Time crunch keeps kudos on even keel

Handing out 26 trophies in a brisk three hours is no easy task — the Academy Awards can often take nearly four hours to distribute that many prizes — but the Golden Globes traditionally manage to come in pretty close on schedule. This, even though the kudocast honors both film (with 15 Globes) and TV (with 11).

So, naturally, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is reluctant to tinker with its current lineup of categories. Nor is it anxious to change the voting process for the awards. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, seems to be the org’s philosophy.

Philip Berk, eight-term president of the HFPA, admits that discussions about massaging the ceremony go on eternally. “We talk about these things for years and years,” he says.

With the exception of film awards for score, song, screenplay and direction, the Globes are essentially a star-driven affair. The only category for which film and TV aficionados might not recognize the winner is foreign language film.

The last category added to the trophy mix was animated film, in 2006. Retired categories include New Star of the Year, last given out in 1983, not long after Pia Zadora’s much criticized win compromised the prize’s integrity, and documentary film, last awarded in 1977.

Given that documentaries have enjoyed a creative resurgence in recent years, might it make sense to resurrect that category?

Responds Berk: “On a realistic level, just as the (Motion Picture) Academy streamlined their awards — they now give out some awards in a special ceremony, outside the broadcast — increasing our number of awards would not necessarily be conducive to a better show. We can barely cover the awards and acceptance speeches in our time frame. We don’t like to cut off the acceptance speeches.”

Likewise, Berk says it’s unlikely that technical categories, such as editing or cinematography, would be added. “I doubt that we’re qualified to make those choices,” he says. (For the Oscars, only Academy members in their technical fields select nominees in the first round of voting.)

Berk also says that while there have been discussions about forming committees to recommend nominees in some of the categories — after all, keeping track of all film and TV productions in a given year is a pretty daunting task, especially given that the HFPA only boasts some 80-odd members — such ideas are routinely batted down.

“The powers of such committees could go beyond what we would hope for,” Berk says. “There’s the concern that the floodgates would open where nominees could be coerced by just a few people.”

Instead, Berk says, the nomination process is a year-round affair.

During creative downtimes in the film industry, the focus is on TV (the HFPA doesn’t pretend that it watches everything; rather, it takes its cues from paying particular attention to critical acclaim, ratings information and private press conferences with those working on buzzworthy shows).

HFPA members then devote the last couple of months of the year, naturally, to films, since that’s when the studios trot out the products they hope will be trophy magnets.

More articles from the Golden Globe Update:
Categorical denial
Growth and change within HFPA
HFPA launches digital dialogue
Diary of a junket junkie
Gervais redux
With a little help from their friends

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