Saturday, June 22, 2024

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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Road to Golden Globes:

Close encounters of the third world

As all good things must end, or maybe as the moderators got tired of saying
“Here’s one from Sadia, covering for Bangladesh,” my lucky streak that started with Lenny
Kravitz ended with Zac Efron last month.

Update : 14 Feb 2024, 02:00 AM

Ever dreamt of being one of the judges of THE Golden Globes? I have, ever since I was a student at UCLA. It was back in 2016. One of my colleagues at AMBI Distribution in Beverly Hills was married to the then President of Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which gives out these awards that is considered to be the second most prestigious validation stamp of Hollywood, after Oscars of course.

And who were in charge of these stamps? The name HFPA is self-explanatory really. There I was- foreign press working in Hollywood. How hard could it possibly be to get a seat at that shiny table? Impossibly hard. There were less than 100 people who had the honour to vote at the Golden Globes and they had to be US residents for a certain amount of time, which wasn’t going to happen with my lush green “pocketbook” that gives me so many unwanted privileges at airports. 

The tides turned last year though, when HFPA found themselves in the unenviable position of having to cleanse their image with some diverse foreigners. I, being as diverse as can be, was invited into this voters’ pool as the first international voter from Bangladesh (pause for applause). What followed next was an assortment of watching movies/shows till my eyes droop, sighing at emails about VIP passes to events that tend to be situated in LA/NY, and talking to Hollywood hotshots on Zoom at around the witching hour (Bangladesh time) mostly. 

At these Zoom calls with Hollywood hotshots, I seemed to have a bit of a beginner’s luck. The first three A-listers I sat with for this year’s Golden Globes run- all answered my questions. Let me illustrate how hard it is for your questions to be picked up at a 30min group press conference with these stars- close to none, especially when there are media heavyweights in the room. My fellow deshi journalists, who cover the Cannes Film Festival each year can attest to this. In my 8 years of attending international press conferences, I had never before been given the opportunity to even ask a question. However, as all good things must end, or maybe as the moderators got tired of saying “Here’s one from Sadia, covering for Bangladesh (?!?),” my lucky streak that started with Lenny Kravitz ended with Zac Efron last month.

Lenny Kravitz is too cool to make a “where is Bangladesh” face:

The virtual meet and greets started when I was drowning in stress from arranging my wedding and handling my only teammate who, along with her mom, supposedly took turns in getting sick on alternate days for the entirety of her internship. I said no to meeting so many big names- Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore for “May December,” Jessica Chastain for can’t remember what, Oprah Winfrey for “The Colour Purple”- it’s a really long list. I literally could drop names all day. It wasn’t particularly hard to say “no” though to these, as I hadn’t had luck in these things before and also I had already said “no” to 2 all expenses paid foreign trips to attend conferences/festivals because they coincided with my wedding.

It’s only after Lenny Kravitz picked my question that I felt the first pang of regret for missing these meetings. If you were born yesterday, you probably know Lenny’s daughter Zoe (Catwoman from Rob Pat’s “Batman”) and his ex-wife’s ex-husband (moon of people’s lives, Jason Momoa) more than this legend. But Lenny operates on another level. He showed up at the meeting on the porch from somewhere in the Bahamas wearing a black leather jacket, black lace shirt and shades. Yes, I know.

On the tenth minute of the press conference, the moderator announced my name and upon hearing Bangladesh, Lenny did a subtle “umm-hmm” instead of the all-American reaction we are accustomed to, a polite- “Omg! (Did the light of civilization reach your part of the world yet?).” Then he went on to answer my question for 4.5minutes. Since we’re not allowed to share the video recording of these interviews, I’ll pick a few lines from his long answer for our readers’ convenience.

My question was: Could you tell us about the creative fulfilment you experienced while working on "Road to Freedom", given the historical significance of the subject? (We’re talking about the Netflix film “Rustin”)

Lenny replied: “Absolutely.  I felt a great responsibility to represent not only Mr. Rustin, but the cause, and the continuous cause and fight for freedom, which we are still experiencing as we speak, you know.

“This is a continuous story.  But yes, I felt honoured.  I felt the presence of my mother, my grandparents, you know, the people that I grew up with, you know, who taught me as a young person, about the Civil Rights Movement.  You know, I grew up in the late 60s and early 70s as a child, and was around all of this, and this is what my people were fighting for, you know.  And so, I felt a great responsibility. 

“And as I said, you know, really feeling the spirit of my mother, who would be telling me, you know, to handle this properly, you know, was very helpful.”

He went on to say “you know” 19 times in the answer and admitted that he wasn’t familiar with this historical figure before, as the name Rustin isn’t glorified in books for his homosexuality.

Bradley Cooper & Carey Mulligan are too serious to hold just one press conference:

Speaking of homosexuality, Bradley Cooper’s second directorial feature “Maestro” also deals with a man’s struggle to keep his “shameful” sexual orientation a secret. Cooper arranged so many press meet ups for his film that we lost track of which was said at which event. But he didn’t stop there. The film FedExed us a gift that was stalled at the airport customs. We received so many more gifts (mostly postcards, DVDs, posters) this year compared to the previous year that at one point, customs became interested to charge a few thousand taka from us to clear each package, which, to their dismay, we poor writers couldn’t afford. I still think about what he might have sent. Sometimes, when I’m bored.

At one of these press conferences, the leading lady of the film, Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan, who plays Leonard Bernstein’s wife Felicia, answered my question.

I asked: What, in your opinion, makes Felicia’s character so timeless and universal?

Carey paused to look up and think before replying: “I think she’s a person who loved very deeply and I think we recognize that in a person. She had this confidence, but the fragility was largely just real love. There was a part of it that had to do with her career and her life as an artist for sure. But so much of it was how deeply she loved Lenny and how deeply she loved her children… I think it’s the devotion she had for her family is so timeless and that’s what people recognize in her… I think what people connect to is the nurturing devoted mother.”

I was a bit disappointed that she didn’t dive into the question deeper in her 2.5 minute answer omitting factors like how she sacrificed her career for a self-centred man, how she made excuses for him to their children etc. “Maestro” is also on Netflix if you’re up for a slow burn. But if you love Bradley Cooper for his looks, take my word and sit this one out.

Zac Efron nods along, as the 'Iron Claw' director answers my question instead:

For those of us who grew up in our tweens watching Disney Channel, there’s a high probability of having a celebrity crush on the “High School Musical” star. Zac Efron has since starred in some serious movies with little acclaim and a whole lot of college movies. “The Iron Claw” held promise with its captivating true tragic story. Unfortunately, even with its high rating, merits and a press conference, the film didn’t secure any Golden Globes nominations. I should add here that we have to watch an unbelievably high number of films and TV shows, which is not humanely possible to watch. So, in my humble opinion, regular emails and pcs do play a part in ensuring that the voters watch the films and not forget about them while voting.

My question here was picked up by the director: “The mother, Doris, is largely absent in the struggles of the Von Erich brothers. Did you ever feel like adding more of her side of the story to further demonstrate all of their helplessness at the hands of a ruthless father?””

Director Sean Durkin answered, while the actors Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White and Harris Dickinson nodded along: “I wrote this script for 7 years. Like I said before, there's so much to this story and so many facts to go off of that I had to make some really tough choices about what to include and not to include. Ultimately, I landed where I landed because I felt like it was the core of the story that I wanted to tell, which was about Kevin's survival and rising out of this to a hopeful new future. It was an interesting journey, writing Doris, but the core of that relationship was essentially, from what I can understand both factually but also something that I saw in my own family and my own personal connection to it, was of that generation.

“The father was tough and made the boys tough so they could survive in the world. Because of the place he came from he genuinely believed that was the way to love them, to give them toughness, and success was how they'd survive. Her job within the family was to keep them going to church. Those were the roles within the family. And that felt very truthful to me based on what I knew about them.

“Even in the most sort of boiled down version, but also something I saw in my own life, amongst family, grandparents - these roles where mother and father may accept their role within the family and stick to that with their boys, and not let any lines cross.”

After that, I attended press conferences with Jennifer Anniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jack Black and some more with zero luck at my question being picked to be answered by the stars. I wasn’t a beginner anymore. There was more disappointment up ahead when the winners were announced this month. One of my absolute favourites this year was totally snubbed at the Golden Globes -Nicholas Cage’s “Dream Scenario.” I can go on about all the great movies of 2023 we didn’t shed proper light on to make room for “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” But that’s for another day.

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