Dispatch January 2010

Making Sense of the Golden Globes

Movie producer Lynda Obst reports on this year's A-list Golden Globe parties, and offers the inside track on what the main event's latest trends portend for the future of the industry.

Golden Globe weekend in Hollywood commences the awards season, so the stars, dresses, publicists and paparazzi come out Friday night and stay out until Sunday afternoon, by which time the nominees and presenters are either sitting in their chairs or slipping out the back to the comfort of their bedrooms where the rest of us are.

This is an age-old tradition, and over the past 20 years, the Creative Artists Agency has ruled Friday night with its party at the Buffalo Club. In the past few years, hosting duties have been passed down from CAA’s second generation leaders Kevin Huvane and Bryan Lourd to third generation party host Josh Lieberman, who I hear has tried to keep the list exclusive. I don’t know what exclusive means in Hollywood, but judging by the amazing press of human flesh at Friday’s party, I’m guessing that it means the exclusion of: a) agents from other agencies b) clients of other agencies, unless they’re nominated movie stars c) TV people d) football players preparing for this weekend’s games e) relief workers in Haiti. We were drinking different kinds of Don Julio tequila, the very fancy brand that had sponsored the party, and which, as the bartender explained as he poured, was supposed to taste like bourbon—which may or may not have accounted for the very happy mood among the hustling young crowd.

As a small, aging person, circumnavigating this crush takes a skill I don’t possess: it calls for subtle martial arts moves involving the legs and shoulders that I’ve seen successfully performed by Koreans and Israelis at airport baggage claims, and by Hollywood agents in lines anywhere. Young blondes on the make are also quite good at it, as I learned on Friday.

Dotted within the clusterf*** were production chiefs, producers, and some stars—as in Jen Aniston, Kate H (working Harvey W), all of whom came early and left early, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who was planted all evening with his manager. Managers—the new agents (a rich topic which I plan to explore in a future piece)—clogged the party, the agents working them to keep tight hold on their clients, as these days the managers have a habit of moving the stars from agency to agency, adding to the tension which permeates all the gladness.

The Globes are historically interesting for two principle reasons: 1) their predictive/momentum-giving power, and 2) the equal time they give to TV, even though the televisionpeople famously have to sit upstairs in the Beverly Hilton’s literal second tier, and there’s barely enough airtime for them to even make jokes about it anymore.

Increasingly, the TV and movie industries are blurring together. Their executives are commutative: the head of Disney Channel just took over Walt Disney studios, where many studio heads have been grown; Grey Gardens, which won best TV movie, stars movie veterans Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore; Laura Linney is starring in a new cable TV series – a venue where women movie stars over 40 now go to thrive; moviepeople are making TV; and TV stars, like Blake Lively of CW’s Gossip Girl, are making movies. Lively, in fact, is the movie business’s newest “it” girl, and a client of CAA party host Josh Lieberman. In some weird way, the Globes anticipated this mish-mash.

On a meta level—as its first ever host, the Globes chose a foreign import who starred in a British TV series that was remade here (becoming a TV hit with a movie star who became a TV star), who then started making American movies before he ever made a British one… (Got all that?) Very hybrid.

Saturday, I wished I’d stayed home, as, when I got to the Paramount party honoring Martin Scorcese for winning the Foreign Press Award, I encountered a sea of strangely dressed old people wandering around in the terrifying crush. They were what I once imagined the Golden Globes voters looked like, until Thursday when I actually met Ms. Golden Globes herself, the great Elisabeth Sereda—Austria’s media power player, who, when I met her was wearing an unstructured, buttery soft leather sweater-jacket over jeans, her blond hair stylishly touseled. (It was at a fabulous tiny gathering straight out of The Serious Man, one of my favorite movies this year. But that was private.)

These strangely dressed folk at the Paramount party were in fact not Golden Globes people, but the Foreign Press, here to give Martin his award. As for the Globes, they must have gone legit when they finally empowered Elisabeth—a person who doesn't look like she's dressed to go dancing on the Titanic.

Sunday I was at home with friends, because, as I explained to Elisabeth after seeing her three nights in a row and realizing that she of course expected to see me again on the big night, we don’t go unless we’re nominated; it is the height of loserdom. My comedy with host Ricky Gervais wasn’t nominated—which of course put him in a particularly comical mood... So I was home enjoying watching him take it all down.

We were all just talking Conan anyway.

Enjoy, NBC!

P.S. In beating art house favorite Carey Mulligan in the Drama category, Sandy Bullock sets up a battle-of-the-adored-women race for the Oscars—which should be both fun and brutal. My money and heart are with Sandy, as she is so beloved and has worked her way to the top of the female ladder—finally scoring in a drama, and now ranking as the highest paid woman in Hollywood. (Of course, the Oscars aren't about box office, really. And I would be equally happy if the almost impossible to over-appreciate Meryl were rewarded for her astonishing performance in the great Nora's Julie and Julia).

P.P.S. The most Hollywood-as-extended-family moment of the night was the standing ovation for Jeff Bridges, who immediately grasped it as an ovation for his lifelong under-appreciatedness—and said so. This is in direct contrast to movie star George Clooney's almost over-appreciatedness. As far as I could tell, Gorgeous George never looked directly into the camera the entire night—as though maybe he were secretly directing relief efforts for the president of Haiti under the table. We were lucky he was there at all.

Presented by

Lynda Obst is a producer and writer. Her most recent movie is The Invention of Lying, starring Ricky Gervais. (As Gervais helpfully mentioned during last night’s ceremonies, the DVD goes on sale today…) Obst’s book, Hello, He Lied, was published in 1996. Beginning in February, she will blog regularly for The Atlantic.com about Hollywood and the movie industry. More

Lynda Obst was recruited to Hollywood from the New York Times Magazine in 1979 by Peter Guber, for whom she developed Flashdance and Clue, as well as beginning the development of Carl Sagan’s Contact. In 1985, Obst partnered with producer Debra Hill, forming Hill/Obst Productions at Paramount Pictures. They soon made the iconic teen pic Adventures in Babysitting. Then the duo produced Terry Gilliam’s Oscar-nominated The Fisher King, starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.

Obst then began a solo-producing career, where she produced Nora Ephron’s directing debut, This Is My Life, and executive produced Ephron’s second film, Sleepless in Seattle. Obst then produced The Siege, Hope Floats, One Fine Day, and Someone Like You. One of Obst’s earlier projects came full circle when she came on Contact for Warner Bros. in 1997, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jodie Foster. In 1999, she executive produced NBC’s Emmy Nominated, two-part miniseries The 60s. Then Lynda moved back to Paramount Pictures, where she produced such films as How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Abandon.

Obst’s most recent film was the September Warner Bros. release of Ricky Gervais/Matthew Robinson's directorial debut The Invention of Lying, starring Gervais and Jennifer Garner. Her notable upcoming projects include Steven Spielberg’s Interstellar, a sci-fi feature from The Dark Knight scribe Jonathan Nolan, based on a story by Obst, Nolan, and Dr. Kip Thorne; What Was I Thinking, starring Leslie Mann, Elizabeth Banks & Jennifer Garner; and Getting Rid of Matthew, starring Jennifer Aniston.

She has long written about the movie business for magazines and blogs, including a long running Oscar dialogue with New York Magazine critic David Edelstein.

Lynda Obst’s magazine writing, as well as more information on her films, can be found on her website: visit http://lyndaobstproductions.com/.

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