Golden Globe Noms: HFPA Goes Legit, At Risk of Offending Old Friends (Analysis)

Alicia Vikander and Johnny Depp Split - H 2015
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A day after SAG-AFTRA announced some of the strangest SAG Award nominations in the event's 22-year history, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association weighed in with its own nominees, for the 73rd Golden Globe Awards.

Many of the highest-profile awards hopefuls who hit the panic button after being excluded on Wednesday morning — such as The Martian's Matt Damon, Joy's Jennifer Lawrence, Concussion's Will Smith, Youth's Jane Fonda, The Big Short's Steve Carell, The Lady in the Van's Maggie Smith, Creed's Sylvester Stallone, Grandma's Lily Tomlin, Love & Mercy's Paul Dano and The Hateful Eight's Jennifer Jason Leigh — got far better news on Thursday morning.

Why? Partly because the 82 members of the HFPA have twice as many acting slots to allocate as the SAG Awards' 2,250 nominating committee members, and partly because the HFPA, rather famously, loves "palling around" with movie stars. For these reasons — and because only one member of the HFPA also is a member of the Academy, 88-year-old actress-turned-journalist Lisa Lu — it's important not to read too much into the Oscar implications of the Globes announcement. (In other words, Danny Collins' Al Pacino and Spy's Melissa McCarthy need not keep their schedules open for Oscar night.)

The people who should be paying close attention to the Globes announcement are the movie stars who didn't make the cut, some of whom gave worthier performances than others. There was a time, not that long ago, when it seemed that Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie Pitt could get Globe noms for anything — specifically, that time was when they both got nominated for 2010's The Tourist, a piece of garbage that also was nominated itself. But this year, Depp was not nominated for Black Mass (in fairness, his category was jam-packed with talent) and Jolie Pitt was not nominated for By the Sea (in fairness, that movie left a lot to be desired), hammering home the point that this isn't your grandma's — or even your five-years-younger-self's — HFPA.

Yes, the HFPA still loves to be a kingmaker. We see this more than anywhere in the television categories, where they compulsively nominate and then honor the most buzzed-about new shows, whether or not they have staying power (see: Brooklyn Nine-Nine), largely so they can say "First!" And it's a proclivity that also turns up on the film side, where there never was any doubt that they would embrace this year's "It" girls: Room's Brie Larson, Trainwreck's Amy Schumer, Brooklyn's Saoirse Ronan, Carol's Rooney Mara and especially Alicia Vikander — a European, like many HFPA members — who was nominated for both The Danish Girl (in lead) and Ex Machina (in supporting), as predicted here, if nowhere else.

But, over the last few years, the HFPA's picks overall have gotten a lot less objectionable (read: star-whorish), thanks in large part to the influence of younger members — such as Theo Kingma, who served as president from 2013 to 2015 — who sought to move away from Pia Zadora-like selections and toward legitimacy. In years past, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who have been loyal hosts of the Globes, would have been rewarded with noms for Sisters; Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper would've made the cut for Our Brand Is Crisis and Burnt, respectively, even if their movies were flops; and Quentin Tarantino, an old friend of the group, would have landed more than screenplay and supporting actress (Leigh) noms for The Hateful Eight, even if members do have major reservations about the film. But, it would appear, those days are over, or at least on extended hiatus, as none of those things happened.

Don't get me wrong: There still will be plenty of big stars at the Globes party on Jan. 10 — after all, in addition to the individual noms, the film nominees include The Big Short (Brad Pitt is a producer and star who presumably will bring Jolie Pitt to the show), Joy (nominee Lawrence might be joined by fellow actors from the film: Cooper, Robert De Niro, etc.), The Martian (nominee Matt Damon could be joined by Jessica Chastain and others), Spotlight (meaning Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and company will be on hand even though they were all snubbed, the men for the second day in a row) and the list goes on.

But, this year, that is a byproduct of smart choices rather than a driver of poor choices. In other words, it's harder than ever to question the motives of the HFPA or the merits of its picks. And with individual noms also accorded to low-key talents like 99 Homes' Michael Shannon (a SAG and Globe nominee this year!) and The Lady in the Van's Maggie Smith (a guaranteed no-show), who would want to?