The best award show we have going this week
It's January, which means it's award season! We can debate endlessly about what makes a great performer, but now it's finally time to get down to brass tacks and see if all that Oscar baiting has paid off. (In most cases, no, it won't pay off). Since we're still a few months away from the actual Oscars (considered the absolute top of the top of film awards, despite the fact that they're notoriously bad at selecting the films that stand the test of time), we'll have to pour all of our slavish attention on the Golden Globes for the time being.
With its completely opaque selection process and its tendency to nominate and award pretty much the same things as the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes have long been regarded in Hollywood as the unserious knockoff of a "real" award ceremony, which is why it's usually a more fun and boozy evening than its super-serious counterparts.
I guess their reputation isn't helped much when they put an important, ground-breaking and (most-importantly) genuinely good film like Get Out in the "Comedy or Musical" category when it is most definitely not a comedy or musical; but the ol' Globes do command the first mover advantage, which means they usually get to set the talking points for the rest of the field. And this year, I'll be damned if the traditionally rowdy, goofy Golden Globes got as super serious as its better-regarded peers. And what was that serious agenda? This year it was all about women.
In the wake of all the terrible shit that Harvey Weinstein's downfall has dredged up, I guess this shouldn't be surprising. The Golden Globes this year were chock full of inspiring moments from the women of Hollywood, refuting the nasty lechery that has long run rampant behind the screen.
It all culminated in Oprah Winfrey receiving a lifetime achievement award and delivering the inspiring speech to end all inspiring speeches, which, in our current political landscape, instantly propelled her to front-runner status for President in 2020. "Have we lost our minds? Or are we coming to our senses?" asked a piece in the Washington Post. Considering that Oprah, for all her inspiration, has never held elected office and also helped to legitimize dangerous, unscientific quacks like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, it's probably a little bit of both.
Personally, I'm one of those weirdos that would prefer a competent, boring public functionary in the top post of the land (the kind of person who can give you a really thorough speech on the difference between Gross National Product and Gross Domestic Product; you know, the real life of the party), but that's where we're at in America in 2018: we elected a guy who we saw on TV a lot, and that's not working out so well, so now we're thinking about that gal we saw on TV a lot.
Or we could always vote for the Rock, I guess.
Oh, I and I guess a bunch of people won awards at the Golden Globes, too. Congratulations to all of you for winning in this night that was all about empowering women in this #metoo moment, except for the fact that no women were nominated for Best Director.
These guys, too
Speaking of that #metoo moment, the march toward tossing out all the lecherous bastards continues apace. On the chopping block recently, we find the director of a respected Toronto theater company, the head of the New York City Ballet, and the principal dancer of American Ballet Theatre.
I'm sure the dancers out there already knew this, but I learned today that the ballet world is also full of asshole men in positions of power. We're more united than we ever thought.
Building for the future
I was reading Chris Jones' latest piece in the Chicago Tribune, and I came across this dig at the founder of our very own Guthrie Theater:
Tyrone Guthrie, founder of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, had a mission to bring the world's finest actors, and the most important playwrights in history, to what he truly saw as a cultural Midwestern wasteland. Not unlike the touring thespians who followed the American frontier, Guthrie didn't care much for local writers or performers. His core belief was in the transformative power of the classics. He genuinely believed that the young people of Minneapolis deserved to see the highest caliber of Shakespearean actor performing the greatest dramatic poetry of human civilization, not the actor who lived down the block doing a one-man show about the local 'hood. In all areas of the arts, that model has hit serious trouble.
As per usual, I totally agree with Chris Jones. That was the ethos that the big G was founded upon, and it was definitely the line that the previous Guthrie leadership swallowed, hook and all. Thankfully, the current regime holed up in the big blue fortress on the river has been turning away, bit by bit, from that classist notion.
Unfortunately, getting right with the current moment doesn't guarantee that you'll survive. Take, for example, Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland, Oregon. That company has been making bold choices to do immediate, diverse and vital new work for years now, but they still fell into a money pit that is forcing them to sell off half of their building.
A casual reader might assume that the company should have been sticking to "crowd-pleasing" classics to help pay the bills, but the truth was that ART was actually selling really well with its current selection of modern works. The weight dragging them down was the millions of dollars sunk into renovating a space that was far too large for what they actually needed. Once again, it's that old bugaboo the Edifice Complex that I have bitched and moaned about nearly the entire time I have been writing News and Notes.
(By the way, if you want to understand how complicated it is to build a big arts building and how easy it is to get blindsided by shortsighted thinking, read this recent piece about arts building financing at the Clyde Fitch Report. It is very dry—my theoretical boring public functionary President would just love it!—but you should know that dry, boring things are quite often the most important things.)
Buildings are just shells, and if you make too much physical infrastructure, they become anchors that can drag you down, no matter how boldly you swim in the right direction. That's why I'm happy when a company can create fresh new success without feeling like they have to add another wing to their complex. For a local example, look at our own Jungle Theater, which has been killing it lately under the new direction of AD Sarah Rasmussen.
Did you notice that a lot of the classic canon feels really weirdly sexist and off-putting today? And did you notice that the most-produced living playwright in America right now is a woman? I'm pretty sure Rasmussen and the Jungle did. That's probably why they've launched their new Jungle Writes program, aimed at training up a whole new generation of young, female playwrights. It's an investment in people instead of stuff, and that's the most solid investment you can make for your future.
Plus, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than a remodel.
Is it is bad as you think?
So, the President has signed the new tax bill. I'm guessing most of my reading audience is not too thrilled about it. In the meantime, the President is whining that he's not getting enough credit for the new law, which is fair, considering that he did… um… what did he do, exactly?
Before you get all morose about it, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts would like you to know that it actually could have been much worse. Believe it or not, major arts lobbying organizations actually helped to sand off a few of the nasty splinters sticking out of this hastily-cobbled together boondoggle that might have stuck right in your artist butts. For once, things aren't quite as bad as they could have been, and that's as close to rejoicing as we can get right now!