Nothing about this year’s Globes suggests it’s ready to return to primetime, including a Variety piece revealing that this year’s ballots did not allow members to vote for non-English language or animated films in the Best Motion Picture — Drama or Best Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical categories, despite a previous announcement that they would be eligible. Even if this was somehow an oversight it raised the question of how seriously the HFPA was taking other reforms.
But if the Globes are over—and that remains a big “if,” given the HFPA’s unlikely resilience and proven ability to come back from other scandals—what might take their place as a glitzy Oscars-before-the-Oscars? For a moment it looked like the 27-year-old Critics Choice Movie Awards (previously the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards) would step up. Aired on different networks over the course of its existence, the ceremony has been broadcast on The CW since 2017 and this year made plans to expand to TBS and take the Globes’ traditional early-January slot. The Omicron variant scotched those plans, however, and the Critics Choice Association has yet to announce a rescheduled date.
If anything, this feels like an apt moment for the Globes to become just another group tweeting out its winners, however bumblingly, and vying for attention alongside other (and better qualified) organizations like the National Society of Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the New York Film Critics Circle. All three gave their top honors to Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s excellent Drive My Car, a film that, by virtue of its language, could not have done the same at the Globes. (It did pick up the Non-English Language award, however.)
There is a potential downside to the leveling of the field that comes with the deglitzification. A recent New York Times piece headlined “Quiet Awards Season Has Hollywood Uneasy” noted the sidelining of the Globes as a major contributing factor to a year in which awards season is playing out everywhere but movie theaters, where contenders like West Side Story and Belfast are playing to less-than-packed houses. With no high-profile awards events to goose the curious into checking them out, the results could be a slate of nominees without much in the way of name recognition. One possible solution: nominate what’s already popular. In Variety, critic Owen Gleiberman argued that Spider-Man: No Way Home, a film he admits hating, should earn a Best Picture nominee to restore “mainstream cred” to the Oscars, calling it “nothing less than the oxygen that’s going to allow them to survive.”
There’s a logic to this, however knotty. For the Oscars and film culture in general to stay healthy, moviegoers have to stay interested in, well, going to the movies. That’s a tougher sell than in most times thanks to the pandemic, viewing habits altered by streaming, and other factors. But they also have to remain invested in the idea that movies can be great, a quality that doesn’t come from box office profits or the drunken applause of movie stars packed into the Beverly Hilton. To think otherwise is to forget what awards, for all the hype and politicking around them, are supposed to be about. The Golden Globes forgot that a long time ago and look what (eventually) happened.