MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

21 Weeks To Oscar – Carlos & Joey & Cash, Oh My! (Part 2 of 2)

Continuing yesterday’s piece that was inspired by Carlos de Abreu’s attack-by-journalist on Joey Berlin…

So now, after actually talking to the subject of the attack piece that ran on Carlos’ mock journalism site, there is greater clarity. Joey Berlin, as producer of the awards show for the BFCA (an organization he co-created), he makes very good money… but it’s about half as much as the hit piece by the formerly-loveable Bob Welkos suggested. Roughly, Berlin’s production company gets between $350k and $450k for doing the show each year. He produces the show with veteran event TV producer Bob Bain.

And for me, that is about where the factual story about that ends.

In yesterday’s piece, I called Joey “a hustler.” I meant that in the affectionate way I see much of Hollywood. He didn’t like the nefarious suggestion that the word brings. But I don’t know a better word. He built something (BFCA) out of nothing and made a very well-paying job out of magic dust. He didn’t make much for the first number of years that the awards show existed. Now he does. And with today’s announcement of BTJA (Broadcast Television Journalist Association… smartly leaving out the questionable “critic” from the title) launching a TV show on A&E, there is a good chance he will be making even more money.

But that really isn’t anyone outside of the organization’s business. As long as membership knows how much Joey is making and keep electing him and the board to run the organization, it’s all copacetic.

This might be where Carlos de Abreu fesses up to how much he personally makes from the Hollywood Film Awards or the amount for which he sold the show to Dick Clark Productions… but it won’t be. He is not a not-for-profit. The Hollywood Film Awards is a for-profit… always has been, likely always will be.

My issue at this point is to look at where we have come with the major award shows.

The Carlos Awards aka The Hollywood Film Awards are a made-up event to profit one guy who smartly manipulated studios and talent alike by putting on a glitzy show with a distinct below-the-line bent, which brought out big names to honor the below-the-line talent that make their movies work. They also accepted some big awards… just because they were there. The balance shifted, year by year, to more big names and fewer below-the-liners. I would expect zero below-the-liners to appear on the CBS show this November. Your qualification for awards with The Carloses? You’re in heavy contention as determined by guys and gals like me, who prognosticate, as well as having the support of the distributors who will pay to make the appearance happen. Who judges? Carlos. Only Carlos.

How embarrassed should distributors be for being a part of this sham… this mockery of the arts? How embarrassed should we be for the talent that shows up to win a fake award and have their picture taken a lot?

I have no real way of estimating what Carlos has taken in annually on this con job, but it has surely gone from 6 figures to 7 with Dick Clark Productions. The good news, as per the rumor mill, is that Carlos will be out of the picture after the first 2 years with DCP. So I guess they will finally be called The Dicks. Fitting.

So this show will be an award show with no portfolio. A business, designed to make money as a TV show, from a business that has no interest in being anything other than a profit center. Fair enough.

The Golden Globes are given by group that hovers between 80 and 90 “foreign press.” How active are these press members? It varies. But most of them are in the quiet part of their careers. Those who have had more current active credentials, like Mike Goodridge, then of Screen International, don’t seem to last very long.

I have estimated that a slot on the HFPA membership roster is good for $200,000 to $300,000 in perks each year. That includes the studio-paid perks, but the group also spreads the literal wealth amongst themselves. And yes, they do make charitable donations… which keep them a not-for-profit and cleans up their tax situation each year.

So this show has eighty-something journalists of various levels who, a few of which have names that someone might recognize within the industry in any context other than being HFPA members. They work hard for their benefits. It’s no easy slog having your ass kissed 175 times a year. But they put a brave face on and do it.

How have the Golden Globes come be seen as significant in any way. In some ways, just as Carlos did, they played the game. They vote, with few exceptions, for the films in the field that has already been narrowed by the Gurus o’ Gold and all of its imitators. It’s not tricky. But because the group is so small, relative to others – except for the greasy group of one, Carlos – the studios have all taken to laying down and paying fealty (and airfares and hotel rooms and meals and per diem) all year long. Ironically, this has made the attempts to manipulate the group somewhat moot. Mutual Assured Destruction, they call it in the military. But no one dares get out of the game, lest they lose some position.

The same, by the way, is true of media… now more than ever. The hunger for new content, especially celebrity and event content, overwhelms almost anything that ever passed for journalism in this arena. To marginalize any of these events is to risk being unable to get the access they afford media. Ironically, the events exist for the media, so the threat works both ways. But the showmakers have the upper hand in this Not So Cold War.

Then there is The Academy itself, an institution that includes about 6,000 of the most veteran film industry people there are. But it too is playing the TV game, with the vast majority of the organization’s annual revenue coming from one night’s worth of TV. Does that perverse the idea of honoring film? Of course. On the other hand, The Academy is by far the most legit organization giving out movie awards. The group does make real investments back into the film industry and community. The group is so large that any individual or group trying to control it will find it nearly impossible. And there is a sense of maturity and perspective… even if the eventual outcome tends to lack daring. Members of The Academy pay for the privilege, it’s positions of power, outside of the internal bureaucracy, are voluntary. And while the bureaucracy pays some people far too well and others fairly, the organization is hiring – and can fire – those individuals. They are, ultimately, employees.

I would submit to you, dear friends and countrypeople, that the only award show amongst these that really matters is The Oscars. There are glaring flaws with all of the others. This is not debatable.

What is debatable is whether these question marks matter. Should anyone really care that Joey Berlin has built a “critics” group that now affords him a rather significant annual payday? Does it matter than Carlos de Abreu made up awards out of nothing but the contents of his giant scrotal sack and now has gotten rich on the money that returns virtually nothing of value to the studios? Eighty-something foreign-language speakers have made themselves seem worth much, much more than the time of day because they have a TV show that has been successfully and inaccurately positioned as an Oscar precursor… should we care? The Academy has made The Oscars less and less about movies and more and more about being like the Jimmy Fallon show with statues (Oscar nominee beer pong, coming this spring!) because they are obsessed with being cutting edge, when the only real distinction of the organization is the many years it takes to get invited to join, thus given its awards real weight… does it matter?

The scary part is that if I was so inclined, I could ask the Gurus – and a few who work for outlets that are not allowed to play – and 20 of us could hold up the studios for millions a year, demanding perks and more for our valuable prognostications. We could have The Gurus show and force every movie to send the biggest stars in the world to come drink with us for a night while we hire a hot comic to make a show of it. And we could all quit our day jobs and just be wealthy off the fat of OscarLand. And this not ego talking. The reality is, no one gets to December without coming through us… which like all these shows, does not mean we make these movies any better or more Oscar worthy. But we are the gatekeepers in the vetting process that drives ALL of these shows.

And I have no interest in going there.

And I am not happy that things have become this anti-art.

The reason Gurus is considered so legit by so many is that we aren’t on the payroll. Yes, there are ads on MCN and on all of the sites where all of the Gurus work. But there is no quid pro quo. Really, there is very rarely any suggestion of any either. We don’t have a show. We aren’t milking the studios for more, more, more. We all have jobs with organizations and we are all responsible to those outlets before we are responsible to Gurus o’ Gold or advertisers.

And the most ironic thing is that NYFF and LAFCA and NSFC get love, but none of the deep attention that these TV-driven organizations get. NSFC doesn’t really want it. The other two groups wouldn’t mind it at all. And these groups are really about film criticism.

But TV award shows aren’t about The Best. They are about TV.

So perhaps, this entire conversation is – and should be – moot. You tell me…

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6 Responses to “21 Weeks To Oscar – Carlos & Joey & Cash, Oh My! (Part 2 of 2)”

  1. Daniella Isaacs says:

    “It’s no easy slog having your ass kissed 175 times a year. But they put a brave face on and do it.” Ha!

  2. Daniella Isaacs says:

    “NYFF and LAFCA and NSFC get love, but none of the deep attention that these TV-driven organizations get. NSFC doesn’t really want it…” Perhaps there is a connection here to the fact that the NSFC always, always, always seems to make the best calls each year. The further you are from the glamor, the better your critical judgement.

  3. YancySkancy says:

    “They vote, with few exceptions, for the films in the field that has already been narrowed by the Gurus o’ Gold and all of its imitators.”

    This is a little “chicken-or-egg,” isn’t it? The prognosticators make their predictions mindful of how awards organizations have voted across several decades.

    But if the Gurus, etc., DO actually help narrow the field, I wish they’d manipulate the process and say stuff like “Johnny Knoxville is a mortal lock for BAD GRANDPA” so we could see how deep their influence really goes. 🙂

  4. Daniella Isaacs says:

    Yancy, you’re right. On the other hand, every once in a while individual prognosticators make a “what the hell” prediction, but the fact that there’s no consensus in these odd little wishful thinking claims, means they fall by the wayside. I have to say, in some ways, though, I wonder how this all works. Why WASN’T Tilda Swinton a “mortal lock for WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN,” after all? It’s as if, despite how great she was in that film, there was some sort of conspiracy of silence. Nobody seemed to think she was a contender. On the other hand, people doing far weaker work often wind up at the top of these lists. All I can think is that politics must be a big part of it, and some of it has to do with who’s getting funded Oscar campaigns, this year vs. that.

  5. YancySkancy says:

    Yeah, the prognosticators generally make the safest choices, colored by how voters traditionally vote. Undoubtedly, contenders who have strong campaigns behind them (read: backed by big studio or prodco bucks) have a big leg up on the uncommercial indie with a limited FYC budget. The best that the latter can hope for is that critics organizations such as NYFCC, LAFCA and NSFC throw them a bone and put them in the conversation. Such precursor awards get the prognosticators’ attention and often help a dark horse slip into the race. But a middling performance in an awards bait movie will always have better odds than genius work in a hard sell or niche film. And yes, I know I’m preaching to the choir. 🙂

  6. Rick says:

    Are you kidding me? Nobody has a bigger ego than you. The thought that anyone gives a damn about your “Gurus” or would pay to influence it or that it carries any influence at all is more laughable than anything that Carlos has done. Go fire up another Kickstarter pal.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon