The big question
Why are we asking this now?
Nine weeks into a strike that has brought film and television production ever closer to a standstill, Hollywood's writers have just pulled off their biggest propaganda coup to date - sabotaging the glittery Golden Globes award show scheduled for this coming Sunday. The writers announced almost a month ago that they were picketing the event - and most likely the Oscars as well - and the actors' union quickly made clear that its members would not cross any picket lines in solidarity.
So, how have the organisers reacted?
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association - the improbably influential collection of mostly freelance entertainment journalists which runs the Globes - finally announced this week that it was replacing the red carpet and formal dinner at the Beverly Hilton hotel with a bare-bones news conference to unveil the winners. And NBC, the network with exclusive rights to the event, decided that it would go ahead and televise the announcements in the hope of spotting a celebrity or two in the hotel lobby. That hope started dwinding almost immediately - studio after studio is now cancelling the parties they had originally planned in and around the Beverly Hilton after the ceremony. No point, after all, in throwing a celebrity bash if no celebrities show up.
What effect will the cancellation have ?
In objective terms, it's not the most significant development of the walk-out, but it is the one generating the most ink. In a town that lives off buzz, that's no small feat. It means the writers and the actors are still united and still hanging tough. It means NBC - facing the prospect of life without its staple diet of scripted dramas and comedies as the writers' stoppage continues - is so desperate for fresh programming that it is prepared to devote several hours of prime Sunday-night airtime to a complete non- entity reading out a list from behind a podium. It means the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will be losing a significant chunk of its usual cash cow - based on licensing rights, which are in turn based on advertising revenue - for which nobody should express the remotest sympathy. And it means the studios will lose a valuable promotional tool to push their prestige titles - films like Atonement and No Country For Old Men and Sweeney Todd which rely on the awards season hype to put bums on cinema seats.
Is this going to be a red carpet-free year?
Not quite. A few of the lesser shows will go on as normal. On Monday night, the Critics' Choice awards - not an event ever governed by Writers Guild rules - went ahead at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Last night, the equally obscure People's Choice awards were also due to proceed as normal. The Screen Actors Guild, with the writers' blessing, will pull out all the stops next month to celebrate the achievements of its own members. But that's about the extent of the opportunities for celebrity designer dress spotting in 2008.
How significant a figure in the strike is George Clooney?
Not very. The Sunday Times reported last weekend that Clooney was being seen as a major force behind the actors' decision not to participate in the Golden Globes or the Oscars but his publicist dismissed the story as "100 per cent false". Clooney is a member of the Screen Actors Guild - and the Writers Guild, and the Directors Guild - and supports the strike. But he isn't directly involved in organising or negotiating anything.
At Monday's Critics' Choice awards, Clooney made clear he was in favour of resolution, not provocation. "Our hope," he said, "is that all the players will lock themselves in a room and not come out until they are done. …