Pared-Down Globes Show Leaves Winners Speechless

A look at the top contenders for this year's Golden Globe Awards.
By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 14, 2008

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Jan. 13 -- If you thought it was lame watching at home, you should have been at the "press conference" announcing the winners of the Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Sunday evening. The glamour! The glitz! Not!

The proceedings possessed all the excitement and drama of sorting mail.

What if they gave away shiny prizes and nobody came to retrieve them? This was not a successful format. Usually, the Golden Globes ceremony is a fun event because it brings together all the nominated actors, both television and film, pours a lot of drinks into them and then televises the result.

But on Sunday at the Hilton, the writers' strike snuffed the gala dinner and annual awards telecast. Where one might have expected to see Helena Bonham Carter and Alec Baldwin bellying up at the pre-awards champagne bars, there were -- the horror! -- milling reporters and publicists chewing on downmarket gouda and melon slices.

The 65th Golden Globe Awards had no red carpet, no screaming fans, no acceptance speeches -- because there were no stars. The Writers Guild of America refused to let its union members work for the show, and so the actors boycotted the proceedings rather than cross a threatened picket line.

Instead, the winners were announced by six glib infotainment journalists, from shows such as "Extra" and "Inside Edition," who ripped open the envelopes to underwhelming applause.

A snippet of wit from the podium: "Yes," sighed Mary Hart of "Entertainment Tonight," "I do wish for the days of Jack Nicholson mooning the Golden Globe Awards."

Hart spoke for all of us. It was sad. So sad that Jorge Camara, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that doles out the prizes, promised anyone watching, "Rest assured: We will be back next year bigger and better than ever."

Oh, some winners? The epic "Atonement," a romance based on Ian McEwan's acclaimed novel, won best movie drama. The musical or comedy award went to "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." The best foreign film was "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."

Johnny Depp took the prize for acting in a musical for his blood-thirsty hairstylist in "Sweeney Todd," and Daniel Day-Lewis won for his oilman in "There Will Be Blood." Julie Christie won best actress in a drama for "Away From Her" and Marion Cotillard won for musical or comedy for her portrayal of the Little Sparrow, the singer Edith Piaf, in "La Vie en Rose."

Winning in film supporting roles were Javier Bardem as a sociopathic killer in "No Country for Old Men" and Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There." "Ratatouille" was named best animated feature.

Another of the presenters, Lara Spencer from "The Insider," couldn't help noticing that it " just feels so different ," meaning standing onstage reading off names of nominees and winners. She explained, "I just thought I'd talk about that lump in the corner under the rug."

The inmates had taken over the asylum.

During her time onstage, Giuliana Rancic, Globe presenter and correspondent for "E! News Daily," simply came out and said she supported the Writers Guild of America in its battle against the studios and networks. "I never thought I'd be up here in a million years," she said -- and was that applause? "Next year, I hope it is really different."

"We all hope that the writers' strike will be over soon," Camara said, understatedly.

As for the TV awards: AMC's "Mad Men" won best drama and HBO's "Extras" won best comedy or musical. Tina Fey was awarded a best actress prize for "30 Rock" and David Duchovny won for "Californication." We would love to pad out this report with all the witty, crazy, heart-stirring speeches the actors made upon accepting their Golden Globes, but that is not possible.

Mercifully, the press conference was over in about 32 minutes -- which only succeeded in making reporters, and perhaps viewers, wish for the three-hour self-congratulatory marathons of yesteryear.

Last week, in the trade newspaper Variety, the editors manipulated an old news photo of civilians climbing aboard helicopters during the fall of Saigon and slapped on a headline: "Carpet Bombing: Kudos Collapse, Shock to Awards Ecosystem." They weren't kidding. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. estimated that killing the Globes cost the local economy $80 million, which would have been spread among the hoteliers, caterers, stylists, paparazzi, limo drivers and assorted babysitters.

More bad news: Though no one in Hollywood really takes the Globes that seriously, the awards given by the foreign hacks are valuable in marketing films and TV shows to audiences and to increase buzz for the upcoming Oscars, given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which promises its show will go on as scheduled Feb. 24. (The word here: please!)

Sunday's Golden Globe Awards announcement was covered not only by NBC, but by E! and TV Guide Channel. NBC never cut to the news conference; the network put its camera on Billy Bush and Nancy O'Dell, the two hosts of its syndicated celebrity show "Access Hollywood" and hung on for dear life.

NBC had promised viewers a one-hour news conference and, by gum, it delivered. NBC's version became that length by adding commercial breaks and much prattling back and forth between Bush and O'Dell. NBC was therefore often late with news of the winners. When the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was announcing that "Sweeney Todd" had won the Globe for best motion picture musical or comedy, NBC was running an ad. TV Guide Channel was the only network to actually cover the news conference without ad breaks or cut-ins from its on-air talent.

NBC has for several years had exclusive broadcast rights to the Golden Globe Awards ceremony. On Friday, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced it had taken over control of the news conference and NBC would no longer have exclusive TV coverage rights. NBC, producer Dick Clark Productions and the HFPA spent the rest of that afternoon spinning reporters on what had happened: NBC tried to get something for nothing; Dick Clark Productions at the 11th hour had demanded NBC pay a license fee to cover a news event; NBC was forcing Billy Bush and Nancy O'Dell on the HFPA to host the event; etc., etc. In the end, someone from practically every celebrity show except NBC's was represented onstage, reading names of winners.

Staff writer Lisa de Moraes contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company