Re­think the Rep­u­ta­tion of the For­eign Press

The awards show is of­ten on the van­guard of what’s next in film and TV — de­spite mis­cues of the past

Variety - - Exposure | Dirt Parties Wwd Report Card Devour - STORY BY TIM GRAY

IT’S BE­COME AN AN­NUAL awards- sea­son tra­di­tion to mock the Hol­ly­wood For­eign Press Assn. and the Golden Globes. But when xeno­pho­bia is on the rise and jour­nal­ists are con­sid­ered the “en­emy of the peo­ple,” this is a good time to give a pat on the back to the HFPA.

For one, phi­lan­thropy: $3.25 mil­lion to 80 non­prof­its this year; $29 mil­lion over the past three decades.

Sec­ond, the show on NBC is fun, which is no mi­nor ac­com­plish­ment.

Third, the HFPA has saluted TV and film work that “high­brow” vot­ing groups ig­nored, from Gene Wilder in “Willy Wonka and the Choco­late Fac­tory” to Hugh Jack­man in “The Great­est Show­man,” while vot­ers awarded “The X-files” and “Mad Men” be­fore anybody else did.

But main­stream me­dia have been snip­ing for decades. Jour­nal­ists love to write about other jour­nal­ists, es­pe­cially neg­a­tive sto­ries. The HFPA is an easy tar­get be­cause no other group of re­porters has a mul­ti­mil­lion- dol­lar TV deal. (Ev­ery year, there is grip­ing: “How did this small group get to be so pow­er­ful?”)

Full dis­clo­sure: I was paid in 2017 to help the HFPA with its 75th an­niver­sary book. I found the of­fi­cers and most mem­bers, led by pres­i­dent Me­her Tatna, hon­or­able and hard­work­ing.

Yes, there are a few mem­bers who are real lu­lus. But that’s true with any group of me­dia mem­bers. (We all know some whack jobs in the New York and L.A. crit­ics vot­ing groups, but they get a free pass from fel­low jour­nal­ists.)

Work­ing on the an­niver­sary book, I found out a lot about the HFPA, in­clud­ing that mem­bers have been shrug­ging off the crit­i­cism for decades. But at one point, they struck back.

Af­ter the 1992 movie “Scent of a Woman” won three Golden Globes, in­clud­ing best pic­ture, drama, the New York Times wrote an­other in its long line of sneer­ing ar­ti­cles, im­ply­ing some­thing was fishy, since HFPA mem­bers had been flown from L.A. to New York for a press jun­ket on the film. (Jun­kets are stan­dard in the in­dus­try and Al Pa­cino was un­able to come to L.A. for the film. But then, New York­ers love to blast any­thing con­nected to Hol­ly­wood, par­tic­u­larly awards shows.)

The HFPA took out an ad in the Feb. 17, 1993, is­sue of Daily Va­ri­ety in the form of an open let­ter. It said that the Times ar­ti­cle was not only in­sult­ing to the HFPA, it was in­sult­ing to all Globes hon­orees.

The ad stated, in part: “It has al­ways been easy for some of our col­leagues in the do­mes­tic press to dis­miss our work. … We urge them to take a long, hard look at their at­ti­tudes to­ward the for­eign press, an at­ti­tude that we find at best con­de­scend­ing and at worst xeno­pho­bic.”

In Jan­uary 2017, Meryl Streep won the HFPA’S Ce­cil B. Demille Award, and her gal­va­niz­ing ac­cep­tance speech fo­cused on pol­i­tics and the grow­ing cul­ture of bul­ly­ing in Amer­ica.

“All of us in this room be­long to the most vil­i­fied seg­ments in Amer­i­can so­ci­ety right now,” Streep said. “Think about it: Hol­ly­wood, for­eign­ers and the press.”

It was a re­minder that there are some dan­ger­ous peo­ple in the world, so maybe it’s counter-pro­duc­tive to take pot­shots at each other in­stead of fo­cus­ing on real prob­lems.

It’s hard to paint the HFPA as vic­tims or un­der­dogs. They have more power than most other jour­nal­ists; stu­dios court them for their in­ter­na­tional cov­er­age and for the in­flu­ence of the Globes.

How­ever, these things are men­tioned far less than Pia Zadora or an NBC scan­dal from the 1960s. But it’s a re­minder an old Hol­ly­wood tru­ism: When you get a rep­u­ta­tion, it’s hard to shake.

Es­pe­cially if you’re a jour­nal­ist or have an ac­cent.

HFPA’S Me­her Tatna, sec­ond from left, Golden Globes Am­bas­sador Si­mone Gar­cia John­son, show host Seth Mey­ers, show pro­duc­ers Barry Adel­man and Allen Shapiro and Bev­erly Hills mayor Lili Bosse on the red car­pet.

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