- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 14, 2003

LOS ANGELES - A new documentary questions how much gold there really is in the Golden Globes, the first big party in Hollywood’s awards season.

Show business insiders already know the story laid out in “The Golden Globes: Hollywood’s Dirty Little Secret,” which debuted last night on the Trio cable channel. The Golden Globe nominations will be announced Thursday at 8:30 a.m. EST.

But casual viewers of the annual awards show might be surprised to learn that a relatively small group of foreign journalists hand out the Golden Globes and that many are only part-time entertainment reporters for obscure print or online outlets.

“It’s an emperor-has-no clothes story,” said Vikram Jayanti, the documentary’s director-narrator. “We all think it’s like an august organization with hundreds of really reputable film journalists and critics.”

In reality, the group behind the Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, has about 90 members, and many have reputations more as star-struck fans and moochers than serious reporters, the documentary noted.

Interviewed for the documentary, L.A. Weekly film critic John Powers said the group’s members are “essentially just bottom-feeders around the industry, who’ve somehow been inflated to this point where their judgment is supposed to be very, very important.”

Mr. Jayanti also interviewed producers and other journalists who questioned the validity of the Golden Globes, saying the HFPA voters are more interested in getting royal treatment from stars and studios than in honoring film achievements.

Each year, studios arrange elaborate meals where HFPA members can hobnob with directors and actors on films angling for Academy Awards and other movie honors. If stars and filmmakers fail to turn up for a schmooze session with the HFPA, it generally kills a movie’s chances for Golden Globe nominations, which draw attention that can boost a film’s Oscar prospects.

NBC will air the 61st annual Golden Globes live Jan. 25, about a month before the Oscars.

HFPA members declined Mr. Jayanti’s request for interviews in the documentary. Lorenzo Soria, HFPA’s president, said he has seen Mr. Jayanti’s documentary and that the group was right not to cooperate.

“We have had many experiences in the past of people approaching us intending to do a fair presentation of who we are and what we do, and somehow, it seems to be a sport to do a hatchet job on the organization,” Mr. Soria told the Associated Press. “I think that our suspicion in this particular case was correct.”

Lauren Zalaznick, Trio president, said the documentary was not meant as an indictment of the Golden Globes but a peek into the media’s broader role in Hollywood’s marketing machine.

“It’s a lot more of a statement about the industry of awards and what drives them,” Miss Zalaznick said.

While the Golden Globes fell into disrepute in the early 1980s for naming Pia Zadora newcomer of the year for her movie bomb “Butterfly,” the awards have gained some respect in recent years for honoring daring performances. Hilary Swank’s gender-bending role in “Boys Don’t Cry” earned her an Academy Award, a prize she might not have received without an earlier Golden Globe win that caught the attention of generally more conservative Oscar voters.

“Even though the Golden Globe people are by and large idiots,” critic Powers says in the documentary, “they often make better choices than the Oscars.”

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