Golden Globes Fall Prey to Writers Strike

L.A. Times blogger Tom O'Neil reports on last night's Golden Globe Awards, which were given out at a press conference instead of a ceremony because of the ongoing writers strike.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

So here's a question, everybody. If an award is given in the woods and no one hears it announced, did it happen? That's kind of what went down last night. The Golden Globe Awards - usually this really high-glitz event jammed with fine actresses and finery parading down on red carpet, getting their picture snapped, maybe winning a statuette. And then there was this little thing known as the writers' strike that happened.

Today is day 71 of that strike, and it led the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to scrap the show and replace it with the news conference. And let's just say things were a little anti-climactic last night.

(Soundbite of the 65th Annual Golden Globes)

Unidentified Woman: And the Golden Globe goes to Julie Christie, "Away from Her."

STEWART: The news conference was supposed to be carried exclusively by NBC, but that deal fell through late Friday because of sort of some of financial dispute between the network and Dick Clark Productions and threats of protest by the strikers. Then the Hollywood Foreign Press announced the event would be open to all media outlets. The networks scrambled to put together some sort of coverage in time for Sunday. It was kind of just a mess.

To get the full story on the awards, we turn to our award show guru, Tom O'Neil, a columnist for the L.A. Times.com.

So when the winners were finally announced on television, did it make any sense, Tom?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TOM O'NEIL (Columnist, L.A. Times): I totally disagree with your intro.

STEWART: Okay.

Mr. O'NEIL: I'm going to take issue with you for the first time in all these years I've known you, Alison.

STEWART: Go for it.

Mr. O'NEIL: I think this was arguably - that the big winner was the Golden Globes last night. Because when that three-hour show, the regular three-hour dinner ceremony with stars fell through, everybody - all of us cynics in the media were going, ah, who cares? Kind of like your tree falling in woods thing. But, in fact, everybody cared. Last night, in that ballroom, there were 60 TV crews from international media - which is the exact same number that normally lined the red carpet. There were 200 photographers, 125 print people. And the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press gathered around the room, you know, all just beaming. And I think they had every good right to be, because without a single star in sight, without a single party, with no red carpet, the show went one and everybody did care.

STEWART: But there were no pictures of Halle Berry looking stunning in some outfit.

Mr. O'NEIL: Oh, come on. That's not what it's all about.

STEWART: There was no slightly drunken speech from some leading man. There was no "Mad Men," a really excellent series, getting acknowledgment for people who don't usually get to see it.

Mr. O'NEIL: They got acknowledged. They got two Globes.

STEWART: I know. But people who don't normally get HBO might - or is it on…

Mr. O'NEIL: Yeah, AMC.

STEWART: AMC. Sorry. Might not normally watch it and think, oh, I should go check out that really smart, good show.

Mr. O'NEIL: That's the key here. Let's make a comparison to the Oscars. There tends to be, in the races for lead actor and actress and picture, a two-thirds overlap. But without the acceptance speeches, without seeing these people at the podium giving the performance of their life, like Hillary Swank, Jamie Foxx and previous winners who are then Oscar-bound, will the same impact carry over? It probably won't, but how much difference will there be if we see these winners not do well across the board on Oscar night. And that's going tell if they really don't care about the award, they care about the acceptance speeches.

STEWART: I want to get a little bit into the machinations behind how this show started as a press conference on one network, and then ended up with various entertainment hosts on various other networks saying the results at different times. What happened there?

Mr. O'NEIL: Actually, I am to blame for much of this. Seriously.

STEWART: Oh, no.

Mr. O'NEIL: In the middle of the night Wednesday night - I'd heard earlier in the day from so many members of the Hollywood Foreign Press who thought that they have been bamboozled by NBC, who just took over these revamps kind of press conference show and calling it a press conference, and it wasn't. Those of us in the media were not allowed to carry it live. They had this exclusivity to it. The L.A. Times - we were thinking of boycotting it entirely, and I quoted a lot of these members who were ridiculing the fact that this was a Billy Bush, Nancy O'Dell one-hour "Access Hollywood" spinoff.

And it was so scathing, that by the time it hit the Web in the morning, it was picked up by Defamer in Media Bistro, and about 150 blogs. And it spread so fast that pretty soon it gave the Dick Clark people leverage to start asking for money. And by the end of the day, the whole thing collapsed. And last night, when I saw Jorge Camara, the president of HFPA, he said, oh, Tom, we hated you so much Thursday…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. O'NEIL: …and he said, but it worked out great. Thank you.

STEWART: So, aside from all of the writers strike issues, and we can debate whether or not that the award ceremony last night was good or bad for the Hollywood Foreign Press - I still say it's not so good - let's talk about the winners. There weren't just the usual suspects, which I think is too bad there wasn't a lot of coverage for this. Which winners did you really agree with?

Mr. O'NEIL: I really rarely - as an awards expert, I rarely agree with the winners. For example, like, where was Ellen Page? I think she's the front-runner for best actress at the Oscars…

STEWART: Of "Juno," yeah.

Mr. O'NEIL: …with "Juno," yeah. And instead, we had Julie Christie and Mario Cotillard. A lot of people are now wondering, could this be the first year ever that the two winners of best picture at the Globes - because remember they give them up for dramas and comedy separately…

STEWART: Yeah.

Mr. O'NEIL: …and they were "Atonement" and "Sweeney Todd." Could both of them actually not be nominated for best picture at the Oscars? That has never happened. And "Atonement" is losing steam, and "Sweeney" - which is my favorite of the year - are both losing steam. And…

STEWART: I thought it was interesting that for the television category that two shows, which aren't really big hits in the sense of "Mad Men" for best drama, and I believe it was…

Mr. O'NEIL: "Extras."

STEWART: …"Extras" for best comedy, I thought that was an interesting - those were two interesting choices.

Mr. O'NEIL: The "Mad Men" sweep - let me tell you, this is kind of the little interesting behind-the-scenes thing - was engineered by a man named Murray Weissman who is not only one the chief Oscar campaigners and the man who made "Crash's" upset over "Brokeback Mountain" prevail, he's arguably the father of all Oscar campaigning. And he got the "Mad Men" account, and it's a deserving show, granted. But it's in real trouble ratings wise, and he pulled off a coup. So a lot of us who are in this industry just looked at each other after the "Mad Men" sweep last night and went, Murray did it again.

STEWART: Murray - I sense a story on Murray. Hey, Tom O'Neil, columnist for the L.A. Times, thanks for waking up early and joining us. We appreciate it.

Mr. O'NEIL: It was fun. Thanks, Alison.

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