The Hollywood Foreign Press Association will announce their Golden Globe Award nominations on Thursday morning. Will the glut of "prestige" films in the comedy categories ruin all the fun?
The Golden Globes are not the most respected of movie awards. The Hollywood Foreign Press's reputation for being glad-handling star-oglers is well established, and Ricky Gervais spent the better part of a telecast three years ago haranguing them for being bought-and-paid-for. It's also easily the most fun awards show to watch, annually, with a ballroom full of movie and TV celebrities intermingling and getting boozy, and with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler back as hosts, I can't imagine it will disappoint. At least not when it comes to the evening's festivities. The nominations, as ever, could leave a lot of folks -- especially comedy fans -- bumming.
The biggest difference between the Globes' movie categories and the Oscars is that they split up the Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress categories into Drama and Comedy/Musical. Since we hardly make any musicals anymore, and comedies are always underrepresented when it comes to studios pushing their films for awards, those categories are the least tethered to the prestige-movie narrative of awards season. Sure, that sometimes means the HFPA allow their eyes to glaze over as they throw nominations to the biggest movie stars eligible (Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie's nods for The Tourist were rightly lampooned). But the Globes are also the only place you'll see nominations for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in Best Picture, or Jack Black in School of Rock, or Christina Ricci in The Opposite of Sex. You take the good with the bad, but the good is so worth taking.
This year, because of the unusually large number of prestige Oscar contenders positioning themselves as comedies, there's a chance that the Best Picture, Musical or Comedy could be populated entirely by Oscarbait. Which isn't to say the films won't be worthy. But if you were hoping that The Heat could get some love for being the year's funniest movie, you're probably out of luck.
Best Picture, Drama
The Globes Love Movie Stars is usually the first rationale you go to when trying to predict their nominations. They like to fill up those tables with the best and the brightest. This means very good things not only for Gravity (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney), but also Saving Mr. Banks (Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, and Tom Hanks), Captain Phillips (Hanks again), The Butler (Oprah + everyone), and even something like Dallas Buyers Club (McConaghey and Jennifer Garner). Of course, you can get those stars to show up by recognizing them in the acting categories, so there's always room for more modest star wattage, as is on display in a film like 12 Years a Slave. They don't always go for the Little Sundance Film That Could, though. Beasts of the Southern Wild and Winters Bone were but two indies that nabbed Oscar nominations but couldn't crack the field at the Globes. Which could mean an uphill climb for something like Fruitvale Station. Thus far, it's been the Weinstein Company horse to beat, but if any awards body is going to prioritize The Butler and August: Osage County (the latter competing as a comedy), it'll be the HFPA. For that last spot, I might watch out for something like All Is Lost, or else a rampant crowd-pleaser like Philomena.
Predicted nominees: 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, Saving Mr. Banks, Captain Phillips, All Is Lost.
Dark Horses: Fruitvale Station, The Butler, Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club, Blue Jasmine, Rush.
Best Picture, Musical or Comedy
There are so many major Oscar contenders in this category, at least one of them is going to have to be left out. It won't be American Hustle, whose star-studded lineup seems like it was devised in a lab to attract HFPA votes. Probably won't be The Wolf of Wall Street, which should have enough razzle-dazzle in names like DiCaprio and Scorsese to sail to a nomination. Probably won't be Nebraska, since Alexander Payne has seen nominations for his last three films. August: Osage County is another movie that seems pre-anointed to have its awards hopes salvaged by the Globes, though expect there to be quite a bit of griping about a bleak family saga involving infidelity, substance abuse, suicide, and incest being held up as one of the year's best comedies.
So. One slot to go. Her has been cleaning up with the critics this past week, but it's exactly the kind of movie you'd expect to clean up with the critics. It's less of a perfect fit with the HFPA, though they've gone for Spike Jonze before. In a less competitive year, I'd have bet on it -- or on Ben Stiller's glossy The Secret Life of Walter Mitty or Nicole Holofcener's lovely Enough Said, or Paul Feig's The Heat. But I think I'm hedging with Inside Llewyn Davis. The Globes have had an inconsistent history with the Coens, sometimes nominating them for movies they liked even better than the Academy (The Man Who Wasn't There, O Brother Where Art Thou?), sometimes not seeing what the Oscars later would (A Serious Man, True Grit). In this case, I think they'll end up going for the musicality of it all.
Predicted nominees: American Hustle, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall St., August: Osage County, Inside Llewyn Davis.
Dark Horses: Her, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Before Midnight, Enough Said, The Heat, Frances Ha.
The stargazing doesn't stop just because the category is for those who stand behind the camera. There are "star" directors and there are "name" directors, and while that's not the only reason that Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, and Alexander Payne are the favorites to be nominated, alongside critical faves Alfonso Cuaron and Steve McQueen, it's a big one.
Predicted nominees: Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), Alexander Payne (Nebraska).
Dark Horses: JC Chandor (All Is Lost), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Lee Daniels (The Butler), John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks), Spike Jonze (Her).
Best Actor, Drama
Considering the current state of the Best Actor Oscar race -- a merciless jumble where upwards of nine strong contenders are grabbing for five slots -- splitting the group up among genre lines, however shakily defined, feels like a blessing. And they're divided pretty much in half, too. Robert Redford and Chiwetel Ejiofor have both won critics awards earlier this week, while Michael B. Jordan has been picking up Breakthrough Performer citations all over the place. Jordan is still the new kid on the block, of course, and he could easily be knocked out by veterans like Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey, or Forest Whitaker. In fact, he only has to beat out one of them.
Predicted nominees: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station).
Dark Horses: Forest Whitaker (The Butler), Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
Best Actor, Musical or Comedy
Here's how the other half lives, as the comedy actors are almost a mirror image of their drama counterparts. There is, like Robert Redford, a veteran actor still killing it at an advanced age (Bruce Dern in Nebraska); there is, like Tom Hanks, a movie star doing movie star things like only a movie star can (Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street). There is, like Michael B. Jordan and Chiwetel Ejiofor, a breakthrough actor who has captivated audiences with his charisma and talent (Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis). There is, like Matthew McConaughey, an established actor doing awful things to his body for the sake of the part (Christian Bale in American Hustle). I'm tempted to include Ben Stiller in this group, as a way for the HFPA to recognize the fact that he directed Walter Mitty without giving him a Best Director nomination. Still, I feel like Joaquin Phoenix -- a former winner in this category for Walk the Line -- will hold down the fort for Her here.
Predicted nominees: Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Christian Bale (American Hustle).
Dark Horses: Ben Stiller (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon).
Best Actress, Drama
Of the five former Oscar winners expected to contend for Best Actress, four are categorized in Drama for the Globes. I would be very surprised to see this category shake out and not include Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Emma Thompson, or Judi Dench. But that fifth slot is wiiiiide open, primed for one of those super crazy ScarJo-for-A Love Song for Bobby Long nominations. While it's pretty much impossible to predict who might be the beneficiary of such a wild card (Carey Mulligan for The Great Gatsby?), I've got it whittled down to two likelier suspects. If the Globes act like the Globes and push star power over any semblance of what we've come to understand as quality (at least judging by the reviews out of Toronto), it could actually be Kate WInslet for Labor Day. A good chunk of the bad TIFF reviews said Winslet was good in Jason Reitman's misbegotten effort. If the Globes decide they want to get on the right side of history and help make a star, they could go for Brie Larson for Short Term 12. Come on, HFPA. This is your chance to do something for your fellow man.
Predicted nominees: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), Brie Larson (Short Term 12).
Dark Horses: Kate WInslet (Labor Day), Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman), Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby).
Best Actress, Musical or Comedy
Back when I started bemoaning the state of an Oscarbait-dominated Musical/Comedy lineup, my biggest tears were shed for The Heat, which wasn't only fantastically funny but also a solid buddy flick and a gorgeous showcase for Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. And I was crestfallen at the idea that they might get crowded out of this very category. But as luck would have it, most of the dramedy contenders this year are male-dominated pictures, leaving only Amy Adams (American Hustle) and Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) to front-load this category. Which leaves PLENTY of room for at least McCarthy to nab a nomination. Bullock might have to settle for merely her Gravity nod, though never underestimate the HFPA's affinity for handing out double nominations. Which is why I'm picking Julia Louis-Dreyfus to pick up a nomination here, for Enough Said, to go with her likely nod for Veep in the TV categories. As for the fifth slot, while Before Midnight's Julie Delpy will put up quite a fight, I'm actually allowing myself more optimism than is probably healthy when I predict a nomination for Frances Ha's Greta Gerwig.
Predicted nominees: Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), Amy Adams (American Hustle), Melissa McCarthy (The Heat), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said), Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha).
Dark Horses: Julie Delpy (Before Midnight), Sandra Bullock (The Heat), Melissa McCarthy (Identity Thief), Jennifer Aniston (We're the Millers).
Best Supporting Actor
Aside from prohibitive critical favorites Jared Leto and Michael Fassbender, who are we looking at here? Again, it comes down to big stars vs. lesser stars. Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks? Star. The late James Gandolfini for Enough Said? Star. Bradley Cooper for his borderline lead role in American Hustle? Star. Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street? I know, I know. But: star. If the HFPA wants to be star-makers instead of star-f*ckers, they have quite the selection as well. They wouldn't even have to step out of their Big Hollywood Picture comfort zone to find Daniel Bruhl (Rush) or David Oyelowo (The Butler) or Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips). I'd be surprised if they went for something as strange as Spring Breakers, even to get James Franco in the room (guys: James Franco will show up anyway), but I could see them going for a Will Forte (Nebraska) or a John Goodman (Inside Llewyn Davis) for some cred.
Predicted nominees: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), Tom Hanks (Saving Mr. Banks), Will Forte (Nebraska).
Dark Horses: James Gandolfini (Enough Said), Daniel Bruhl (Rush), David Oyelowo (The Butler), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), John Goodman (Inside Llewyn Davis).
Best Supporting Actress
Absent from the critics-award hoopla thus far has been Oprah Winfrey's performance in The Butler. Which is as expected. The Globes were always going to be the place She would first make Her mark on awards season. Oh, sure, she'll be joined by critics' faves Jennifer Lawrence, June Squibb, and Lupita Nyong'o, but still you try pulling focus from Oprah on Globe night. So already we're down to one open slot. Octavia Spencer should absolutely be on your radar for Fruitvale Station, with a likeable, empathetic performance in one of awards season's favorite roles (loving mother). The other contenders are something of a grab-bag of past HFPA favorites, including Globe winners Julia Roberts (she's won three times), Sally Hawkins (past Best Actress winner for Happy Go Lucky), and Jennifer Garner (table 126!), and Globe favorites Alfre Woodard (nominated for Passion Fish here but not at the Oscars) and Scarlett Johansson (four career nominations). ScarJo would be eligible for her Don Jon performance, but not her voice work in Her, which the HFPA deemed ineligible.
Predicted nominees: Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Oprah Winfrey (The Butler), June Squibb (Nebraska), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County).
Dark Horses: Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Scarlett Johansson (Don Jon), Amy Adams (Her), Alfre Woodard (12 Years a Slave), Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club).