Golden Globe Nominations Prove Personality Matters Just as Much as Prestige

6 minute read

The nominations for the 74th annual Golden Globe Awards were announced Monday morning, and more than anything, they reminded us that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association just wants to have fun. The organization’s annual inclusion of comedies, which haughty big sib Oscar rarely deigns to acknowledge, means the boozy party on Jan. 8 will count superheroes and teenage drama among more typical prestige fare.

Plenty of the movie nominations were predictable: La La Land topped the pack with seven nods, followed closely by Moonlight (6) and Manchester by the Sea (5). Hollywood seems to have all but forgiven Mel Gibson his past transgressions, as Hacksaw Ridge is up for three awards, including Best Director. But as always, the roughly 90 international journalists that comprise the HFPA like to elevate some unexpected names and have no trouble turning a blind eye to Hollywood royalty. Here are the biggest surprises among their film choices:

Deadpool wisecracked his way to two nominations. Deadpool generated a lot of buzz back in February for breaking both the comic-book formula and R-rated box-office records. Still, it’s always unexpected to see a superhero stick around come awards season, and this year’s Globes will see Deadpool up not only for Best Picture (Musical/Comedy) but also for Best Actor (Musical Comedy) for Ryan Reynolds. The irreverent movie made the cut while more expected fare—the Coen brothers’ Hail Caesar!, Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!, Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship—failed to register. The lesson here: punctuation out, bathroom humor in.

The HFPA stayed silent on Silence, Sully and Rules Don’t Apply. If ever there were an indication of a changing of the guard, it would be the absence of Martin Scorsese, Tom Hanks and Warren Beatty to make way for the likes of directors Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins and actors Casey Affleck and Joel Edgerton. Scorsese’s hauntingly beautiful, 30-years-in-the-making drama about 17th-century Jesuit missionaries and Clint Eastwood’s Hanks starrer about the “Miracle on the Hudson” won’t be present at this year’s ceremony, nor will Beatty’s Howard Hughes passion project, which flopped in theaters. Silence’s absence may be explained by the fact that it only recently became available to screen. To see it absent from January’s Oscar noms would be a bigger surprise yet.

Fences and Loving got love for acting but nothing more. It wasn’t surprising to see Denzel Washington and Viola Davis nominated for the big-screen adaptation of the Tony-winning Fences, but the lack of recognition for Washington in the directing field and for the movie in the Best Picture category was somewhat unexpected. Similarly, Loving nabbed noms for both leading actors (Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton), but didn’t make the cut as a Best Picture nominee. It bears mentioning that because the Globes’ 10 Best Picture choices are split evenly between dramas and comedies/musicals, a number of dramas likely to get play on Oscar Sunday are boxed out to make room for films that may not top the Academy’s choices.

Beyond the frontrunners, it was fair game for underdogs. Despite critical acclaim, Florence Foster Jenkins, Lion and Nocturnal Animals have all been considered largely on the awards-season bubble until now. But Jenkins and Lion finished with four nominations apiece while Tom Ford’s erotic thriller landed three—despite the director’s minor wrist slap for plying voters with expensive bottles of his own line of perfume. Meryl Streep’s fairydust could keep Jenkins around throughout awards season, genre notwithstanding, as could Lion’s feel-good family story. The cold sheen of Animals may have it struggling to see February, but an acting nod for Aaron Taylor Johnson and writing and directing nominations for Ford certainly make for an auspicious beginning.

Jessica Chastain and Viggo Mortensen both snuck into the proceedings. Though neither actor is a stranger to the Golden Globes, Chastain and Mortensen picked up nominations Monday morning (her fourth, his third) that were hardly guaranteed. Miss Sloane, in which Chastain plays a scheming lobbyist, has earned just $2 million at the box office amid a critical response that lauds the star above the movie. Mortensen’s role as an off-the-grid dad in Captain Fantastic (all the way back in July!) has had him quietly circling year-end recognition—and it may well be Hanks’ absence that created the space for this less conventional pick.

The comedy/musical nominations opened the acting fields wide open. Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply), Hailee Steinfeld (Edge of Seventeen), Jonah Hill (War Dogs) and Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins) have not figured prominently in awards-season prognostication, but all get their due with acting nominations at the Globes. Collins is the only recognition Warren Beatty’s decades-long passion project got, while Steinfeld transcends the expectations of the teen genre to much deserved acclaim. In War Dogs, Hill is lovably despicable as a cackling manipulator, while Helberg finds himself in good company with fellow Jenkins nominees Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.

Despite all the new blood, there simply wasn’t room for a handful of deserving contenders. Despite the inclusion of so many new names, there were a few whose absence was disappointing. Though her costar Annette Bening was recognized for Best Picture nominee 20th Century Women, Greta Gerwig’s great supporting performance was overlooked. Octavia Spencer received a supporting actress nomination for Hidden Figures, but the movie itself didn’t make the Best Picture cut, nor did costars Taraji P. Henson or Janelle Monáe, despite several previous awards for the entire ensemble. Though many thought it might be a surprise late contender, Peter Berg’s Patriots Day movie, about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, didn’t register with the HFPA, nor did Park Chan-wook’s ravishing The Handmaiden, in the foreign film category.

The Golden Globes will air on NBC on at 8 pm ET on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017.

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