10 Key Takeaways from the 76th Annual Golden Globe Nominations

Early this morning, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association unofficially kicked off awards season by announcing their nominations for the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards. Although the importance of the Golden Globes is often overestimated by the media and movie fans, surprise inclusions and shocking snubs can have a real impact on the race.

A Preamble: The Golden Globes Shouldn’t Matter, But They Do

When it comes to reaching a consensus about what the best and most impactful movies of the year are, I think it makes sense to listen to the opinions of three sectors of the population. One is film critics, who have made it their life’s work to evaluate the artistry and impact of film. The second is members of the film industry, who have devoted their careers to studying the craft of moviemaking and contributing to the craft. And the third is the paying moviegoing public, who vote on what films they want to see with their hard-earned dollars.

One sector I do not particularly value is a collection of 93 journalists and photographers who cover the U.S. entertainment industry for foreign publications. Nevertheless, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) ends up having a bizarrely significant impact on what films become major players in awards season. The reason for their impact is due to the following:

They have been around a really long time. The HFPA has been around since 1943, making it one of the oldest award-granting bodies for film in existence. This seniority has undoubtedly contributed to an inflated sense of importance.

They come first. Although there are various film awards that announce their finalists and winners prior to the Golden Globes (e.g., the Independent Spirit Awards, the National Board of Review), they are the first of the significant announcements and are the first awards show to air. Thus, they have the unofficial designation of “kicking off” awards season.

They are fairly predictive. More often than not, those who triumph at the Oscars picked up a Golden Globe earlier in the season. In the last 20 years, this has been true for 11 of the Best Pictures, 11 of the Best Directors, 13 of the Best Actors, and a whopping 18 of the Best Actresses. Given this fact, Oscar pundits and other enthusiasts look to them to figure out which way the Oscar race is going.

They throw a great party. Perhaps the biggest reason why people pay attention to the Golden Globes is that the ceremony is often one of (if not the) highlight of awards season. They have a history of well-selected hosts, the pace is usually significantly snappier than the Oscars, and with an overwhelming number of acting categories spanning film and television, the broadcast is brimming with A-listers. And this year’s ceremony, which will air January 6, 2019 on NBC, is likely to be no exception with the somewhat random but inspired hosting pair of Killing Eve and Grey’s Anatomy star Sandra Oh and Saturday Night Live alum and Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Andy Samberg.

Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg will be hosting the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards (Photo Copyright: NBC/HFPA)

Despite the significant buzz they generate, the Golden Globes must never be taken too seriously for two key reasons. First, their voting body has no overlap whatsoever with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which votes on the Oscars. Second, their voting body is so small they can be easily swayed. (The tales of thinly veiled bribery that has resulted in major nominations are plentiful throughout Golden Globes history.)

Ten Key Takeaways from This Morning’s Golden Globe Nominations

1.) A Star is Born, The Favourite, Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, and Roma are the Oscar front-runners. For months, pundits have been saying that the following five films were likely to be serious contenders on Oscar night: A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper’s emotional reimagining of the oft-told tale of tragic love in the entertainment industry), The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos’s decidedly nontraditional take on the historical costume drama), Green Book (Peter Farrelly’s Civil Rights Era-set tale of friendship between a white driver and a famed black pianist), If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel), and Roma (Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white drama about his upbringing in Mexico City.) Each of the five films had a big morning, scoring a slew of nominations in key categories. (Many will assume Roma was snubbed in Best Motion Picture — Drama, but it actually wasn’t eligible in that category due to HFPA rules that a film cannot compete in the Foreign Language and general film categories.)

The promotional posters for “Roma” and “If Beale Street Could Talk,” two of this year’s awards season frontrunners (Copyright: Netflix and Annapurna)

2.) BlackKklansman and Bohemian Rhapsody are being underestimated. Despite rave reviews and solid box office, BlackKklansman was considered by many to be a long-shot for major Oscar nominations. They cited director Spike Lee’s weak track record at the Oscars, an early release date, and some high profile detractors. Nevertheless, it scored four key nominations: Best Motion Picture — Drama, Best Actor (John David Washington), Best Supporting Actor (Adam Driver), and Best Director (Lee). Bryan Singer’s Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, which had astronomical box office but tepid reviews, managed to score a Best Actor nomination for Rami Malek (as Mercury) and a surprise nomination for Best Motion Picture — Drama. Both films may be bigger Oscar players than most pundits are currently predicting.

3.) First Man, Widows, and Can You Ever Forgive Me? are in rough shape. Three films entered the morning with high hopes but left with their awards season chances seriously diminished. First Man, Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to La La Land, is Oscar-bait on paper (it is a biopic chronicling Neil Armstrong’s journey from family tragedy to first man to walk on the moon) and received overall strong reviews, but had notable detractors and weak box office. The film scored only two nominations, Best Supporting Actress (Claire Foy for playing Armstrong’s wife) and Best Score. Widows, Steve McQueen’s follow-up to 12 Years a Slave, is a critically adored, socially conscious thriller with an all-star cast led by the incomparable Viola Davis. It was completely shut out of the nominations. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a dark tale of literary fraud headlined by a rare dramatic turn by comedienne Melissa McCarthy that surprised at the film festivals and received some some of the best reviews of the year. With a female director (Marielle Heller) and screenwriter (Nicole Holofcener, who co-wrote with Jeff Whittly), it is also the female-helmed film most likely to become a major player in this year’s race. It received only two nominations — Best Actress for Melissa McCarthy and Best Supporting Actor for Richard E. Grant.

Promotional poster for “Vice” (Copyright: Annapurna)

4.) In terms of last minute arrivals, Vice has real potential, while The Mule does not. Awards season is often shaken up by the arrival of last minute films. These films are screened for critics and voting bodies ahead of the voting deadlines, but reviews and screenings are withheld from the general public until after the season is in full swing (largely so the studios can use the nominations the films have earned to promote them). This year we have two prime cases of this — Vice, Adam McKay’s biopic of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and The Mule, Clint Eastwood’s drug cartel drama. While the latter was completely shutout, the former actually led the nomination tally with 6. It scored nominations for Best Motion Picture-Drama, Best Director (Adam McKay), Best Screenplay (also McKay), Best Actor (Christian Bale as Dick Cheney), Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney), and Best Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush). Although it is possible that the political film will not be as popular with Academy voters as the HFPA, its huge showing this morning commands attention.

5.) The Oscar prospects of Black Panther and Mary Poppins Returns are still murky. Even though the Marvel mega-hit Black Panther and the highly anticipated sequel Mary Poppins Returns received Best Picture nominations, their lack of nominations in other key categories signal potential trouble. Panther received additional nominations for Best Score and Best Song and Poppins received nominations for score as well as its lead actors (Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, stepping in for Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke), but neither film scored nominations for directing or writing. Although many films have been omitted from these categories at the Globes and gone on to be big Oscar players, it’s definitely not a good sign, especially considering that a superhero film and a family-friendly sequel are inherently hard sells to Oscar voters.

6.) Despite their early successes, First Reformed and Eighth Grade are fighting an uphill battle. As previously noted, the Golden Globe nominations are not really the beginning of the awards season. They are preceded by weeks of smaller organizations (mostly groups of critics) handing out their citations. In these announcements, two independent films loomed large — First Reformed, Paul Schrader’s tale of a troubled minister, and Eighth Grade, Bo Burnham’s coming-of-age tale. The former was completely shut out and the latter only scored a nomination for Best Actress for the young and gifted Elsie Fisher. It must be noted that especially in recent years the Academy has tended to unexpectedly cite small films like this after high profile snubs earlier in awards season, so neither film should be counted out just yet.

Promotional poster for “First Reformed” (Copyright: Killer Pictures)

7.) Lady Bird was an anomaly not a harbinger. Last year, as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement ignited the conversation about the treatment of women in the motion picture industry, a brilliant female-led film came along that was showered with praise. There definitely does not appear to be a Lady Bird this year, with several notable films helmed by women being nowhere to be found in the Golden Globe nominations. These include Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, and Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, among many others.

8.) Sam Elliott may not be the Best Supporting Actor front-runner. The beloved character actor’s searing performance as Bradley Cooper’s older brother in A Star is Born was considered by many to be the frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actor category. However, he was not nominated this morning, which was extra surprising given the 5 nominations earned by the film itself. You would have to go back to 2006 to find a year when the eventual Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner did not at least get nominated at the Globes — Alan Arkin as the cantankerous grandfather in the indie comedy Little Miss Sunshine. Interestingly, though, there are significant similarities between the two. Like Arkin, Elliot is a highly respected character actor who has never won an Oscar and is part of the ensemble of a well-liked film likely to score a slew of other nominations. So don’t count him out just yet.

9.) On the television side, new continues to equal best. The Golden Globes’ television nominations tend to be all over the map and nonsensical. The HFPA seems so preoccupied with anointing “the next big thing” that it virtually ignores any show more than a year old. To wit, recent winners in the top categories like Atlanta, The Handmaid’s Tale, and This is Us aren’t even nominated for their second seasons. There are exceptions, but they are always exceedingly random, like Candice Bergen and Debra Messing popping up as the sole nominees for the revivals of Murphy Brown and Will & Grace (respectively) and The Americans getting a slew of major nominations for its sixth and final season after never being nominated in any category before.

10.) The television supporting actor categories in television are as bizarre as ever. Always my favorite categories at the Golden Globes, the supporting actor races for television lump together comedy series, drama series, limited series, and TV movies for an eclectic group of nominees that seems impossible to compare. While they are all brilliant, how exactly do you compare the work of Alex Borstein as the wisecracking manager of a 1950s comedienne in the comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with Penelope Cruz’s portrayal of Gianni Versace’s grieving sister and heir in the limited series American Crime Story or Thandie Newton’s portrayal of an android prostitute searching for her daughter in the sci-fi drama Westworld?

Well, that’s a wrap on my reactions to the Golden Globe nominations. I will be blogging all throughout awards season, so follow me on Medium and/or Twitter if you want to stay up to date on how things progress!