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A Golden Opportunity to Reclaim the Red Carpet

The Nation

January 21, 2002|RACHEL ABRAMOWITZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hollywood's unofficial mourning period appears to be over, as celebrities donned their feathers and sequins and emerged from their roped-off enclaves to tout themselves and hawk their films at Sunday's Golden Globes ceremony.

Ever since Sept. 11, blatant self-promotion and studio-manufactured giddiness have been taboo in Hollywood, as lavish premieres were canceled, and many stars demurred from the talk-show circuit. The last major award show, the 53rd Prime-Time Emmy Awards, kept shifting from date to date like an unwanted dinner guest, until it finally landed on Nov 4. Even then, the tone was subdued, with many celebrity no-shows, and the first dress code (business attire) enforced at an awards show since World War II.

No longer.

"I think there's an acknowledgment and acceptance that we can make our life better and richer by embracing celebration moments, parties, of life itself," said "Moulin Rouge" director Baz Luhrmann. "It's like the 16th century with the plague, you accept that you're living with something dangerous, but you make the moments count. I'm feeling that tonight."

Sounding a bit like Noel Coward performing during the London Blitz in World War II, Globes presenter Michael Caine said, "I'm from England. We've been doing this for years. Better to do this than get blown up, don't you think?"

As for the awards themselves, "Moulin Rouge" won for best film comedy/musical, while "A Beautiful Mind," director Ron Howard's exploration of schizophrenic mathematician John Nash, took the prize for best drama. The top acting prizes were split between Australians and Americans. Aussie stars Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe garnered awards for "Moulin Rouge" and "A Beautiful Mind," respectively, while veteran Americans Sissy Spacek and Gene Hackman won for "In the Bedroom" and "The Royal Tenenbaums," respectively.

To be sure, it was not quite Hollywood business as usual Sunday night. The police presence was 10 times the size it was in the past, and included marksmen with rifles on the roof of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where the Golden Globes were presented.

Ben Kingsley, a nominee for the movie "Sexy Beast" and the TV movie "Anne Frank," said, "I think it's reassuring for people who are watching to see that we're all in this together. And good for us too. As my car was being searched, I thought, I feel safer."

For many, the frivolity seemed to mark a psychic turning point for the industry. Hollywood was not only buffeted by the terrorist attacks, but also a slowdown in production due in part to a flood of activity in the first part of 2001 spurred by the threat of strikes.

"The Hollywood movie business was completely stalled out for very good reason after 9/11. Now that there's becoming enough distance between that tragic event and today, people are feeling very eager to work," said "A Beautiful Mind" producer Brian Grazer. "What's helping to magnify that is awards season, where you're appreciating and thinking about movies in their purest form."

For the studios that spend millions of dollars on awards campaigns, the event is an all-important marketing bonanza, capable of not only selling Hollywood products in 135 countries but also in shaping the Oscar race. Fashion insiders are also breathing easier now that their prime billboards--the stars--are willing to don the requisite finery.

"Glamour and fantasy are Hollywood," said wardrobe stylist Tod Hallman. "A lot of people still like to see movie stars get dressed up. It's a great escape, and I hope we have not lost that."

The stars did their part to entertain, although the fashion show was heavy on basic black, with bared shoulders and pulled-back hair. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Calista Flockhart and Jennifer Garner all wore sleek red, while Rachel Griffiths wore a loony pink-fringed dress and Sela Ward donned a red midriff-baring Valentino gown with an unfortunate Carmen Miranda touch.

Only one little-known actress, Cynthia Garrett, in a stunt that definitely caught photographers' attention, wore a red-white-and-blue sequined flag dress. Indeed, unlike previous awards shows in which performers sang patriotic tunes such as "America the Beautiful," references to Sept. 11 were mostly oblique, as when "Sex and the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker, Golden Globe winner for best actress in a comedy, thanked "New York, the fifth lady." The show is set in Manhattan.

Bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the Golden Globes have long been considered one of the sillier awards but the most fun for those who actually attend. Given the glassy-eyed look and bitten lips revealed by some of the losers, that freewheeling attitude might be changing, as stars invest in winning the statuettes.

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