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Kudos to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for asking Ricky Gervais to host the Golden Globe Awards for a third consecutive year, even after he blisteringly insulted them and many of their guests at last year’s ceremony. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think they had it in them.
The HFPA is a strange group composed of an assortment of primarily little-known journalists who periodically contribute to publications based around the world. It’s a little unclear how one becomes a member of the HFPA — a member once asked me, after we had a very pleasant conversation, if I had any foreign ties that could justify a spot for me — but it is perfectly clear that the studios desperately covet the favor of those who do. Consequently, HFPA members wield immense power and influence in Hollywood — and not always in the most becoming of ways. Widely referred to as “star whores,” its members all but demand that studios host for them special screenings and press conferences (post-press conference photo-ops with films’ stars are strongly encouraged), and have a long history of rewarding big stars who butter them up over lesser-known “actors’ actors.” (For instance, they all received Blu-Ray players two years ago at a party for Tobey Maguire, whose long-shot best actor candidacy for Brothers was subsequently rewarded with a nomination, and last year they were flown out to a Las Vegas concert performance of Cher, who then scored a best song nod.)
What made Gervais a terrific host — two years ago, and especially last year — is that he didn’t pretend that the aforementioned information was irrelevant or unimportant, but rather joked about it in the same bemused way as everyone else in the film industry. Sure, it must have made the somewhat self-important HFPA feel a little embarassed to be mocked and knocked down a notch in front of millions of people by someone whom they had hired to act as their ambassador to the world, but the truth is that the things that he called them out on — throwing around their influence, supporting bad movies in order to hang out with their stars, being susceptible to outside influence, etc. — were (a) true, (b) funny, and (c) actually made them more relatable to the general public, in an odd way. After all, wouldn’t most people behave similarly? And while his jabs at the alleged sexual preferences of several well-known Scientologist movie stars may have crossed the line of political-correctness, they only elicited laughs because their underlying premise is something that everyone had already heard before.
What made Gervais so funny as a host and helped him to deliver great ratings for NBC over the past two years is just that: his willingness to say what everyone is already thinking but nobody else will dare say. And for embracing that and recognizing that one should be able to laugh at oneself, I say bravo to the HFPA. For all of your faults, you got this one right, and, like the millions of others who watched your last two shows, I now can’t wait for the next one.
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