When Michelle Pfeiffer and Tom Cruise celebrated Golden Globe Awards in 1990, the award ceremony was in full swing.
This year, there is not the greatest excitement about who will win the Golden Globe, but whether the winners will receive the award.
When the Golden Globe prizes are awarded on Monday night, there will be no red carpet.
There will also be no TV broadcast, just a short session at a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills.
In step with cultural and structural upheavals in the United States, the long-standing practice of the scandalous organization behind Hollywood’s second most important award has come into the spotlight.
Lack of diversity among the members (who until last year had not had a black member in 20 years), guild mentality and controversial ethical standards have been the core of the criticism of the organization.
And in the middle of the controversies: two Norwegians.
Behind the Golden Globe is a small, closed group of international journalists who have received gifts and luxury tours from film and TV producers hoping to vote for them:
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), or the Association of Foreign Journalists in Hollywood in Norwegian, was for a long time one of the most powerful organizations in the film capital.
The Golden Globe Awards have been presented since 1944, after the press organization HFPA was established the year before – on initiative of journalists in the British Daily Mail – to ensure foreign journalists access to movie stars to interview.
The timing of the award ceremony, shortly before the Oscars, has raised the status of the award, making it an important indicator of who will win the most prestigious film award.
Next to the Oscars and the Grammy Award, the Golden Globes have normally been the third most popular award in the United States, measured in viewership.
Rather than having a jury decide, both the Golden Globe and the Oscar statuettes are awarded based on a vote among the members of the organizations.
This has led to relatively extensive lobbying campaigns and ingenious attempts to win the members’ favor.
In expert on this was the now convicted and scandalized film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The Oscar academy eventually had to introduce rules which forbade members to attend extravagant parties organized by film companies, one of Weinstein’s specialties.
Own consultants currently charge around NOK 400,000 in fees for lobbying films, and success fees of NOK 175,000-265,000 depending on whether a film is nominated or wins, according to a contract Los Angeles Times has gained access to.
But where Oscar has about 9,400 members with voting rights, the HFPA has consisted of less than 100 journalists (now 105). This allows lobbyists to work far more purposefully.
Members of the HFPA have told New York Times about how they have received private Christmas cards from movie stars and get champagne, expensive wines, art, cashmere rugs, cakes and speakers delivered to their door.
The accusation that members can be influenced from the outside is not new.
A former leader resigned from the board of HFPA after the award ceremony in 1958, while stating that “certain awards are given more or less as services”, after a number of awards went to clients of the same PR agency, according to an article from Vanity Fair same year.
HFPA has said that they follow up their guidelines for gifts closely.
The question of whether votes can be bought was again raised when more than 30 members of the HFPA in 2019 were flown to Paris to visit the recording of the series “Emily in Paris”, where they were accommodated in a luxury hotel, something Los Angeles Times uncovered.
The series – which despite viewer popularity was slaughtered by, among others, French film critics – was then surprisingly nominated for two Golden Globe awards.
Criticism of the HFPA and the Golden Globes has come at the same time as a major societal debate about diversity in American society.
But another triggering factor was the Norwegian journalist Kjersti Flaa (48), who sued HFPA in 2020, after she was denied membership for three years in a row.
– When I decided to sue HFPA, I had never imagined that it would have such major ripple effects, Flaa says to VG today.
Flaa sued HFPA because she believes the organization is acting as an illegal cartel, which protects the privileges of a small and aging group of journalists rather than letting in anyone who is qualified.
When the lawsuit was first dismissed, partly because the judge thought Flaa could not prove that she had suffered a financial or career loss, HFPA’s lawyer stated that her lawsuit was “motivated by jealousy” and was an attempt to blackmail.
Flaa has appealed the decision.
1 of 6Photo: OConnor/AFF-USA.com
– Everyone has been scared because the organization has been so powerful and has so much money. Today, the whole of Hollywood stands up to them and it feels like a kind of redress for me and all my colleagues who for years have been treated so disrespectfully by this group, says Flaa.
On the other side of the conflict is another Norwegian journalist, Hollywood veteran Aud Berggren.
Berggren is a member of HFPA and has covered the stars in Hollywood from the beginning of the 90’s. For many years she was a regular freelancer in VG through the column “Aud meets:”, where a recurring move was that she posed with the stars in photos.
To meet the criticism, the HFPA has, among other things, admitted 21 new members.
– The fact that HFPA brought in 20 many members with a minority background is of course a step in the right direction, but the main problem lies in the members who are already there, says Flaa.
– The so-called journalists – most are well over retirement age – have made sure to keep the organization small by rejecting almost all qualified journalists in recent decades, she continues.
Flaa has sued Berggren personally as part of the lawsuit against HFPA. She believes Berggren tried to stop her to avoid competition. The latter responds to e-mail when VG confronts her with the accusations:
– I have no comments on Kjersti Flaa’s false accusations against me, other than the fact that she has lost in court twice, and that her latest appeal is still active. Since she insists on taking her case to the press, and that she now seems rather desperate, I will take her untrue and insulting allegations about me up with our lawyers, writes Aud Berggren.
1 out of 5Photo: Aud Berggren / VG
The television broadcasts have provided HFPA with large revenues. The tax-exempt organization has for years donated millions to good causes, including one of the world’s largest networks for investigative journalism, ICIJ.
– The reason why the distribution on Sunday is private is because they could not get a celebrity to present the prizes. It’s a sensational change. They’re like the mafia now. No one can be seen with them anymore. The brand has collapsed, said the Dutch journalist Diederik van Hoogstraten, who has broken out of HFPA, to New York Post Saturday.
Kjersti Flaa, for her part, is excited about the continuation:
– I think most people were quite shocked when they still chose to carry out the “show”. The fact that all celebrities have refused to participate came as no surprise, so to speak. Now it will be interesting to see how the winners react, whether they will follow in Tom Cruise’s footsteps and actually return the statuettes, she believes.
Golden Globe has been in bad weather before. In 1968, the FCC, the US federal regulator for television, among other things, made many of the same accusations against the distribution as today: that the winners were the result of lobbying rather than pure elections.
The ensuing scandal led to the distribution disappearing from the TV screen for four years. But it came back.
“There has been positive publicity and negative publicity. We are still here “, said the then leader Meher Tatna in a speech in 2018, when the organization turned 75 years old.
Flaa believes that it takes “another miracle for the Golden Globe brand to survive”.
Before she later adds:
– But who knows, maybe another channel will pick them up. Everything is possible in Hollywood.