Sunday,17 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1131, 17 - 23 January
Sunday,17 February, 2019
Issue 1131, 17 - 23 January

Ahram Weekly

Movie mania

Al-Ahram Weekly

The ‘season to be jolly’ has come and gone, but many more seasons await us, of different moods, colours and consequences.  As we toss and turn in the winds of uncertainty, we can take refuge in the current season of show-business, or the business of show business. This is award season in Hollywood, when fortunes can rise or fall and millions can be won or lost.

At the start of each New Year the film world seeks to reap the rewards of the preceding year’s labour.  Award mania hits tinsel town and Hollywood becomes the closest thing to a madhouse.  As starlets seek what to wear and how to look, producers count their banknotes and directors bite their nails.  The colossal events start early in January with the Golden Globe Awards, culminating with the Oscars several weeks later, with countless ceremonies in between.

While the Oscars are more important, the Golden Globes are more interesting.  Not only do they inaugurate Award season, they carry their own brand of prestige and distinction.  A mere Golden Globe nomination can raise an artist from obscurity to grade A status.  Their ceremony is favoured by movie folk, as it is more relaxed, more informal and more “fun”.  It leads the trend and is often a precursor which way the seasonal winds will blow. Moreover, it is the only International Award held in Hollywood, lending it a unique flavor of continental, exotic charm that eludes the Oscars.  They say, as the Golden Globes go, so do the Oscars.  Although not always the case, the Globes retain their independence and the anticipation of their inaugural ceremony is palpable and incomparable. 

 Last Sunday the Golden Globe Award ceremony was held at the palatial Beverly Hills Hotels International Ballroom, and the surprise winner of the evening was Ben Aflak for “Argo” and the favourites “Lincoln” and “Les Miserables” had theirs share of prices.

“Les Miserables”, the film version of the outstanding Broadway musical directed by Tom Hooper, (The King’s Speech) received its share of trophies.  As for Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”, it did what it was expected to do.  Luck favours hard work and efficiency. Spielberg, Catherine Begelow and Daniel Day-Lewis are indeed “lucky”.

So much attention is given to the Oscars, but how, when and why did Hollywood decide to host an international film award? It was initiated by a group of actors in 1944, who wished to find out what the foreign journalists reporting from Hollywood to their countries thought of their work.  Twentieth Century Fox held a luncheon at the studio’s commissary and all the foreign press agreed that the “The Song of Bernadette”, was the Best Picture of 1943 and its stars, Jennifer Jones and Paul Lucas were Best Actor and Actress. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” received Best Male and Female Supporting Actor honours which went to Katina Paxinou and Akim Tamiroff. Such fun was had by all, the foreign members of the press decided to make it an annual event.  They further decided that their ceremony would precede the Oscars, so they would not be accused of any influence by ‘older brother’.

The ‘Globes’ were considered an important view on motion pictures and their worldwide impact. The lunch was promoted to a dinner at the legendary nightclub, ‘Ciro’s’ or the ‘Coconut Grove’ of the Ambassador Hotel, a favourite waterhole of celebrities.  Both locations are now extinct.

With the years grew the appeal of the Golden Globe Awards and its categories grew with it. The Foreign Press tried to stress the International aspect, establishing a World Film International Favourite Star, by conducting a poll in 45 countries. It was supervised by Reuters News Agency and the first recipients were Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman in 1947.  It is indeed a pity that it was dropped 3 decades later when Reuters could no longer conduct the worldwide poll.  The Globes claimed no other reliable replacement could be found.

Always seeking independence from the Oscars, the Globe split the Best Picture and Acting categories to Drama and Musical/Comedy, a move that pleased actors and producers. In 1953, the 9th Golden Globe went to “A Place in the Sun” as Best Drama and “An American in Paris” as Best Musical/Comedy.  It further distinguished itself from the Oscars by embracing Television shows, adding to the massive excitement of Hollywood’s population.

The joyous and informal ambience of the Globe Awards, contrasts strongly with the tense auditorium presentation of the Oscars.  Preceded by a sumptuous dinner, the nominees are well fed and relaxed, mingling with friends and colleagues and exchanging pleasantries. They remain seated at their tables as the winners are announced. A feeling of camaraderie prevails. Mutual love and respect for each other’s creative efforts is unmistakable and often inconceivable in the film community.

Regardless of the glitz and glamour, filmmakers are a hard-working lot. The thread that binds them is to inspire and entertain, and so they have for over a hundred years of providing generations with ecstasy and wonder.

For a brief moment in time we can find shelter under the umbrella of the fantasy world of film as it celebrates its many achievements, before we face the torrential rains than await us in the world of reality.

“Drama is life with the dull bits cut out”

                                                       Alfred Hitchcock ( 1899-1980)


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