When you look at the list of Golden Globe Motion Picture nominations this morning, the really big surprise is how few surprises there are on it. This is an organization that is known to be heavily star-driven, wanting to get as many glamorous superstars crammed into the Beverly Hilton ballroom as they can, and this year has given them a lot of bountiful opportunities to do just that — and they did. The fact that they get to split their nominees between Dramas and Musical/Comedy even makes for more merriment, a luxury the Oscars won’t have, particularly in the overcrowded Lead and Supporting Actor categories where it promises to be a bloodbath. If you are a big name and not on this list, you probably ought to talk to your publicist. Then again, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association likes what they like, and more often than not lately those films have been in sync with Academy tastes as well. Last year the Globes were remarkably prescient in leading the way for Oscar by awarding Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody the top Best Picture prizes, along with other awards, and handing Roma exactly what it got from the Academy (Alfonso Cuaron for Director and Foreign Film) as well. All four actors who won Oscars, first won Golden Globes and Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody led all others, just as they did at the Globes. Think attention must be paid? You bet.
When I say they “like what they like”, that has become the most predictable thing about the globes if you actually talk to the voters themselves. Take the case of The Two Popes. Talk to HFPA members and you find that they absolutely loved that movie. If it looked in early critics contests this year, right up to yesterday’s relatively weak showing in the Critics’ Choice nominations, that this entertaining and moving drama about the meeting of minds between two living Popes was going to be overlooked, all you had to do was wait for the Globes to right the ship. With four key nods, although not one for director Fernando Meireilles in a category where there is simply no room at the inn, its stock has suddenly risen and it may definitely help it regain momentum moving into key Oscar crunch time. This seems to me the film that will benefit the most from its Globe showing, certainly it will entice Oscar voters to move it to the top of the screener pile.
Similarly if you take the case of A24’s critically lauded Uncut Gems, which has been a star on the critics awards circuit so far including four major nominations from Critics’ Choice yesterday including Best Film, its complete shutout by the HFPA is definitely not a surprise. I had heard for the most part they hated it. There was evidence of that as well when the somewhat rare step of denying the distributor’s efforts to enter it into the less crowded Comedy/Musical categories was rebuffed when the HFPA instead deemed it would compete as a Drama. It was game over at that moment, even for Adam Sandler’s remarkable lead performance which has won him Indie Spirit, Gotham, and CCA noms, as well as Best Actor from the National Board of Review, and a 60 Minutes profile last night that could be as good as gold for his Oscar chances. An all-important SAG nomination on Wednesday can make all the Globeless pain disappear. Awards season giveth and taketh away in such extreme measures that campaign consultants need a steady supply of valium available at all times.
The excellent showing for The Two Popes was just part of the sensational showing by Netflix which handily led all studios and networks in both movies and television rolling a lucky 17 noms in both. It could have been even higher had their big push worked for Cannes winners Atlantics in Foreign Film and I Lost My Body in Animated Feature, and Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us in TV. They were left off those lists. Still this is very impressive for Netflix and it will become even harder now for those Academy members who are part of the resistance to continue their game of denial. Netflix is throwing money at awards glory in numbers we haven’t seen, with an awards department that numbers well over 60 employees alone, maybe up to 90 at this point. Did the mountain of coffee table books, red Papal slippers from The Two Popes, cashmere blanket from Marriage Story, denim jacket from Dolemite Is My Name, or the Cabernet Sauvignon from The Irishman sent to various awards groups help? Couldn’t hurt. As the label on the Irishman wine bottle says, “it is what it is”.
To their credit, the HFPA, under the steady hand of President Lorenzo Soria balks at influence that gave the group some legendary bad press decades ago. That is in the past as, swag attempts or not, you would be hard-pressed to look at today’s list of nominees on the film side and find one that isn’t legitimately deserving to be there. Strong ratings, much better than the Emmys for instance, make them a real player in the public’s eye too. So-called snubs to past favorites like Robert De Niro in Best Actor Drama for The Irishman (though he is a nominee as a producer of the Best Picture Drama nominee) or Clint Eastwood as director of the late breaking Richard Jewell, which opens this week, are inevitable in such a competitive year. The HFPA does not expand their categories to allow extra nominees like the Emmys and other groups do, and one good reason for that is that it would be impossible to fit them all into the Beverly Hilton Ballroom that has been home to this “Hollywood party of the year” for decades. I hope they never move it. It is a surreal and starry good time. And we’ll say it again, “it is what it is”.
As for the key nominees who did make the list, you can’t deny the Netflix achievement of landing three of the five Best Motion Picture – Drama nominees with The Irishman, The Two Popes and Marriage Story, plus Dolemite Is My Name in the Comedy/Musical Best Picture category. These represent Netflix’s first Globe nods ever in the Picture categories (Roma was ineligible because it was nominated – and won – in Foreign Language instead) and that is rarified Weinstein-style air for any distributor. The streamer had the goods this year and the Globes recognized it. For Best Picture Drama, that left room only for Dreamworks and distributor Universal’s remarkable 1917 and Warner Bros. Joker to try and compete. The latter’s showing which also included nominations for Todd Phillips as Director and Joaquin Phoenix in Lead Actor Drama, is impressive, and coming on the heels on 7 Critics’ Choice nods yesterday it helps put this billion dollar DC adaptation firmly in the race, further validating the Venice Film Festival’s awarding of the Golden Lion to Joker to kick of the giving season in September. A so-called comic book movie is seriously in this Oscar thing again this season after Black Panther became the first to gain a Best Picture nomination last year. Then again, Joker is not your father’s comic book movie.
Sam Mendes’ 1917 also impressed those HFPA members I spoke to, and could surprise here. It won 8 CCA nods yesterday as well and is a towering technical achievement, although maybe the sheer scope of it all limits the enthusiasm for its fine screenplay that has now been snubbed by both CCA and the Globes or its total would be bigger. The Irishman, the only nominee here with acting, writing, and directing nods, is probably going to be pegged as the one to beat here as both Marriage Story (which led all nominees with 6 mentions) and The Two Popes both failed to get the all-important directing nomination, and Joker and 1917 didn’t make the screenplay cut.
For Motion Picture Musical or Comedy this would seem to be Quentin Tarantino’s to lose as the Globe haul of five for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is imposing against its competition of Dolemite Is My Name, Jojo Rabbit, Rocketman , and crowd pleaser Knives Out. With nominations in all the key categories of picture, writing, directing and acting, it should be a very big night for Hollywood in Hollywood, thus setting up an Oscar race for the ages and perhaps Sony/Columbia’s first shot at Best Picture glory since The Last Emperor in 1988. You can tell Sony Pictures Chairman Tom Rothman is foaming at the mouth already. He sent out a special note yesterday to the entire studio regarding their early success so far this season, an unusual move, but one that shows the enthusiasm for their chances this year. “I am interrupting your Sunday to let everyone know of the unprecedented showing our films made this afternoon in the Critics’ Choice nominations. Sony Pictures films received 26 nominations, spread over five very different, but very deserving films. This, coupled with recent recognition from the NY Film Critics Circle and early recognition on multiple “10 best” lists from all over the country, bodes well for the coming awards season and is a great credit to all your hard work. Congrats,” his email said. However, as I said, awards season giveth and then taketh away because Sony’s other big hopes Little Women and A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood did not do as well at the Globes as they did with Critics’ Choice gathering just two Globe acting nods between them, and nothing for their directors Greta Gerwig and Marielle Heller, furthering complaints of snubs for women directors this year. There has to be disappointment especially over Christmas release Little Women’s little love from the HFPA.
In terms of the actors who are going to the Globes, Lead Actor and Actress in Drama are a crapshoot right now, but two stars who are playing real life figures, Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland and Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly are the ones to beat for Actress Drama, while I have a hunch Antonio Banderas, who so far has won Cannes, European Actor, NY and LA Critics prizes for Pain And Glory just might be the ticket for the Foreign Press Association as Actor Drama, but Phoenix’s phenomenal turn may give him a run for his money considering the love for Joker. Overall it is a killer category for the guys, as it is for Comedy/Musical Actor where it seems Eddie Murphy’s comeback in Dolemite is made for a Globe moment of triumph, but he has to get by Leonardo DiCaprio as a fading actor in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood to do it. I want to rate this one a toss up, but Murphy, a six-time nominee who won a Globe in 2007 for Dreamgirls might have a slight edge. The far less competitive Actress Comedy field looks like Awkwafina’s to lose for The Farewell.
The Globes supporting categories don’t differentiate between Drama or Comedy, and both represent killer contests with Supporting Actor being a battle of heavyweights who all have Oscars on their mantles at home. Hanks, Hopkins, Pacino, Pesci, and Pitt (whose Oscar was for producing 12 Years A Slave) are vying but Hanks is already set to receive the Cecil B. DeMille award this year, so a win here would be overkill. I see a victory for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’s Pitt, his second in the category after winning for Twelve Monkeys in 1996. For Supporting Actress, a great and versatile field that includes veterans Kathy Bates and Annette Bening will likely come down to Margot Robbie in Bombshell (but also with memories of her Sharon Tate in Hollywood), Laura Dern in Marriage Story (but also with memories of her Marmie in Little Women) and brand new LA Film Critics winner Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers (with memories of that pole dance). Dern was Miss Golden Globe in 1982, and she has since won four Globes, the last one as recently as two years ago. This is Lopez’s first -and only- Globe nomination since her 1997 breakout role in Selena. A win finally for her seems like a scenario that the HFPA just can’t resist.
And finally one other movie category loaded with huge names promises to be uber competitive as Best Original Song is pitting the likes of Taylor Swift, Elton John, Beyonce, and Cynthia Erivo against each other and all must compete with another damn song that lives annoyingly in your head from the Frozen franchise. My favorite of a very good lineup is John’s and Bernie Taupin’s “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman, but who knows where this is gonna go. Incidentally Swift is nominated for co-writing with Andrew Lloyd Webber the new song from Cats called “Beautiful Ghosts”, which her character Bombalurina sings in the film. The movie has been editing down to the wire and press hasn’t seen it yet.
The HFPA however was given the opportunity last Wednesday, just about 40 hours before its voting deadline (ballots were due at noon on Friday) to see an unfinished print of the movie. I am told they did not show up in the numbers that would be enough to gain a nomination in other categories, less than was needed for sure, but the song went out via link and copy so all members had it when it went online. Clearly they liked what they heard, and who doesn’t want Taylor Swift, with those legions of young viewers tuning in, at your “party of the year”? Or Lloyd Webber for that matter, a past two-time Globe nominee for new songs from Phantom Of The Opera and Evita film adaptations (winning for the latter). Cats screens for the rest of the press, presumably in its finished form, on December 17. It opens on December 20.
It ought to be fun when the Globes ring in the New Year on January 5, just two days before Oscar nomination ballots are due and a new opportunity, like last year, to shake things up.