The 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony gave us a great deal to celebrate. We saw the HBO dramedy Girls and its star and creator Lena Dunham earn due recognition for everything they've accomplished since the show's series premiere. We watched the marvelous Adele graciously accept a sparkling statue for her shoe-in titular musical number in this year's James Bond exploit Skyfall. And of course, we reveled in the honor bestowed unto the great Jessica Chastain for her work in the all-important Zero Dark Thirty. But among these wonderful triumphs, there too existed some colossal failures — agonizing face-palm moments, cringe-worthy faux pas, good old fashioned screw-ups that made the show that much more painful (or, if you're in the variety who just loves a good awkward moment, enjoyable) to watch.
As any awards show is wont to do, this year's Golden Globes exhibited a wide range of faux pas, erring with gawdy acceptance speeches, misplaced jokes, and a few technical glitches. Here's a quick rundown of the five biggest eye-rollers to catch our attention at this year's ceremony...
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Anne Hathaway's Second Speech
We weren't all too crazy about Les Miserables Supporting Actress Anne Hathaway's first go at an acceptance speech (that wasn't even the appropriate use of "blerg," Selina). But when she rushed the mic after the film's victory of the Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical during what was supposed to be producer Tim Fellner's big moment, even those set staunchly in the Hathaway camp had to hang their heads in shame.
Quentin Tarantino's Fist Bump
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler opened the show with one of the greatest introductory routines we've seen in years, kicking off the speech with a jab at their fellow "rat-faced" television people who will forever live in the shadow of "beautiful" film folk. An odd choice, then, for those operating the camera to cut to none other than Quentin Tarantino, midway through a fist bump with an off screen party. Was he really celebrating his designation as a beautiful film type? Or could the identity of his fellow fist bumper explain it as simply an act of self-deprecating comedy?
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Catherine Zeta-Jones' Les Mis 2 Audition
When Amy Poehler gave us her own tight-lipped rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" during the show's introduction, it was funny (and Mandy Patinkin approved! Maybe he's just used to hanging out with people who barely open their mouths). But when Catherine Zeta-Jones tried to steal the show with a few bars from "Do You Hear the People Sing?" it was just a bit uncomfortable. We hear you, Catherine. Take it down a notch.
Dustin Hoffman's Unknown Movie
The awards circuit is no stranger to the shameless plug. When handled with self-aware humor, the ordeal can work just fine: Oscar hosts Billy Crystal and Steve Martin have pulled off the antic with aplomb. But when Dustin Hoffman, introducing the nominees for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, attempted to throw in a joke about his latest film and directorial debut Quartet, it didn't quite land. Largely because no one has even heard of that movie.
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Paul Rudd's "Hello!"
Okay, we have to admit. This one was kind of adorable. But you're lucky, Globes, that you had the likes of the incurably affable Paul Rudd on stage during a malfunction of this caliber. Following a so-bad-it-was-kinda-funny joke by the man himself, the ceremony's teleprompter seemed to give out, leaving Rudd and co-presenter Salma Hayek without a script to introduce the nominees for Best TV Series – Drama. Rudd's spur-of-the-moment ad lib: "...Hello!"
[Photo Credit: NBC (5)]
To call Fifty Shades of Grey a literary and pop culture sensation would be nothing short of an understatement. E.L. James' erotic trilogy about a young woman's romantic and sexual entanglement with a wealthy, but complicated, business tycoon and their BDSM relationship has become a phenomenon of unexpected, unparalleled proportions.
Just how big a phenomenon? The books — Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed — have been on the New York Times bestseller list for 25 weeks and currently sit in the top three slots, respectively. The trilogy surpassed the 20 million sales mark in the United States in July (the books have sold over 30 million copies worldwide), broke records previously held by fellow popular series like Harry Potter and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and will soon boast a big screen adaptation from the producers of The Social Network. Not bad for something that merely started out as a piece of Twilight fan fiction.
But while James' powerhouse books have left retailers, movie executives, and readers (even those beyond that embarrassingly named "mommy porn" demographic) satisfied, what about the two groups perhaps most directly affected by the wildly popular saga: erotica writers and the BDSM community? After all, the trilogy has led readers to become increasingly aware and interested in both the once-taboo book genre (Fifty Shades copycat Bared to You has quickly climbed the NY Times bestseller list and more will likely follow) and the once-underground world of BDSM. (Everything from Fifty Shades-themed dating services to sex kits have spawned as a result from the books).
"I've been tracking media for the past 17 years for NCSF and there has never been any kind of reaction like this before," says Susan Wright, a spokesperson for the advocacy group National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. "Look at what a brilliant stonewall this is: Twilight fan fiction to open the conversation."
And it's a conversation that needed to be brought to the masses, Wright says. According to a 2008 study conducted by NCSF, 37.5 percent of respondents in the BDSM community had experienced discrimination, harassment, or violence. Fifty Shades' frankness, says Wright, has helped open up audiences to the civility of the fetish and to the accessibility of erotic novels. "The best thing about the book is that it shows the discussion," she says. "Women who have never really thought about [BDSM] can go, 'Wow, that does sound kind of appealing' and realize that these sex games are available to anyone."
Odd to think of a work of fiction as a learning tool, but BDSM advocates tell Hollywood.com that those eager to enter into the community are using Fifty Shades of Grey — which introduces not only certain psychological aspects of BDSM relationships, but also sex devices like Ben-Wah balls and riding crops — as BDSM 101. "This book is a catalyst," Guy Sanders (better known as Sir Guy), board member and media representative for the nation's largest and longest-running BDSM support and education group, The Eulenspiegel Society, says. "Now maybe it will be more open and there won't be as much prejudice against it and we may have an opportunity to make better strides as far as the understanding of the people in these practices. The opportunity for us to educate people."
Especially when audiences could only rely on the entertainment industry's inaccurate portrayals of the fetish prior to the franchise's release. "[Fifty Shades] will put a different face on BDSM," says Sanders, who does, however, praise BDSM-friendly work like 9 1/2 Weeks and Secretary. "When you look at a lot of these crime shows, even the news media, whenever BDSM is depicted, the people in it are dysfunctional, they are sexual deviants or serial killers or something along those lines. With this book and the people that have found interest in it, you'll find that the guy next door might be involved, the principal at your school, the police officer on your beat, your psychologist, your lawyer might all be participants in [BDSM], so it might open up the human side of BDSM that it's not some bizarre, secret, hidden thing."
Of course, while Fifty Shades has undoubtably cast a more positive light on BDSM, it's unfortunate that the piece of literature jumpstarting discussion happens to be so critically reviled, a point of contention amongst erotica authors. While some are thankful that James' overnight, word-of-mouth success has brought more attention (and book sales) to the genre, others — like 76-year-old Desiree Holt, the oldest romance author in the world — some can't seem to get past the fact that it was achieved through an arguably poorly written book by someone who is not a professional writer. (Sample excerpt: "I gape at him. I have my second date with Christian oh-so-mysterious Grey. From coffee to helicopter rides. Wow.")
"I read all of them and while I found the love story touching, I found all the books poorly written and and often incorrect as far as the BDSM is concerned," says Holt, who recently penned an erotic retelling of Northanger Abbey. "The thing is, authors like Joey Hill have done the same story much, much better and with much more intensity. You have to really understand BDSM to write about and it's obvious that E.L. James didn't do her research."
And, when it comes to an erotic novel like Fifty Shades of Grey, inaccuracies could lead to danger. According to Sanders, audiences who learn about the BDSM world through the franchise may be ignorant of certain safety precautions. "People try things because its fashionable and they may now flood into the BDSM community, not necessarily as people who want to learn or people who want to practice, but as voyeurs and tourists," he says. "It could cause people to get involved with practices they don't really understand and not do them safely. It can also allow for misinformation to come about if they don't know where to properly exercise these and as a result have these problems."
WHAT MAKES AN EROTICA WRITER?
It's an interesting conundrum: Anyone can pick up a pen and write a best-selling novel, but should only experts in the field be allowed to broach BDSM? Are fans simply too inexperienced to write fiction? "Writing is a discipline," Holt says. "I guess that's another reason why some authors are a little ticked off about Fifty Shades of Grey, because this came out of nowhere and its fan fiction, which is not a disciplined environment. There are lots of wonderful erotic romance writers out there who make the New York Times bestseller list who have worked very hard at their craft and have not achieved that kind of celebrity."
And some erotica writers feel James is misplaced in the genre. While erotic novelist Teirney Medeiros (Axel's Obsession, Ivory's Addiction) was captivated by the first book ("I stayed up until 4 AM reading that book," she admits), the author is dismayed by the franchise itself and what she calls "a misrepresentation of erotic romance." (And Wright agrees that the books felt more like romance novels than erotic fiction.) "My initial reaction was the language wasn't right," Medeiros says. "It was all flowery and too sweet. It felt off to me. You could almost have the story without the BDSM. It's like [James] wanted something there that was just risqué. This book felt like a sweet romance, but they just forgot to close the bedroom door instead of inviting you in with them."
Still, some authors in the genre are able to put aside Fifty Shades of Grey's literary shortcomings to praise James for helping expand the genre — whether that's erotica or romance. "The Fifty Shades phenomenon is a natural outgrowth of what is almost 35 years of tremendous growth in romance fiction and a tremendous growth in women's fiction," says Amazon best-selling author Cerise DeLand (Rope Me In, At Her Service). "I think that the reason it is doing so well is attributed to a marvelous publicity campaign that got the word out in a big way. And the packaging was subtle, those who bought the book in print format [felt] as though they were able to do so and take it to the doctor's office and read it with impunity, which has always been a huge challenge for women reading romance."
Of course, DeLand still does note about the franchise, "Where the hell was the copywriter with the use of ellipses?" And even though Holt is "glad" for James and how she's raised awareness of BDSM and erotic literature, "I hope it spills over onto the rest of us. But I'd really feel a lot better about it if it was a really excellent book."
[Image credit: Vintage Books]
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Like one of the week’s other new releases the uneven Smart People (ironically from the same producer Michael London) The Visitor also deals with a bored widowed Eastern college professor who finds a path to renew his soul through an unexpected relationship. The similarities stop there however as this simple but powerful movie gets it all right. The set up has the professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) travelling from his home in Connecticut to New York City for a conference. When he enters his rarely used apartment he is shocked to discover a young couple living there. Backing off his initial reaction to kick them out he agrees to let the pair stay as both are well-meaning illegal immigrants (the man is from Syria the girlfriend from Senegal) who unknowingly rented the apartment from an unscrupulous third party. Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) is a musician who plays a drum called the Djemba while Zainab (Danai Gurira) sells her handmade jewelry at street fairs. A bond develops between all three until things turn tragic and Tarek is unfairly detained and threatened with deportation over a technicality. When Tarek’s mother (Hiam Abbass) learns of this she travels from Michigan and teams up with Walter to try and win Tarek his freedom before it’s too late. For 60-year-old Richard Jenkins--a veteran journeyman actor best known as the father in the first season of Six Feet Under and several memorable supporting film roles--The Visitor represents his first significant leading role. He runs with it taking Walter on a journey from indifference to humanity to rebirth. He’s alternately funny serious angry driven emotional and compassionate. It’s early in the year but it’s hard to imagine come awards time there will be five better male performances. He’s marvelous and his own mastery of the Djemba is just one of the film’s many memorable moments. The rest of the cast will be unknown to most American audiences but are no less extraordinary. Sleiman and Gurira totally capture the loving relationship of this immigrant couple caught up trying to quietly live and work in a fear driven post 9/11 America. Special mention should go to Israeli Palestinian star Hiam Abbass who breaks our hearts as Tarek’s fiercely determined guilt-ridden mother. Her scenes with Jenkins are simply remarkable for their quiet power and honesty--two actors at the very top of their game. Coming on the heels of his acclaimed debut film The Station Agent Thomas McCarthy manages to avoid the sophomore curse and live up to and even exceed his initial promise as an all-purpose filmmaker (he also wrote the script). It should come as no surprise that McCarthy is also an actor since each performance he manages to get here is a gem. The characters are given plenty of time to develop and breathe and by the end none has worn out their welcome--in fact we don’t want to leave them. His command of the camera is impressive particularly since shooting a low-budget independent movie in the heart of New York City can be a pretty daunting task. What McCarthy really pulls off is balancing a sincere expertly made character piece against some hot button political issues. Never once does he resort to preaching but clearly by putting a human face on the wrenching subject matter he has created not only a film that could potentially make a difference but first and foremost an unforgettable movie that will stir your soul. See it.