I have to say nothing really shocked me about this morning’s film nominations for the 73rd Annual Golden Globes, with one exception being the absence of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s beloved Johnny Depp. Otherwise, it was the usual mix of big stars (Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Matt Damon, Sly Stallone, Jane Fonda, Kate Winslet) and deserving acting nominees whose names have been drummed into the heads of HFPA members by various publicists for the past several months.
Predictably, the group spread the love around, with only one movie — Carol — earning as many as five mentions, not even a handful with four and the lion’s share with three or fewer. There were no completely embarrassing omissions or inclusions on the level of a Pia Zadora or their most recent disastrous nominations when the HFPA showered love on the critically reviled The Tourist five years ago. Under much smarter new leadership and a determination to be more legit, the Globes, while not being the Oscar bellwether they once were (last year’s big winner was Boyhood, not Best Picture champ Birdman, which didn’t even score in its comedy category), still command attention due to a highly rated, star-laden NBC TV show that keeps them Revenant, er, relevant, during awards season.
But back to Depp. His performance as Whitey Bulger in Warner Bros’ Black Mass was widely expected at the time of its September release to put him in a pole position to not only be nominated but win the Globe and then possibly the Oscar. In line with that, he was nominated for a SAG Award yesterday. Since his first Globe nomination for Edward Scissorhands 25 years ago, Depp has been nominated 10, count ’em, 10 times — even against himself in 2010 for both Alice In Wonderland and that dud, The Tourist. He won only once, for Sweeney Todd in 2007, the year the Globes telecast was shut down by a WGA strike so nobody saw it. But today’s snub could have ramifications. If the Globes don’t even embrace Depp (who has been campaigning) this year, could that spread all the way to the Oscars, even with a SAG nomination in his pocket? Say it ain’t so. This could be just a bump in the road, but it’s a big one.
Black Mass got completely shut out by the Globes, with Warners instead landing a couple of unexpected nominations for summer sequel Mad Max: Fury Road, for Best Drama and George Miller as Best Director (oddly supplanting a more likely contender like Globe favorite Steven Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies). Meanwhile, Leo has come along and stolen Depp’s thunder with The Revenant. Given a choice between the HFPA’s longtime crushes, he came out on top. DiCaprio, like Depp, also has 10 previous GG nominations but has two wins (The Wolf Of Wall Street, The Aviator). He’s still feeling the love from this group today with his 11th turn at bat and gave it back to them in a statement, saying, “I am incredibly grateful for this nomination.”
So is Harvey Weinstein, who in the past has played the Globes like a Stradivarius. Last week he came into town and threw a well-timed cocktail party largely attended by his filmmakers for Carol and The Hateful Eight to mingle with HFPA members. Bingo! Carol leads with five noms, and Hateful Eight grabs three, tying The Weinstein Company with Universal for second among distributors. But it was 20th Century Fox that made the big score among studios this year with 12 overall including four Best Picture nominations (The Revenant in Drama and Joy ,The Martian and Spy in comedy/musical). Its specialty division, Fox Searchlight, usually is the one carrying the awards load for the company, but this year it is Big Fox since Searchlight managed only one nom for Brooklyn (Saoirse Ronan) and two for Youth, clearly a disappointing showing for the division.
Within the HFPA there was controversy and a split decision on following Fox’s submission of The Martian as a comedy, but the group approved it by just one vote. It worked for Fox, which landed three nominations for the film including Best Comedy, Matt Damon (in comedy) and Best Director (a single category) for Ridley Scott, a welcome relief after being blanked at SAG yesterday. However, I have talked to some members who say they won’t vote for the film because they believe it should be classified instead as drama. This is the problem these days with the gray line between comedy and drama distinctions, which the Oscars thankfully don’t have to make. The Hateful Eight also ran into category trouble when after first submitting it as a drama, Weinstein tried to change that to comedy (where director Quentin Tarantino and others thinks it belongs), but no dice. It was too late. It likely would have made the cut there, but was instead bypassed in the Best Motion Picture Drama race.
The big questions about which performances should be in lead or supporting also shook up the Globes (which, unlike SAG, makes the final determination themselves). Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl and Rooney Mara in Carol both landed Lead Actress noms (the latter against her co-star Cate Blanchett), even though at SAG — and elsewhere — they are being placed in Supporting Actress. Which is it? Are they leads or support? The Globes say lead, SAG and their respective distributors say support. It will be up to the acting branch of the Academy to make the ultimate decision, and the risk is those votes could be split. To add further intrigue, Vikander scored a second Globes nomination in Supporting Actress for her role in Ex Machina. Oy.
The Globes also added a bit of confusion on the male side by nominating both Steve Carell and Christian Bale as Lead Actor in a Comedy or Musical for Paramount’s The Big Short. The studio is pushing Carell in lead for Oscars and the rest of the cast including Bale in support (Bale got a SAG nomination yesterday in support), so the Oscar voters will have to sort that out too. And then there is the case of Spotlight, which landed three nominations including Best Picture Drama, but surprisingly not a single nom for any of its cast, even though it is thought Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams have real shots. Distributor Open Road probably has done too good a job selling the cast as a well-oiled ensemble (it was nominated at SAG for Best Cast), just like the Boston Globe reporters they play. The distributor instead needs to start emphasizing the individual contributions. Although McAdams did land a Supporting Actress nom from SAG yesterday, this is the second major awards announcement in two days that has snubbed Keaton and Ruffalo. Votes clearly are being split between them and, likely to a lesser degree, to other members of the cast like Liev Schreiber in what is turning out to be the most fiercely competitive Supporting Actor race in years.
Adding further confusion for the company was the Best Leading Actor win for Keaton from the New York Film Critics last week. In their ads, they just call him a “Winner” but don’t say what for. Open Road will have to retool their strategy specifically to push Keaton, Ruffalo and McAdams in their respective supporting categories and put less emphasis on the ensemble element as their Oscar campaign goes forward. Ironically, Schreiber and Ruffalo did end up with nominations for Globes but for different projects: Schreiber for TV’s Ray Donovan and Ruffalo in the Comedy Actor category for the little-seen Sony Classics film , Infinitely Polar Bear.
Open Road is one of the relatively new players to the awards game and, actor woes aside, now might have the front-runner to win the Globe for Best Drama. Among other new indies, A24 had another good day with three nominations including Best Drama and Actress in a Drama for Brie Larson (probably the likely winner) for Room and that supporting nom for Vikander in Ex Machina. Broad Green continued to have a very good week in putting 99 Homes’ Michael Shannon front and center with another Supporting Actor nom to add to his SAG nom and LA Film Critics honor. He’s heading to the Oscars. And Bleecker Street continues to put Trumbo in the game (following their leading showing at SAG) with acting nominations for Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren, and both very possibly turning those nominations into wins. HFPA members have told me they loved the movie, so this would be a way to honor it.
All in all, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did what it had to do and made a lot of people happy today, even if somehow Johnny Depp’s invite got lost in the mail. And hey, Ricky Gervais is back hosting the show on January 10 so just for that alone I cannot wait for these Globes to happen.