Golden Globe Nominations: A Big Day for 'La La Land,' Mel Gibson and France

THR's awards analyst breaks down the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's big announcement.
Courtesy of Dale Robinette/LIONSGATE
'La La Land'

The 74th Golden Globe nominations, which were revealed Monday morning, went more or less as I expected: with a tremendous showing for La La Land (it led the field with seven noms), followed closely behind by Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight, as well as Hacksaw Ridge (the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, rightly or wrongly, never really jumped off the Mel Gibson train) and Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals.

If anything was surprising about the HFPA's picks, it was the extent of their resistance to A-listers. They are famously susceptible to star wattage, but this year they left off their lists Warren Beatty, Kate Beckinsale, George Clooney, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, Jennifer Lawrence, Matthew McConaughey, Helen Mirren, Chris Pratt, Martin Scorsese, Will Smith and the list goes on.

They also embraced an unusual number of films released prior to the year's fourth quarter, among them Deadpool, Florence Foster Jenkins, The Lobster and Sing Street.

Moonlight, ManchesterLion and Hacksaw all were reliable bets for the best drama picture category, but the fifth slot was up for grabs between a number of films. I tipped it for Hidden Figures, but instead it ended up going to Hell or High Water, whose backers had reconciled themselves to the idea that an American Western, of sorts, isn't really the HFPA's cup of tea. The fact that it got in over not only Hidden Figures but also Nocturnal Animals, Arrival, Loving, Silence, Captain Fantastic, Sully, Jackie and many other formidable films is quite a statement.

On the best musical/comedy side, few didn't anticipate the inclusion of La La Land, Florence Foster Jenkins, 20th Century Women and Deadpool, but Sing Street was far from a sure thing for the fifth slot. I'm not sure what happened to Love & Friendship, which many HFPA members loved, or The Edge of Seventeen, The Lobster and Rules Don't Apply, which were recognized elsewhere. But an Irish band movie apparently proved irresistible.

It must be noted that A24 (Moonlight and 20th Century Women), Lionsgate (Hacksaw and La La Land) and the embattled Weinstein Co. (Lion and Sing Street) were the only distributors to land a nomination in both of the best picture categories this year.

The Globes' director and screenplay categories tend to clarify which picture contenders are strongest, since they draw from dramas and musicals/comedies to pick just five directors and five screenwriters. La La Land (Damien Chazelle), Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) and Manchester (Kenneth Lonergan) showed up in both races, as was universally expected. Nocturnal Animals' Ford showed up in both, too, and that makes it a bit harder to understand how that film was not nominated for best drama as well. (Might the brouhaha over Ford's gift of his signature cologne to members have figured in the voting?)

The fifth directing slot went to Hacksaw's Gibson (which, on top of his recent best director Critics' Choice nom, suggests he is back and very much in the race), and the fifth screenplay slot went to Hell or High Water's Taylor Sheridan, rather than any of the screenwriters behind Love & Friendship, 20th Century Women or The Lobster.

The best actor (drama) race long had been expected to pit Manchester's Casey Affleck against Fences' Denzel Washington. They wound up being joined not by Hanks, McConaughey or Keaton, but by Loving's Joel Edgerton, Captain Fantastic's Viggo Mortensen and Andrew Garfield for Gibson's film, rather than Scorsese's Silence, a lengthy and dense exploration of faith that was, in fact, entirely shut out.

The musical/comedy actor field included three of the expected suspects — La La Land's Ryan Gosling, Deadpool's Ryan Reynolds and Florence Foster's Hugh Grant — but not Rules Don't Apply's Beatty or The Comedian's De Niro, who got boxed out by The Lobster's Colin Farrell, an old favorite of the HFPA, and War Dogs' Jonah Hill, whose performance was championed by the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio.

As for the leading ladies on the drama side, Jackie's Natalie Portman, Elle's Isabelle Huppert and Arrival's Amy Adams all came through with widely tipped noms — and were joined by two stars of indie films, Miss Sloane's Jessica Chastain and Loving's Ruth Negga, who held off a widely liked star of a big studio pic, Hidden Figures' Taraji P. Henson.

Their musical/comedy counterparts include, as anticipated, La La Land's Emma Stone 20th Century Women's Annette Bening, Florence Foster's Meryl Streep — plus two young up-and-comers, Rules Don't Apply's Lily Collins and The Edge of Seventeen's Hailee Steinfeld, rather than Love & Friendship's Beckinsale or longtime HFPA favorites Sally Field (Hello My Name Is Doris) or Rene Zellweger (Bridget Jones' Baby).

The supporting acting categories draw from dramas and musicals/comedies. For the supporting men, Moonlight's Mahershala Ali, Hell or High Water's Jeff Bridges and Lion's Dev Patel were slam-dunks; Florence Foster's Simon Helberg wasn't predicted by many; and Nocturnal Animals' Aaron Taylor-Johnson was foreseen by even fewer (most thought his co-star Michael Shannon had the better shot). Hidden Figures' Costner is MIA here, which is a setback for the prospect of him landing his first Oscar nom in 26 years.

As for the supporting women, Fences' Viola Davis, Moonlight's Naomie Harris and Lion's Nicole Kidman will, as expected, be in competition. They are joined by Manchester's Michelle Williams, whose brief performance in her film certainly has not been recognized by every group. And, somewhat surprisingly, in light of the HFPA's general resistance to Hidden Figures, the fifth slot went to the actress who plays the least colorful of that film's three principal parts, but who is perhaps the most talented and charming, Octavia Spencer, who was picked over co-star Janelle Monae, Eye in the Sky's Helen Mirren and 20th Century Women's Greta Gerwig (a Globe nominee four years ago).

La La Land showed up in each of the two music categories — for Justin Hurwitz's score and his song, written with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, "City of Stars," both of which won Critics' Choice awards on Sunday night. On the score side, La La Land will compete against Moonlight, Arrival, Lion and Hidden Figures, and on the song side its starry competition is Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling" (Trolls), Stevie Wonder's "Faith" (Sing), Iggy Pop's "Gold" (Gold) and Lin-Manuel Miranda's "How Far I'll Go" (Moana). It may be a blessing in disguise that a second La La song, "Audition," didn't make the cut, as there's now no chance of that and "City of Stars" undercutting each other. Meanwhile, it's hard to understand how a group that loved Sing Street enough to nominate it for best picture (musical/comedy) didn't nominate any of its songs, but that's the HFPA for you.

The nominated animated films were exactly those that I and most others projected: Moana, Zootopia, Sing, Kubo and the Two Strings and My Life as a Zucchini. And the foreign-language category also basically went as expected, with noms for Germany's Toni Erdmann, France's Elle, Iran's The Salesman and Chile's Neruda — although the fifth nominee was a bit of a surprise, going to the French crime-drama Divines, which is not eligible for the Oscar, because the Academy, unlike the HFPA, limits each country to one submission, and France went with Elle. You can imagine, then, how disappointing it was to many other countries to wake up this morning and find that France had claimed two of the five Globe slots for foreign-language films — two-and-a-half, if you want to count The Salesman, which it co-produced.

The 74th Golden Globe Awards will take place Jan. 8.