Ready or not, the Golden Globes will be back

That didn’t take long.

The Golden Globe Awards telecast, which sloshes money through the entertainment economy, will return in January with an even bigger platform. NBC canceled the show in 2021 amid an ethics, finance and diversity scandal that continues to simmer.

NBC said on Tuesday that it would broadcast the 80th Golden Globes ceremony on Jan. 10, a prime spot on Hollywood’s awards-season calendar. (Oscar balloting begins on Jan. 12.) For the first time, the show will also be available simultaneously online, through NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock.

Nominations will be announced on Dec. 12.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), long noted for its lack of diversity, has made some changes:

The foreign press association has overhauled membership eligibility, recruited new members with an emphasis on diversity, enacted a stricter code of conduct, elected a new president and largely ended its tax-exempt status, transforming into a for-profit company with a philanthropic arm. Last month, the H.F.P.A. sent a letter to studios that pointed to “transformational change” in the areas of “diversity, transparency and accountability.”

The 108-member foreign press association now has six Black voters — up from zero last year — and has added 103 nonmember voters, a dozen or so of whom are Black.

Some publicists, stars and filmmakers are satisfied, or at least ready to end more than a year of behind-the-scenes bickering over the degree to which the H.F.P.A. needed to reform. Others are holding their noses, unsatisfied but willing to re-engage with the Globes as a promotional platform for Oscar campaigns. Another contingent remains adamant that the foreign press association has not done enough, and that the Globes should perhaps be retired forever.

“There isn’t a consensus,” said Amanda Lundberg, chief executive of 42West, a Hollywood public relations firm that represents stars like Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks and filmmakers such as Baz Luhrmann and Martin Scorsese. “Everyone will make up their own minds. Some feel good about it and some don’t.”

Hollywood businesses, however, are almost universally aligned: Please, pretty please, let the Golden Globes champagne flow again.

I think it’s one of the more entertaining awards shows precisely because it’s not taken as seriously as the Oscars. Therefore, more interesting — if unplanned things — are likely to happen. Too bad Ricky Gervais won’t be host again.

House of the Dragon brutally killed off a gay character and some people are not happy about it

Oh, dear. It’s only episode five of House of the Dragon, HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel, and they’re brutally killing off the gays as quickly as they are introducing them as characters:

Not only does a secret love never win, but it seems a secret queer love will never have a happy ending.

In the fifth episode of House of the Dragon, Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) prepares for her marriage to Ser Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate); prior to their wedding, Rhaenyra tells Laenor that she understands his sexual orientation and proposes that they perform their royal duties while having other lovers.

Rhaenyra hopes to resume her affair with Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), but the swordsman refuses to be her side piece. On the other hand, Laenor’s lover, Ser Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod), is more than happy to go along with the arrangement.

Unfortunately, Joffrey and Laenor’s relationship doesn’t stand the test of time because Ser Criston Cole soon beats Joffrey to death. In other words, right after we meet the LGBTQ couple, the “bury your gays” trope makes its grand entrance.

For those unaware, the “bury your gays” trope sees queer characters meeting their demise far more frequently than their heterosexual counterparts. All in all, queer characters often suffer and rarely have the chance to be happy.

Now, this trope is incredibly outdated in this day and age, which explains why many fans took to social media to share their frustrations regarding the tragic turn of events in House of the Dragon.

“House of the Dragon introducing two gay characters only to have one of them graphically beaten to death on screen twenty minutes later, absolutely fuck off with this shit,” one fan wrote on Twitter. Another questioned, “How many minutes was that between introducing a gay love interests to killing one of them, GOT? That’s a #buryyourgays record.”

On the one hand, I think it’s not fair to artists (and writers are artists every bit as much as painters or sculptors) to expect them to consider every possible sensibility when creating television and movie scripts. This particular case of #BuryYourGays would have been much worse if the gay character was beaten and killed because he was gay, and not because he’s possibly a schemer who threatened to expose Ser Criston’s indiscretions.

On the other hand, television and movie writers likely try all the time to not play into other stereotypes — racial, misogynistic, etc. — while still remaining true to their artistic vision. Of all the stereotypes that do show up in scripts, the tragic, brutal deaths of gay men is one of the ones that makes its way through the editing process far too often in a Hollywood still dominated by straight men.

Ser Laenor Velaryon and Ser Joffrey Lonmouth in “House of the Dragon.”

Ken Burns documentary on the U.S. and the Holocaust debuts on Sunday

Here’s a new documentary I’ll be sure to watch:

A good documentary about a well-known historical epoch reaffirms what we knew. A great one reaffirms what we knew but, through relentless and surprising detail, makes the history new and relevant. The U.S. and the Holocaust, the new three-part documentary from Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein, makes the story of American reluctance to help the Jews bracingly new—and chillingly relevant.

The film, which debuts Sunday night on PBS, was born as part of a joint project with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It gives not only an honest assessment of the ways that President Franklin D. Roosevelt could have done more—but a frankly brutal look at a country that was deeply and relentlessly racist, jingoistic, and antisemitic. And it could not plead ignorance.

“We did know what was going on,” Burns says, noting that in 1933 alone, there were 30,000 newspaper articles sounding various alarms about what the Nazis were doing in Germany. But the American public of this documentary was not merely indifferent to Jewish suffering; it mostly thought they brought it upon themselves. “This is part of who we are too,” says Novick.

Burns and Novick go on to note in the video below about the chilling parallels between what happened in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s and what has been happening America at the time they were making this new documentary.

And just in case you thought the filmmakers view all this as ancient history, the film concludes with a sound-bite from Donald J. Trump and a montage of footage from Charlottesville and the insurrection of January 6, 2021. “It’s been frightening … to be working [on] this film and be immersed in that time period while these things were happening around us,” said Novick. We will all find out soon enough just how much history we’ve learned.

Some polls suggest that, as the generations which actually lived through the Holocaust die off, younger people — even many younger Jews — do not see the lessons of the Holocaust as readily as they might have otherwise having been around, say, grandparents with concentration camp numbers tattooed on their forearms.

Let’s hope documentaries such as this one help keep the horror alive and relevant.

Gay pro wrestling star is ready to be the role model the sport needs

Pro wrestling is a mystery to me, mostly because I don’t understand the fans. These people shell out a lot of money to watch these matches and I’ve never understood the answers to these questions: Do most of them know it’s a sham and they are going along with the spectacle and showmanship of it all? Or do they actually think that, because these (mostly) guys do actually hurt themselves during their over-the-top wrestling match performances, that all of it must be real?

I’m not knocking the fans of pro wrestling, any more than I’m knocking my many friends who adore Project Runway, The Amazing Race or RuPaul’s Drag Race. All of those shows run disclaimers at the end during the credits that specifically state that the producers of those programs may have taken steps that affect who wins and loses based solely on what makes the program more watchable.

OK, not in so many words. But that is essentially what all these programs do. It’s “reality” showbiz-style.

Yet everyone I know who watches these shows puts all of that in the back of their minds as they immerse themselves in outcomes they deep down know are probably fixed.

So, back to wrestling. Which I bring up because a story caught my eye this morning.

It’s from the pro wrestling-obsessed YouTube channel TSC News via 411mania.com, and it involves AEW wrestler Anthony Bowens, one-half of a hugely popular tag team in the AEW. (The AEW, for those who do not know, is the wrestling promotion company that is giving the WWE a run for its money.)

Anthony Bowen is gay. And he doesn’t care who knows it. In fact, he wants to be wrestling’s first superstar gay hero. Says Bowen about the warm reception he’s received:

It’s great and it’s one of the things that attracted me to come into AEW when I came here as an extra before I was signed. I saw people like Sonny Kiss and Nyla Rose just walking around being themselves without judgment and people being inclusive with them and there was no fear for them at all to be themselves and that was super important to me for wherever I would land at the time.

There’s never a time where I’m at work where I’m consciously thinking about it, it’s something that’s openly celebrated. I bring it up openly in front of my friends and co-workers, so we’ve come a long way in terms of inclusiveness in locker rooms and such. Fans from time to time, we still have got work to do but it’s been overwhelmingly positive.

I take that responsibility of being an out athlete very seriously because I’d like to show that you can be a successful openly gay professional athlete without it being the center of attention, without being the center of focus. At times, it is important to bring it up. For next week in particular, Max and I are gonna fight for our lives in this match and we also wanna bring home gold and if we do, I end up being AEW’s first gay champion, which is something that I would be super proud of. So I’m going to have some extra inspiration underneath me for that match.

I think I’m probably safe in predicting that any pro wrestling match has more Trump fans than Biden fans, but that’s just a hunch.

Having an out-and-proud man of color in that sport is a watershed of some sort, though I don’t follow the sport closely enough to know how much of one it really is. It certainly feels like an important line to cross.

Anyway, you can watch Bowen’s entire TSC interview below. He seems very likable. I love him merely for having a framed Simpsons still above him while he is being interviewed.

Now the racist incels are coming for House of the Dragon

I watched the first two episodes of House of the Dragon last night, and I was so impressed I did something I told myself I would never do: I shelled out for a subscription to another streaming service, HBO Max. Just so I can continue to watch HOTD.

It’s very much like Game of Thrones. It even has the same theme music. Still set in Westeros. Many of the same family names. And it has even more dragons, which I always felt were the most thrilling non-speaking “roles” in the original series.

It never crossed my mind that the new series seemed at all “woke,” a catch-all term that Republicans and white supremacists — very often the same thing these days — use to describe books, school curricula (and now fantasy TV series) as having too many consequential Black people and powerful, non-submissive women.

Imagine my surprise to wake up this morning to read two articles in major news sources that examine whether HOTD is too woke.

The better of the two pieces is a New York Times op-ed written by Jeff Yang, a comic book nerd who is co-author of “Rise: A Pop History of Asian America From the ’90s to Now.”

Will a slightly more sensitive Westeros give us enough to talk about? It’s hard to tell so far. The new series certainly didn’t open with anything quite as gasp-inducing as a pair of twins having sex in a tower, then throwing a child out of a window, as “Thrones” did. And there’s some validity to complaints about how much time “House” spends on “tense bickering at a big table.” But to suggest that a less raunchy Westeros is necessarily less compelling does a disservice to the original series by assuming that sexual brutalization and normative whiteness were its core appeal.

It’s also a rather patronizing assessment of the show’s fans, many of whom weren’t there for the full-frontal nudity and titillation. I’d argue that the success of “Thrones” had more to do with the complex dynamics of its political and family intrigue, its top-tier acting and its immensely detailed world-building — all of which “House” has already offered in abundance.

George R.R. Martin, the author of the source books, who was involved in creating both HBO series, has defended the treatment of race and gender in “Thrones” as grounded in historical reality. He told Entertainment Weekly in 2015: “The books reflect a patriarchal society based on the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages were not a time of sexual egalitarianism.” To a fan wondering why there seemed to be no Asians in the series at all, he responded on his personal blog in 2014: “There weren’t a lot of Asians in Yorkish England either.”

Of course, there weren’t ice zombies, giants or, ahem, dragons in Yorkish England, either. Given that the land of Westeros is a wholly imagined fantasy, it could’ve been anything its creators imagined it to be — and in “Game of Thrones,” a white male author and white male showrunners imagined it as a place where people of color are mostly servile, silent or absent.

But as [HOTD] showrunners Mr. Sapochnik and Mr. Condal note, “House of the Dragon” arrives in a very different era. Mr. Condal put it bluntly in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: “It was very important for Miguel and I to create a show that was not another bunch of white people on the screen.” Mr. Sapochnik cited the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements in an interview with Jeremy Egner of The Times: “It’s a radically different world from what it was 10 years ago,” he said. “We have to reflect the changes in the world before us — not because somebody told us to, but because we actually feel like there’s a point.”

Why is ANY of that controversial? I mean, I get why it annoys misogynistic racist incels. But why must those of us who live in a world that is not exclusively white and heterosexual and male explain to so many others why fantasy milieus ought not be mostly made up of white heterosexual males?

That this “controversy” is happening to both HOTD and the new Lord of the Rings series (see this, yesterday) is a sign that the forces of racist heterogenity are experts at banding together and making noise, thereby getting the attention of the mainstream media. But the only review that matters will be how many people watch these two series, and the LOTR series on Amazon had the best opening in the history of the streaming service.

I suspect this will all soon be background noise; resentful caterwauling from a bunch of misogynistic racist incels on Gettr and TruthSocial, while the two series go on to be as hugely popular as their opening days suggest they will be.

Actor Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon: Known as the “Sea Snake,” he is the head of House Velaryon, the wealthiest and most powerful clan in the realm, and is the most famous seafarer in Westerosi history. The fact that he is also Black hasn’t come up in the first two episodes of House of the Dragon.

Alt-right upset that new Lords of the Rings series has people of color

Not that we needed any proof that the alt-right really is about white supremacy, but whining about the new Lord of the Rings series from Amazon because it contains non-white characters and women of power, is peak MAGA nonsense:

Brandon Morse has read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” the “Lord of the Rings” series and watched extended editions of Peter Jackson’s ring trilogy so often that “I can almost quote them all line for line.”

But Morse is dreading a new addition to the Middle-earth canon that he says “perverts and corrupts” Tolkien’s mythical medieval universe because TV showrunners have committed this storytelling crime: They are trying to “woke-ify” Amazon’s new series, “The Lord of the Rings: “The Rings of Power.”

Morse is deputy managing editor of RedState, a conservative news site. He says “The Rings of Power” producers have cast non-White actors in a story based on European culture and who look wildly different from how Tolkien originally described them. He says it’s an attempt to embed “social justice politics” into Tolkien’s world.

If you focus on introducing modern political sentiments, such as the leftist obsession with identity issues that only go skin deep, then you’re no longer focusing on building a good story,” says Morse, who wrote an impassioned essay about his misgivings. “You’re effectively making propaganda, or art meant to fit a message, not a message to fit the art.”

Hey, Brandon, you dope, these worlds aren’t real. Characters in fantasy movies about elves and orcs can be whatever color anyone wants them to be. (Why does anyone have to point this out?)

Not only that, but Tolkien was born in Victorian England, when non-white people by the millions were still used as cheap colonial labor. Of course he wouldn’t have people of color in positions of leadership among, say, the human race in Middle Earth.

Nonetheless, Tolkien had complicated views on race. He despised Nazi race theory, for instance.

Which is more than I can say about RedState.

In any case, the mere fact that some people are upset that a fantasy movie has Blacks and female leaders, yet is located in a place that doesn’t really exist, just proves how utterly ridiculous and grasping the alt-right movement really is.

CNN actually does a pretty good job of covering these issues and showing how dumb it is to listen to a bunch of racist incels lecture anyone about how to build “realistic” (ha!) fantasy worlds that are, by definition, whatever the writer wants them to be.

This movie that scared the bejeezus out of me when I was young is still pretty darn scary

It’s rare that films which scared me a kid — especially made-for-TV films — can be just as scary when watching as an adult. But I just re-watched 1979’s Salem’s Lot with David Soul and Lance Kerwin. It’s really held up all these years. Not as actually scary because I’d seen it before. But still creepy as hell.

It was the film (miniseries, actually) adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name.

I’d read the book on-the-job as a night watchman at a 20-story bank downtown. Once every two hours over each 8-hour shift I had to walk 20 deserted, darkened floors in the midst of reading this terrifying book. Of course, I thought I was hearing noises, and seeing things move in the shadows, the entire time I was patrolling.

At the time I wasn’t expecting much from the movie because I thought it would be difficult to capture on film the creepy, otherworldly things that spring from the mind of Stephen King. But the director and special effects people managed to do a lot with the relatively few (compared to today) tricks they had in their arsenal.

The casting was masterful, but the film’s makers must have been especially thrilled when Richard Mason, one of Hollywood’s most distinguished actors, loved the script and signed-on to play the refined but malevolent antiques dealer Richard Straker. Straker is human, but Mason manages to make him just as scary as the vampires.

It helped that the film was directed by Tobe Hooper, the master of horror who also directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, Lifeforce and others. If you’ve seen and remember Poltergeist, it wasn’t all whiz-bang special effects. It was a lot of Hooper taking not-that-complicated concepts — little girl talking to TV, psychic spouting odd gibberish, coffins floating up out of the water — and making them scary through lighting, editing, music and talented actors.

If you’ve never seen the original Salem’s Lot (there was a remake with Rob Lowe in 2004) Halloween is coming up! Watch it in the dark some night when it’s cold outside and the wind is howling.

Interesting bit of trivia: Tobe Hooper had a really weird detour in his horror career when he directed the PBS documentary, Peter Paul and Mary: The Song is Love.

Salem’s Lot trailer below. You can also watch all 3.2 hours of it on YouTube and Prime Video.

Finally, there’s yet another remake coming out. You can learn more about that here. Note that the original release date was Sept. 9. That was moved to April of next year. However, any mention of it has also been removed from the studio’s release schedule, so who knows whether that April 2023 date will happen.

A New Yorker retrospective takes me back to one of the best music videos of the 1990s

The New Yorker has a special issue out in which it reprints what it considers to be its most notable interviews and stories. They range from a short 1947 profile of the Edith Piaf, who was once acclaimed as France’s “national chanteuse,” to a 1964 longer profile of Bob Dylan.

What caught my eye was an article from 1964 that profiles writer Kenneth Tynan’s obsession with Louise Brooks, a girl from Kansas who had a white-hot career in 1920s film and dance, and became a Jazz Age icon. (Her bob haircut engendered millions of women around the world to copy it until it became emblematic of the Jazz Age.)

She eventually had a starring role in the German silent film “Pandora’s Box,” considered a masterpiece of the genre. Brooks’ performance in the 1929 film captivated people around the globe and still does today.

The film was shockingly louche for the age, and was eventually banned by the Nazis as “degenerate art.”

Alas, for a woman of that time, Brooks was independent and hedonistic and intelligent in ways that did not endear her to the powerful men who controlled Hollywood. Her career fizzled. She was treated harshly by an industry that Brooks, being far more intelligent than most of the men who pursued her, understood better than any of them.

One wonders how well Brooks would have done today in the age of “Me, Too.” She had the bad luck of being born far too soon.

Writer Tynan of The New Yorker finally catches up with Brooks in Rochester, NY, in her 80s, frail and living by herself. But, as the article makes clear, even in her declining years she remained a sharp observer of the intersection of the arts, Hollywood, and the human condition.

I had a bit of a Brooks obsession myself.

In 1991, British electronic band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) released a song called “Pandora’s Box.” It was lead singer Andy McCluskey’s homage to Brooks, with the subsequent music video consisting mostly of clips from the eponymous 1929 silent film.

When I first played the video off a promotional VHS tape we received at the Boston video bar Luxor, where I was a VJ on weekends, I was captivated by the music, video and especially the lyrics:

Born in Kansas on an ordinary plain
Ran to New York but ran away from fame
Only seventeen when all your dreams come true
But all you wanted was someone to undress you.

And all the stars you kissed could never ease the pain
Still the grace remains and though the face has changed
You’re still the same.

Frame of silence of an innocent divine
Is a dangerous creation when you fall the test of time
And all the photographs of ghosts of long ago
Still they hurt you so, won’t let go
And you still don’t know.

And it’s a long long way from where you want to be
And it’s a long long road, but you’re too blind to see.

When you look around yourself now, do you recognize the girl
The one, who broke a thousand hearts, and terrified the world.

I loved the beauty of those lyrics, especially after I did a little digging and learned more about Brooks.

The song and her story affected me so much that it was known, every Friday and Saturday night for years in that packed video bar, as my closing song.

So the New Yorker reprint in the current issue was a happy reason for me to relive that haunting music video I played hundreds of times at 5 minutes until 2am closing time in Boston.

It was my homage to Brooks, destroyed by men who used her and abused her until they knew they couldn’t control her.

Video below.

Play it through good speakers or ear buds for its best effect. Amazing song. (And OMD was far too under-appreciated as a band.)

AV Club has an interview with the woman who played the greatest Star Trek villain of them all

I think the best season finale in the entire Star Trek television franchise has to be the two-part “Endgame” for Voyager.

Capt. Kathryn Janeway in a battle across time with the Borg queen, a race to either destroy the queen and her empire-enabling transwarp hub, or get Janeway’s crew home safe, finally, to the alpha quadrant. (Or, rather, Janeways — her present and future selves.)

Truly one of television’s greatest finale match-ups between two strong, er, female characters. (The omnisexual Borg queen transcended gender, even back then.)

Of course, that episode would not be the same without the iconic Borg queen, played in the Voyager finale by the actor Alice Krige, who created the character’s malevolently sensual control freak aura. All the actors who subsequently played the Borg queen across the film and television series franchise had to emulate her performance.

AV Club interviewed Kriger about her many roles before and since the Borg queen, and about bringing the queen to life across mediums.

AVC: Your Star Trek experience was unique in that you were able to play the Borg Queen for more than one movie. How rewarding did it feel to stay with that character over the course of time and watch her evolve?

AK: It was very terrifying, frankly, to shift mediums, to shift from an enormous screen down to a television screen. I thought to myself, “Will she even work in this little space?” Two nights before, it dawned on me that I was working with two women and not two men. I called the producer and said, “She’s with two women.” He said, “Don’t worry. Think of her as omnisexual.” And I thought, “OK.” It was only after that I realized I didn’t know what omnisexual was. It was wonderful to experience her in a completely different context. And, quite frankly, no matter how many times they get rid of her, I think they are kidding themselves. She’s out there. She was created. She cannot be destroyed. What a fascinating character she is. I have never asked them, and I would love to know, if they had any idea she was going to become an absolute archetype. I had no idea whether they knew. I certainly didn’t. By the time they had put on the make-up and the suit, and I looked in the mirror, it wasn’t me anymore. I really did feel like I was just a channel and the Borg Queen walked up, did her thing and left.

AVC: Whether it’s a role like Veronica or the Borg Queen or the cat creature Mary in Sleepwalkers, how delicious is it to be around all the special effects make-up and the prosthetics and the gore?

AK: They have become so sophisticated now. The Borg Queen … what Scott Wheeler, who designed the head and the makeup, gave me … was an extraordinary gift. Think about it. You can’t imagine her separate from what she looked like. Not at all. I couldn’t have shown up and been the Borg Queen. That would have been ludicrous. That was who she was. I was given that. Film is the most collaborative of arts. I have been so blessed to work with the most generous and creative of collaboratives. It just goes on and on, the number of riches that I have been given by people I was working with. Special effects, prosthetics, if they are beautifully executed can be a doorway into a different reality.

You can read the rest of the interview at this link.

Below is a clip with the penultimate scene in “Endgame.” (Spoiler alert!)