Apparently the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is more interested in peace than war — or in superstars coming to their show. The complete shutout of Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (both expected to be MAJOR contenders) were eye openers for the foreign based Globe voters across-the-board dismissal of these two films, set in different wars but depicting iconic true-life American heroes. Throw in another total blank for Sony’s big hope, the very fine Brad Pitt-starring World War II drama, Fury and you have a scenario where the Globes appear to be quite battle weary this season – and not a fan of major studio fare this time around. You have to give credit though to the new direction of the HFPA, under 2nd year President Theo Kingman. The group that was vilified for nominating Jolie’s and Johnny Depp’s critically maligned The Tourist just four years ago for Best Picture, Actress and Actor in their Musical/Comedy category, has turned its back on longtime favorites like Jolie, Pitt, Bradley Cooper and Eastwood – dream ratings magnets for the star heavy NBC broadcast – in favor of lesser names and smaller films. The HFPA even resisted the temptation to nominate Jolie’s Maleficent performance or Eastwood’s musical Jersey Boys in the far less crowded Comedy or Musical categories.
This is unusual since the popular media belief is that the Globes caters to superstars in order to spice up their popular kudocast, a major annual event on NBC’s broadcast schedule that has been delivering big numbers. The list of nominees released today is far more reflective of the tastes of other critics groups than an attempt to draw ratings. For Best Director there’s Wes Anderson from the March release, The Grand Budapest Hotel and not Eastwood. There’s also a female nominee but it’s Ava Duvernay for the Martin Luther King Jr. drama Selma and not the expected nod for Jolie’s stunning work on her epic war drama. Though Best Drama Actor is impossibly crowded this year, Pitt might have deserved a nod for his fierce work in Fury. Instead, the Globes went for David Oyelowo as King in Selma (a film that ironically has Pitt as an Executive Producer for his Plan B production company). And so on.
It is also worth noting that NBC and parent company Universal, which of course broadcast the Globes (this year on Sunday January 11th), was almost totally shut out on both the Film and TV lists , save for the lone Best Actor in a Drama Series nomination for James Spader on NBC’s The Blacklist. Universal was, as noted, not invited to their own party with either Unbroken or the James Brown biopic, Get On Up! for which they lobbied HFPA (most recently at a Sunday brunch attended by star Chadwick Boseman, director Tate Taylor and producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer). Boseman would have been a shoe-in for a Musical/Comedy nomination but , despite the studio’s protestations and direct appeal, the HFPA reclassified the musical film as a Drama, making it more unlikely to gain traction against intense competition. U’s similar 2004 Ray Charles biopic, Ray, was a Best Picture nominee in the Comedy/Musical category and won for star Jamie Foxx who went on to Oscar glory as well. Unfair to Get On Up? You probably couldn’t blame Universal for privately thinking so, but at that brunch a Globe voter told me they felt in retrospect that it was a mistake not to put Ray in Drama and believed that is also where the musical biopic of Brown belonged. It’s a shame because Boseman’s brilliant turn deserved the kind of recognition a Globe nod would bring him at this point in such a competitive year for actors.
So leave it to Focus Features (with Working Title’s help) , the re-imagined specialty label owned by Universal, to almost single-handedly carry the flag for its parent with four nominations for their Stephen Hawking drama, The Theory Of Everything including Best Picture, Actor (Eddie Redmayne) and Actress (Felicity Jones). At least NBC/U will have something to cheer at their annual Beverly Hilton rooftop party on Globes night. And speaking of Theory it was, as expected, a very good day for British-themed biopics because The Weinstein Company’s The Imitation Game also scored big with five nominations in key categories, matching the impressive haul for awards season juggernaut (so far) Boyhood. 20th Century Fox’s Gone Girl might have matched that number as well but despite nods for Actress (Rosamund Pike), Director David Fincher, Screenplay and Score, it likely just missed out on the key Best Picture -Drama nomination that Foxcatcher apparently nabbed instead without the benefit of either a directing or writing mention.
In addition to being a boost for those films, the Globes have really put Fox Searchlight’s March release, The Grand Budapest Hotel back on the awards radar, not only with expected love in the Best Picture Comedy/Musical category and for star Ralph Fiennes, but also surprisingly for Wes Anderson in Director and Screenplay. I don’t think the foreign flavor of Anderson’s superb comedy hurt here with these international journalists, nor the fact that Budapest is in the title. Fox had a great day not only with reviving this one, and the 4 nods for Gone Girl, but also of course for its leading 7 nominations for Searchlight’s Birdman, which ironically looks to wrestle Budapest in the Musical/Comedy Picture race. Disney’s true musical, Into The Woods is in it too, with three nods including the all-important Best Picture recognition that looks so good on ads. That terrific film from director Rob Marshall is, like the dissed Unbroken and American Sniper and the undissed Selma, a Christmas Day release so this kind of thing is important to build momentum. This, even though it is fighting an uphill battle at the Globes against the aforementioned Birdman and Budapest which both also nabbed those key writing and directing mentions.
On the acting side it’s interesting to note the similarity to yesterday’s SAG announcement with the Globes and SAG agreeing on 9 out of 10 supporting nominees (Jessica Chastain for A Most Violent Year is the only discrepancy since SAG chose Naomi Watts for St. Vincent instead). And like yesterday at SAG, formerly perceived longshots Jennifer Aniston in Cake and Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler again made the cut, solidifying their fast tracking to Oscar if things keep going this way. Both deserve it for taking risks in every way and delivering truly transformative performances. The Best Actress -Drama list that features Aniston is in fact identical to the Leading Female list SAG turned out yesterday. Presumed front-runner Julianne Moore got the expected nod for Still Alice, but also scored a second nomination (Comedy/Musical Actress) for her dead-on Cannes winning role as an aging actress trying to remain relevant in Hollywood in Maps To The Stars, a David Cronenberg “comedy” that won’t be released until next year but quietly qualified anyway. Among competition she will face there is Amy Adams in Big Eyes, yet another upcoming Christmas Day release hoping for a big boost from the Globes. Harvey Weinstein really aimed his guns at getting that film in there and was successful even though Big Eyes missed out in Best Picture Comedy but did grab nods for co-star Christoph Waltz and its Lana Del Rey title song. As for the Best Actor -Drama race the Globes list also matched SAG with four out of five, with Oyelowo stepping in for Birdman’s Michael Keaton who is in the Globes Comedy category. Redmayne and Keaton are the early betting favorites to take their respective Best Actor prizes while Moore is a distinct possibility to win both of her nominations, though the race in the Comedy/Musical Actress category is a bit hazier to call. And I wouldn’t count HFPA favorite Aniston out in an upset in Drama if they want to split things.
So what does all this mean in terms of influencing Oscar? It’s always hit and miss. Last year the Globes had a decent track record in matching eventual Oscar winners, though not perfect by any means. And those movies snubbed at the Globes can take heart. Among titles the HFPA completely skipped in past years that the Academy eventually embraced with Best Picture nominations is a long one that includes Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, Field Of Dreams, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, The Tree Of Life, True Grit and The Thin Red Line. Films like Crash went on to win the Best Picture Oscar without nabbing a corresponding Globe nomination. Some films snubbed today like Unbroken, American Sniper and Interstellar were celebrating just last Monday with their inclusion on the AFI Top Movies Of The Year list. So it ain’t all over ’til it’s all over. It’s a roller coaster. One day you’re up. The next day you’re down. That’s awards season. Or at least this awards season.