On this week’s ‘Not My Job’ segment of the socially-distanced NPR quiz show Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!,are Este and Alana Haim, two members of the three-sister band Haim. Their interview with host Peter Sagal is a great deal of fun as they talk with great enthusiasm, most notably about their early days as kids playing with their parents as a cover band in Los Angeles delis.
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, his guest is Dr. Anthony Fauci. Among the… – oh, okay, you probably don’t need any more information than that. You’ll either listen, or you won’t. But just to fill in the blanks, what Al writes is about the show is that among thing the things they discuss are – “When will we be back to normal? Will we be able to find a vaccine for a contagious variant? Now that I’ve been vaccinated, can I see my grandchildren?”
From the archives, this week's contestant is David Hempling. from San Francisco. It's a very easy hidden song to get. As for the hidden composer style, it's clear after hearing the answer, but I didn't find it typical for that composer so I missed it.
Yes, it's that time again. I posted this last year -- and have, in fact, posted it annually, here and on the Huffington Post, where it initially appeared in 2007, for the past 14 years. So, with the Golden Globes broadcast set for tomorrow night, here we go again.
Yet before we do, I even have another update -- which yet again shows another controversy with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that runs the Golden Globes...and it shows (again) that all this isn't just about my opinion. Because just days ago, the Los Angeles Times had an investigation lead by Josh Rottenberg who wrote --
"...Times reporting revealed the group is still struggling to shake its reputation that the voters are easily swayed by high-priced junkets in exotic locales and cozy relationships with studios, networks and A-listers. Even as the HFPA fended off allegations brought in an antitrust lawsuit by Norwegian journalist Kjersti Flaa, some of the group’s own members have raised mounting criticisms of its alleged ethical lapses and self-dealing. The HFPA has said the allegations are unproven and “simply repeat old tropes” about the organization. (Flaa’s suit was dismissed by a federal judge in November. An amended motion is pending.)
"The Times investigation also highlighted the fact that the group currently has no Black members, further fueling criticism over this year’s Globes picks, which didn’t include any of this year’s Black-led awards contenders..."
No Black members. That on its own is bad enough. But as you read the articles below, it's context of the HFPA's history makes it all the more Standard Operation Procedure, and all the worse.
By the way, to be clear, though the lawsuit referenced above was dismissed but is under appeal, just because someone brings up your old problems -- whimsically called "tropes" or not -- doesn't mean those old problems weren't very real and didn't exist, nor does it mean that some of them, or most, or all, don't still exist today.
On with the show...
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The PreCurse of the Golden Globes Rides Again
'Tis the season for awards - and that means on Sunday it was time to read and hear (repeatedly) how the Golden Globes matter because they are "precursors to the Oscars," remarkable for their mystical ability to predict the Academy Awards. Of course, if you repeat any mantra enough, people will believe almost anything But then reality rears its pesky head and gets in the way.
Indeed, the dirty little secret about the Golden Globes is that they're the biggest flim-flam scam on the American public today. Okay, other than "Mitt Romney is a far-right conservative."
(And one of the main reasons that keeps it such a "secret" is because most people don't have the slightest clue who in the world the Hollywood Foreign Press is that gives these awards. That's a little sending a congratulations gift to someone who was named "Man of the Year" and not realizing that the honor was given by an online website that sends out the certificates for $18.)
I have absolutely no idea who "won" what last night. Alas, the depth of human caring simply doesn't stretch that low. Mind you, it's not because they're just awards - hey, awards are entertainment, and can be as fun as anything. It's because the Golden Globes are to awards what a Black Hole is to French toast. There's no connection, but at least with French toast you can pour on syrup and not have human existence sucked out of the universe.
When someone said, "The show must go on," clearly the Golden Globes hadn't been invented yet.
Four years ago, I wrote about the Golden Globes, and because they keep coming back unrelentingly like a crazed zombie, I updated and edited it a year later. And now it's become a bit of an annual tradition, the same as one calls in a gardener to stop the crab grass from spreading any further. Because the foolish hype gets more out of control each year - and since if I saw someone crossing the street into an oncoming truck I'd always yell to stop - I figure it's worth revisiting that piece.
Until recently the Globes were so comatose that even a new health care system couldn't have diagnosed them to life. But three things changed: movie studios realized they could get massive free publicity. Television recognized that if celebrities attended, people would watch anything. And actors grasped they'd get to appear on TV and receive awards. It was the Holy Trinity of PR.
Before even attempting to dismiss or defend the Golden Globes, however, it's important to understand what exactly what it is. And it starts with a bit of flim-flammery.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which presents the Golden Globes, has always had only one thing going for it - an incredible-sounding name. That name comes across like A-list journalists in trenchcoats from Paris Match, Die Welt and the Neptune Gazette. In fact, however, the HFPA, while representing many fine, individual, full-time reporters, is largely comprised of stringers (part-timers whose day job is other than journalism). And many are neither foreign, nor active in the press. Membership is whimsical: some get permanent status; others are inexplicably refused even entry. (The London Times is not a member. A reporter from the renowned Le Monde has been turned down for years. Happily there is a representative from the movie hotbed of Bangladesh. Honest.)
Yes, of course, movie awards are utterly pointless to all human life forms, except the winners. It's just faflooey. Nothing more than fluff. And the Globes are the fluff on top of the fluff. But before dismissing them further, remember: around 20 million viewers tune in to the Golden Globes. If that many people are going to spend their time on Earth watching the circus, it's at least nice to know who sent in the clowns.
And that's the kicker. At last count, the Globes are voted on by just...get this...86 people. Yes, you read that correctly. 86. For comparison, the Oscars, Emmys, and Writers Guild/Directors Guild/SAG awards are each voted on by about 6,000 professionals of their respective industries.
The good news is that with only 86 people voting it cuts down on the hanging-chad problem.
Any club is entitled to give awards. But most don't get to take over three hours of prime time on national network television.
The history of the Golden Globes is peppered with so many scandals about buying awards that Frequent Shopper points should be instituted. The most famous is when Pia Zadora's then-husband gave lavish parties to the HFPA, and she won New Star of the Year - for the ridiculed disaster "Butterfly." For the 2000 Awards Sharon Stone's representative sent gold watches to all then-82 voters. Only after this became a public embarrassment was the plunder returned. And Ms. Stone received a best actress nomination for The Muse.
But the big myth about the Golden Globes - indeed their one false hope to even a wisp of validity - is that they are an impeccable predictor of the Academy Awards.
(Why anyone cares about predicting the Oscars is another matter entirely.)
But the reality is - the Golden Globes as a "Precursor to the Oscars" is not only not close to true, it's worse than not close to true. Which is near-impossible.
Keep in mind that six of the 13 Globe categories are split into drama and musical-comedy - which allows for twice as many chances to be "right." Some categories have had as many as nine nominees. People watching at home eating cheese dip probably get half the Oscar winners right by pure guessing. (My mother correctly predicted Philip Seymour Hoffman's win, and she hadn't even seen "Capote" at the time.) Yet it's almost impressive how wrong the Globes are at "precursing."
Last year, the Golden Globes did well in all the acting categories, picking all four winners (keeping in mind that they give twice as many acting awards as the Oscars, so they have twice as many chances to be right). But they got Best Picture wrong, Best Director wrong, Best Screenplay wrong, and Best Foreign Language Picture wrong.
Going back to the year before, here are all the Golden Globe categories.
Best Picture (drama) - right
Best Picture (comedy) - wrong, not even nominated for an Oscar.
Best Actor (drama) - wrong
Best Actor (comedy) - wrong, not even nominated for an Oscar.
Best Actress (drama) - right
Best Actress (comedy) - wrong, not even nominated for an Oscar
Best Supporting Actor - right
Best Supporting Actress - wrong, not nominated for an Oscar.
Best Director - right
Best Screenplay - right, but the Oscar-winner for Original Screenplay wasn't nominated by the Golden Globes
Best Foreign Language Film - wrong
Best Animated Feature - right
Best Score - right
Best Song - wrong, not nominated for an Oscar.
It is unlikely that these results over the past two years would win your office pool. If you want to be considered a precursor, that would seem to be the minimum requirement.
And these were both pretty good years for the Golden Globes.
In 2006, the Oscar for Best Picture was "Crash." The Golden Globes didn't even nominate it among their 10 finalists!
It becomes scary bad when you delve deeper. But having a limit on my Care-o-Meter, with zero interest to go back and check year-after-every-year, I decided to try an experiment. To be very clear, there is absolutely nothing even remotely scientific about it. Rather, it's the testing equivalent of throwing darts. No scientific meaning. Just picking a totally random year. But in its randomness, it has a separate meaning: it could have been any year.
I closed my eyes, pointed at the screen blindly and grabbed a year. The lucky winner was 2001. It looked good - it even had the name of a movie ("2001") about it. Alas, "lucky winner" turned out to be a contradiction.
The Globe winner in 2001 for Best Picture musical/comedy (Almost Famous) wasn't even nominated for the Oscar. The two Golden Globe winners for Best Actor were Tom Hanks and George Clooney. Swell actors, but the Oscar went to Russell Crowe ("Gladiator") - and Globe-winner Clooney didn't even get an Oscar nomination.
Renee Zellwegger ("Nurse Betty") won the Globe's Best Actress, musical/comedy. Alas, she didn't get nominated for an Oscar either.
It gets worse.
For supporting actress, Marcia Gay Harden won the Academy Award...but didn't even receive a Globe nomination.
In fairness, that was a random choice and therefore hardly definitive, as I said. Not proof of anything. Unfortunately, to be fair, I figured I'd at least go back one more year, and the results were as dismal. The year before, in 2000, the Golden Globes gave their two Best Actor awards to Denzel Washington and Jim Carrey - but the Oscar winner was Kevin Spacey (and Carrey wasn't nominated). Tom Cruise won the Globe for Supporting Actor - but Michel Caine got the Oscar. And remarkably, although there were nine Globe nominees for Best Original Score, their winner didn't even get nominated by the Academy, and the Oscar winner (The Red Violin) wasn't nominated by the Globes!!
Not good as far as precursors go.
Certainly, other years may show better results. Or...okay, maybe not. But the bottom line is not whether the Golden Globes are right some years or really wrong others. It's that if you're doing to be a "precursor," if you're going to be predictive, then you have to have a steady standard that can be relied upon. Every single year. And the only thing steady about the Golden Globes is that they do not "predict" anything. Set that in granite and plant the gravestone, once and for all.
All this said, this year the Golden Globes actually do have a reason to watch. Ricky Gervais is hosting again. It's why God created the DVR and fast-forward button.
Of course, underlying all of this is that the Golden Globes or Oscars are all just awards. They have no real meaning, except to those who win. For the rest of the planet, they're just entertainment. Still, even entertainment is more substantive when we value those behind it. There's a reason TV doesn't broadcast your office pool.
Further, for as little meaning that all awards shows have (including those given out by an industry to itself), the reality is that people watch the broadcasts. And they watch them because there's a perception - as in the Emmys, Tonys, Grammys and Oscars - that the people giving the awards know what they're doing. It's a perception the Golden Globes have falsely milked for decades, scamming the public.
In the end, for those who insist on watching the Golden Globes, watch them and accept them for what they are, and you can live in blissful peace - 86 members of a shaky organization that stumbled onto a goldmine with studios and networks, and who present a lively TV kegger.
And that's why Globe winners appear so goofy on the air. Because they understand what you now know. Everyone loves a good joke.
One day after writing this above, Patrick Goldstein in the L.A. Times, wrote an article about a story broken by The Wrap about the longtime, former publicist of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association suing the organization.
"Michael Russell, who ran press for the show for 17 years, has charged the HFPA with fraud and corrupt practices. He claims that a number of members of the organization accepted money, vacations and gifts from studios in exchange for nominating their films in addition to selling media credentials and red carpet space for gifts. He also says the HFPA accepted payment from studios and producers for lobbying other members for award nominations."
Over time, I've seen a lot of productions of The Music Man. (Or to call it correctly, Meredith Willson's The Music Man.) In fact, it was the very first professional stage musical I ever saw, not much past a wee toddler, at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago. When people say how no one could top Robert Preston as 'Harold Hill' -- and to be clear, I pretty much agree with that, it's a remarkable iconic performance -- I always say that I saw someone who was awfully great, and someone who fit the role to a T, as well, as a charming, conniving con man: Forrest Tucker. And pretty much everyone pauses a moment and then says, "Yeah, I can see that. He'd be pretty good." And he was, he was great. I even recognized that at that age.
In fact, I still have the program!
(The actress opposite him was Joan Weldon, who is still around at age 90. And to my surprise, I recently saw her in an old episode of Have Gun, Will Travel. She played an aspiring opera singer who Paladin has to give some training advice to.)
Perhaps because this was my first professional show ever to see -- I still remember my reaction to it at intermission, right after "76 Trombones," being enthralled by what I had witnessed for the first time, still just halfway through, and even hopping about and turning my little sportcoat around, like 'Harold Hill' does to turn his jacket into a bandleaders coat. (See above...) And I recall the bemused smiles by all the adults in the lobby watching this weirdly-happy kid -- or perhaps because it really is such a classic, wonderful musical, I have been a bit of self-proclaimed connoisseur of the show One other thing I remember about that matinee -- it was delayed because Maurice Chevalier was in the audience, and some of the cast came into the auditorium to get his autograph!
I should add that the show contains one of my favorite lines in any musical. It comes near the end when Harold is being chased and appears about to be caught by the angry townspeople. He finally confesses his actions to Winthrop, the little brother of Marian who he's just realized he's fallen in love with. And when Winthrop cries out in accusation, "There isn't any band, is there?." Harold replies -- "I always think there's a band, kid."
Another notable actor I saw in the role of 'Prof. Harold Hill' was Dick Van Dyke in Los Angeles. He was wonderful, as you might imagine, and a joy to see. Though I don't think he was right for the role. I think it works best when the character contrasts the townspeople and is a big city fast-talker, as opposed to trying to sort of blend in with everyone and charm them as, which is how he played it. That was also the quibble I had with Matthew Broderick's interpretation in the TV remake.)
I also saw Eric McCormack do the show at the massive Hollywood Bowl. This was probably 20 years ago, at the height of when he was starring on NBC in Will & Grace. My recollection is that he played the role as sort of combination of the two styles -- in part "aw, shucks" and in part the cynical city hustler. I thought he did a good job. No better than that, but not worse either. A very solid performance. (Though I think to get the most out of the role, it calls for more than solid, it calls for owning the stage.) I wrote about that a few years ago and even included a video of him singing "Marian the Librarian" when they took the production to Broadway. You can read the piece and see the video here.
I wrote here about seeing the seeing the show a couple years ago at the acclaimed Goodman Theatre in Chicago. I had high hopes for that because their standard is so high, and though I liked the production, I was surprised how mediocre I found the lead. Definitely not the standard for the Goodman, for my taste..
I mention this all because it turns out that I found about 10 minutes of footage of Eric McCormack playing the Professor. It seems his performance at the Hollywood Bowl held him in good stead, because when the show had its Broadway revival in 2000 with Craig Bierko, McCormack briefly took over the role for three months in 2001 during a summer hiatus in Will & Grace's run.
So, here's that footage. It's mostly "76 Trombones," but afterwards the video also includes him performing "The Sadder but Wiser Girl."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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