> Accepting money, vacations, and gifts from studios in exchange for nominating their films. >> Selling media credentials and red carpet space for profit. >> Accepting payment from studios and producers for lobbying other members for awards nominations. Allegations of the HFPA's sketchiness are nothing new; they rear their sketchy…" />
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Lawsuit Alleges Golden Globes Payola

Lawsuit Alleges Golden Globes Payola (photo)

This news may not be shocking, but but is it juicy.

There’s will definitely be a buzz in the air at the Golden Globes this Sunday, and it won’t just be about someone wearing a crazy dress that looks like a duck. That’s because of a report in TheWrap that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that runs and votes on the Globes, is being sued by their former publicist for, amongst other things, breach of contract and wrongful termination. But the lawsuit from Michael Russell itself is far less newsworthy than the dark secrets about the HFPA it may reveal. That’s because Russell claims that he was fired from his post as the longtime publicist for the Globes after he wrote a letter to HFPA president Philip Berk warning him that the organization’s seedy practices were in violation of its status as “a charitable organization dedicated to recognizing excellence in film.”

Those seedy practices? According to TheWrap, they include:

>> Accepting money, vacations, and gifts from studios in exchange for nominating their films.

>> Selling media credentials and red carpet space for profit.

>> Accepting payment from studios and producers for lobbying other members for awards nominations.

Allegations of the HFPA’s sketchiness are nothing new; they rear their sketchy head almost every year when the Golden Globe nominations are announced. Back in December, I wrote about the outraged reaction to some of the 2011 nominees — including several for the atrocious Johny Depp vehicle “The Tourist” — while recounting a few of the HFPA’s more notorious cases of possible payola (like that one time Pia Zadora won a Best Newcomer Award after — and these things were totally unrelated — the “movie’s producer, who was also her husband, had flown the entire HFPA to Las Vegas for a weekend holiday immediately before they voted” (that according to The Independent).

At this point, I’m over being outraged about the Golden Globes. Whether or not what they do is strictly illegal, whether or not they’re abusing their not-for-profit status, it’s a largely faceless group of 80 unaccountable people whose tastes seem to be easily swayed by their pocketbooks. We have to share some of the blame here. It’s as much our fault for putting so much stock in these people as it is for them abusing a system for their material gain.

But just because this lawsuit isn’t shocking doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to be really juicy. Hollywood’s ultimate nightmare would be if Russell names names. Can you imagine what would happen if it came out that big-time movie stars colluded with the studios to “earn” themselves awards? It would a media feeding frenzy and a PR catastrophe. Don’t forget a publicist is engineering this whole thing — including the timing of the lawsuit just days before the 2011 awards.

Speaking of which, this year’s Golden Globes air this Sunday at 8:00 PM eastern on NBC. Normally, I would expect a controversy like this to go completely unmentioned on the actual show. But the returning host, Ricky Gervais, has no compunction biting the hand that feeds him. Wouldn’t shock me to see him do something funny with this stuff on Sunday.

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