than a hundred individuals to the Academy’s several thousand, and those individuals are exactly what they sound like — international journalists who cover the American film industry.
Which means that things are weird from the jump. The Golden Globes give out their television awards based on calendar year, where the Emmys go by season. The Globes split their movie honors between drama and comedy/musical, where the Oscars don’t split by genre. So why does anyone care what this small group of outsiders thinks about either? Because they throw a party on a major-network television show. And because they guarantee the crowd is at maximum wattage, it’s quite the party. The only thing the Golden Globes love more than an ingenue is a superstar, for better (Jeff Bridges!) or for worse (the inaugural phase of the Mel Gibson Redemption Tour).
The Globes Embrace the Arbitrary
The Globes are flagrantly, defiantly arbitrary. There’s something incredibly liberating about this. After all, every awards show is arbitrary — would that they embrace that fact with the wild abandon of the HFPA. The Globes gleefully wear their bias on their ball gown sleeve, showing clear preferences for the international (Mozart in the Jungle), the young (Lily Collins, Issa Rae), and the sexiest men alive … of 1992 (Nick Nolte). It’s the HFPA’s party, and they’ll honor and invite who they want to, up to and including classifying The Martian as a comedy — even to the bafflement of its own director. It’s not that other awards shows don’t have their own predictable tics — the Oscars love their self-congratulatory stunts (The Artist, all-but-certain nominee La La Land) and white-guilt-soothing parables (Crash, The Help). But the Globes’ are more obvious. Freed from claiming to speak for the entire American film industry, they can proceed without caution and continue in bizarre traditions like a mini-pageant for the children of superstars.
There’s a Mini-Pageant for the Children of Superstars
It’s called Miss Golden Globe; famous people’s kids get to stand on stage. Sometimes, and against all odds, Miss Golden Globe manages to matter by giving us a prestardom-in-their-own-right glimpse of Dakota Johnson or Laura Dern. And sometimes the HFPA splits the thing between several star spawn, because why not? In 2013, it was Francesca Eastwood and Sam Michael Fox; this year, it’s Sylvester Stallone’s three daughters.
The Hosts Get Out of the Way
The Globes long ago discovered that the key to great television isn’t elaborately choreographed dance routines (no shots to Neil Patrick Harris) or even a searing monologue (no shots to Chris Rock). It’s to place the main show in trusted hands: our finest comediennes, capable of effortlessly balancing actual shrewdness with playing to the room; or a reliable antagonist, guaranteed to elicit pained or openly pissed-off reaction shots for the telecast; or this year, the most successful late night host on television. The hosts then give over the rest to the free booze honorees will take advantage of over a period of several hours. Why wouldn’t they? It’s not the freakin’ Oscars.
The Booze Stays Flowing
Yeah, this is the big one. If the HFPA itself embraces its sideshow status, the organization is nothing compared to its guests. The Golden Globes will always and forever be The One Where the Famous People Get Tanked, an inherently more exciting proposition than Ellen handing out free pizza to celebrities who certainly won’t eat it. A YouTube search for “drunk Golden Globes speech” will yield several hours’ worth of free entertainment; Quentin Tarantino’s ramble on behalf of Ennio Morricone last year is a good place to start. Host Ricky Gervais was nursing a beer on stage. Alcohol, as the producers of the Bachelor franchise know, is the greatest MC of all.
So when Jimmy Fallon and his cavalcade of celebrity pals kick off the show this Sunday, savor it while you can. Will Natalie Portman recreate that scene from Jackie where she looks fabulous and gets sloppy drunk? Who will have the most awkwardly long walk through the horribly laid out ballroom at the Beverly Hilton? Will the Oscars be anywhere near this fun? (That one’s easy: No.) Preemptive congrats to two-time Golden Globe winner Gael Garcia Bernal!