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Friday, March 17, 2017

A Circus, A Camera, and Ryan Gosling: How Joko and Klaas Punked the Golden Camera


            It has not even been a month since the Flub to End All Flubs at the Oscars last month, when the presenters for Best Picture were given the wrong card, read it in spite of their confusion, and for a moment everyone thought La La Land, the assumed favorite, had indeed won, until it was revealed halfway through the acceptance speeches that, in fact, the winner was the indie-underdog everyone had wanted to win, Moonlight.  It was awkward, painful, terrifying, and spectacularly funny all at once, creating enough genuine TV drama to last an age. 



            Normally (read; in a non-Trump world) this sort of event would carry a glow about it for weeks afterwards.  But, since we are no longer in a world where rules of any sort apply, barely 8 days went by before another major awards show fell victim to their own missteps, leading to another spectacular fail on live TV that also, funnily enough, centered around La La Land.  It hath been deemed…Gosling Gate.   

            Every year it goes by almost entirely unnoticed in the English-speaking world, but for Germans, the Goldene Kamera (Golden Camera) is basically the Oscars meets the Golden Globes.  For German-speaking media it is THE awards event that wraps up each year in film and TV.  As is the nature of these things, it’s usually about as exciting as the Oscars, with about as many surprised up its sleeve.  But this year, with the Oscars seemingly ready to run away with the title of Best Live Error of the year, two German comedians decided to one-up them (and everyone else). 

            Let’s start by going through the moment as it occurred. 

            It was Saturday, March 4th, in the Messe in Hamburg, where the Goldene Kamera was being broadcast live by ZDF, one of the core TV channels in Germany.  Hosted by Steven Gätjen, things kicked off at 8:15 and went fairly normally at first.  Then, about 1 hour 45 minutes into the program, Gätjen transitioned into presenting the award for Best International Film, announcing that it would be going to La La Land.  A montage from the film followed- Gätjen even allowed himself a joke at the Academy’s expense, saying he could present the award “without an envelope, and you can all cheer for more than 8 seconds”- and after informing everyone that the Director and Producer of the film could not attend the show to accept the award, they had been able to arrange for Ryan Gosling to accept the award in their stead. 

            And with that, the screen behind him on the stage opened, and out of the backstage shadows stepped…..not Ryan Gosling.  The person- whoever it was- walked up, shook the moderator’s hand (you can see his surprise, and even hear him say “interesting…”, in the video below), took the trophy, and proclaimed himself- in terrible English- to be Ryan Gosling, and that he wished to dedicate this award to Joko and Klaas.  After which he promptly turned around and hurried himself off the stage.  The moderator made a banal joke about how they’d just gotten a sample of the best of German satire.  The Germans in the audience had about the same expression on their faces they’d have had if the man, instead of speaking, had simply let rip a minute-long belch into the microphone.  Meanwhile the foreigners in attendance, particularly Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell, just looked utterly lost, as if they suddenly realized they were a long, long way from home, with no way back.   



            Clearly, something had gone very, very wrong.  But what, exactly?  Who was that man pretending to be Ryan Gosling, and who the hell are Joko and Klaas? 

            That second part is easier to answer, so let’s start with that.  Largely unknown outside of Germany but widely known within, Joko and Klaas are the comedy duo behind the popular sketch comedy show Circus HalliGalli (which has been on-air since 2013), where all sorts of celebrity guests appear to take part in their antics.  They’ve long held a reputation for iconoclastic button-pushing, like one hot-potato game they play where the loser has to post something in terribly poor taste on their Twitter page (and aren’t allowed to hint at it being a joke).  But until now, their impish pranks have usually been fairly limited in scope, like dressing the most well-known Rom-Com actor in Germany in Santa getup and setting him loose on the unsuspecting customers of the Berlin Christmas Market. 



            This, though, was something bigger.  Thankfully, my job of explaining what they did at the Goldene Kamera and why has already been done for me; during the next aired episode of Circus HalliGalli, they featured a two-part mini-documentary documenting how that non-Ryan Gosling made it to the stage and why he dedicated a Goldene Kamera to them.  And it’s…..well…..just watch (these videos come with English subtitles). 





            Hooooooooly shit.  There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s break down the ways this plan SHOULD have failed miserably, but didn’t, and what it reveals about not just the Goldene Kamera, but ritzy awards shows in general:

            First, a dozen people succeeded in convincing the producers of a major awards show that they represented a company (that didn’t exist) and a huge Hollywood star (they’d never met)….and only because no one apparently ever tried to check within the industry if the company in question actually existed. 

            Second, these same people sought cover by making fantastically arrogant demands to ensure no one blew their cover before or during the show….and not once did they receive any pushback on a single one of them. 

            At the show itself, partially through luck and partially due to their list of demands, the double was able to effectively run the gauntlet of an entire arena’s worth of backstage staff and security, where one long glance could have been enough to end the game right there…..and no one, even one of the main producers of the show sitting directly behind the stage, ever took that glance. 

            Then, much like the Oscars flub the week before, once the lights were up the error was revealed almost instantly….but in the heat of the moment, the on-stage presenter either didn’t realize what was happening, assumed it was planned, or was just plain confused for enough precious seconds to allow the double to take the trophy, at which point it was effectively too late to do anything. 

            The double and his team then managed to re-run the gauntlet again and get out of there, prize and all….because apparently no one was ready to alert security at any level to apprehend someone just booking it out of the building with a trophy in their hand. 

            Finally, and this is perhaps the most damming (or hilarious, or depressing, depending on your point of view); by just hinting at the possibility of having an A-List Hollywood superstar take the stage at their show, Joko and Klaas got the higher-ups to select La La Land as the winner of a major award that, had they not pulled this stunt, may very well have gone to another movie entirely. 

            That last one is probably the most disturbing part out of all of this.  The technical and logistical systems of setting up bigtime TV shows and bringing in guests always have flaws, ones that remain invisible until they are finally noticed and exploited, at which point they are usually closed for good.  It’s safe to say a trick of this exact nature will never be possible at the Goldene Kamera again, and this particular stunt couldn’t succeed at something as endlessly scripted and re-scripted as the Oscars.   

            But the fact remains that, across the world, the events and organizations that claim to represent the “best” of mankind’s artistic output really just act as rubber stamps for what a select group of non-artists deem to be “the best.”  And a head manager deciding arbitrarily to give a film a trophy by fiat simply because they could land a big name on their stage for 45 seconds is a particularly pungent example of that, making the blatant nakedness of it as revealed by this prank all the more disheartening. 

            And of course this is by no means limited to Germany.  That the Oscars are endlessly (often pathetically) political has been a running joke for a long time now, and both the Academy and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (which select the Golden Globe winners) are constantly belittled for effectively selling their votes to the highest bidder- estimates on the total amount spent by various studios competing for Oscars regularly run into the hundreds of millions, with one expert estimating about $10 million to be the usual cost of winning Best Picture BBC. 

            Is that sort of nonsense really any different than what happened at the Goldene Kamera?  I doubt it, and honestly, it may be quite a bit worse from an ethics standpoint. 

            The hard truth is that, while regular celebration of human achievement is in principle a good and noble and necessary thing, the specific laurels we have conditioned ourselves to treat as the most meaningful are often given out in ways that are overwhelmingly arbitrary, unfair, and not at all connected to trying to identify the “best” in anything, film or otherwise. 

            And yet, for all the weight and real-world influences that awards shows do have- like convincing a studio to finance Movie A over Movie B solely based on what they think will bring in a rack of shiny, golden men- does any of this really matter?  Most Germans don’t seem to really care about #Goslinggate that much.  The media company in charge of the event certainly has its tie in a knot over the whole affair- they very quickly announced their intention to sue to get the trophy back.  But most others, at worst, think it was a hilarious egg on the show’s face, perhaps done in poor taste, and leave it at that. 

            Internationally it seems to have made even less of a splash; Ryan Gosling, to my knowledge, has so far said nothing about the whole fiasco, and for all I know may not be aware it even happened.  That said, the award is, in fact, currently listed on the Wikipedia page for accolades won by thefilm, so it IS still, at least at the moment, official. 

            I will leave it to you to draw what conclusions you want from this.  As for myself, I clearly still need to work on reminding myself that logic and sanity no longer exist in the world, and for all the crazy imaginings I can conjure for the next few years, they obviously still aren’t nutty enough, because reality is still finding ways to outpace me. 


-Noah Franc 

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