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Writer’s strike dulls Golden Globes

Cassie Belek | Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The only good that came out of the absence of a red carpet before Sunday night’s announcement of the winners of the 65th Annual Golden Globe Awards was that audiences were spared a barrage of crude and stale jokes from comedian Joan Rivers. With the exception of that one blessing, the evening was a bizarre disappointment to everyone but the winners, who didn’t even have a stage to accept their award and bask in the glory.

A strike-induced cloud hung over the speedy 32-minute press conference announcing this year’s winners in film and television categories, voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). The Globes’ typical evening of alcohol-laced celebration was truncated to simple announcements of the winners by an array of entertainment show anchors, who attempted to make witty remarks throughout the press conference. This begged the question of which is worse: Mary Hart’s failure to deliver an impromptu joke or the scripted banter that we are usually subjected to at the Golden Globes?

The Golden Globes award ceremony became another casualty of the writers’ strike when the Writers Guild of America (WGA) refused to grant the award show a waiver to allow writers to script the show. The WGA threatened to picket the event if NBC, Dick Clark Productions and the HFPA made the decision to go on with the ceremony as usual, and the Screen Actors Guild boycotted in solidarity. The HFPA then opened the event to all media. The end result was a writer – and star-less press conference broadcast on the TV Guide Channel and CNN. NBC chose to broadcast a two-hour Golden Globes “Dateline” special hosted by Matt Lauer followed by a one-hour special telecast announcing the winners, hosted by “Access Hollywood”‘s Billy Bush and Nancy O’Dell.

Even if the Globes press conference itself was unremarkable (with the exception of E!’s Giuliana Rancic’s inarticulate attempt to vocalize her support for the writers), the winners from each category were a mixed bag of sure bets, upsets and pleasant surprises. On the television side, the AMC original series “Madmen” scored big with a best drama series win and a best actor in a drama series win for Jon Hamm. The HFPA traditionally prefers to spread the award wealth and recognize new series and rising stars, which may account for the absence of nominations for “The Sopranos” and James Gandolfini.

The most tiresome win on the television side was Jeremy Piven (“Entourage”) for best supporting actor. It was a stale choice as Piven continues to win accolades for his portrayal of Hollywood agent Ari Gold. The biggest television upset of the evening went to David Duchovny (“Californication”) for best actor in a comedy series. The HFPA chose Duchovny over the highly favored and more deserving Alec Baldwin, who delivers brilliant performances week after week as corporate boss Jack Donaghy in NBC’s “30 Rock.” However, Baldwin’s co-star Tina Fey did take home the Globe for best actress in a comedy series, beating last year’s winner America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”). “Extras” won for best comedy series, making it star Ricky Gervais’ second series (the first being BBC’s “The Office”) to take home the top prize at the Golden Globes.

Of course, the Globes are really more important for their effect on the Oscar race. Most races are still neck and neck, with the exception of the best supporting actor category which will certainly go to Javier Bardem for his villainous character in “No Country for Old Men.” However, a race that was formerly set in stone is now on shaky ground. Cate Blanchett (“I’m Not There”) won best supporting actress in a drama for her Bob Dylan portrayal, beating Oscar frontrunner Amy Ryan (“Gone Baby Gone”) who has so far dominated awards season.

Johnny Depp (“Sweeney Todd”) finally won a Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical after eight Golden Globe nominations, dating back to his 1991 nomination for “Edward Scissorhands.” It is unlikely Depp will score a win at the Oscars, however, as Daniel Day Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”) gains momentum after his Globe for best actor in a drama.

Julie Christie (“Away From Her”) won best actress on the drama side with Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”) winning best actress on the comedy or musical side. The race is essentially down to these two women, dwindling Ellen Page’s (“Juno”) chances to take home the Oscar.

Surprisingly, “Juno” was completely shut out at the Golden Globes. In addition to Ellen Page’s loss, “Sweeney Todd” overtook “Juno” for best comedy or musical and Diablo Cody’s screenplay lost to Ethan and Joel Coen’s “No Country for Old Men.” However the “Juno” and “No Country” screenplays will be in separate categories (best original screenplay and best adapted screenplay, respectively) at the Academy Awards, meaning a surefire victory for “Juno,” which has won most screenplay awards this season.

The race for best picture has become more complicated with a victory for “Atonement” at the Globes. Previously, “No Country” had been dominating the awards, with “There Will be Blood” gaining momentum behind it. However, “No Country”‘s chances would have been bolstered by a best director win for Ethan and Joel Coen; instead the duo lost to Julian Schnabel (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”).

The degree of the Globes’ impact on the Oscar race remains uncertain due to the lack of a ceremony, which cost the L.A. economy an estimated $80 million. Sunday’s NBC telecast drew in only 5.8 million viewers, putting it in fourth place for the night and hampering the likelihood of films getting a box office boost from their Globes victories. The fate of the Oscars ceremony, scheduled for Feb. 24, is still up in the air as the WGA decides whether or not to grant it a waiver.

If the WGA refuses a waiver for the 80th Annual Academy Awards, then we may all have to suffer through another night of an entertainment show anchor’s insightful opinions on the best films of the year instead of seeing our favorite stars walk the red carpet and get the chance to thank their parents and agents.