Golden Globes: Don't Expect the Academy to Follow the Hollywood Foreign Press' Lead

THR's awards columnist offers a few possible explanations for this morning's nominations.
Screengrab/Scott Free
Christopher Plummer in 'All the Money in the World'

Being nominated for a Golden Globe is like being asked on a date during senior year of high school: It's exciting and flattering and only a good thing, but it doesn't mean it's time to start shopping for a prom outfit — or, in this metaphor, a Oscars ensemble — quite yet.

That's because the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which announced its nominations for the 75th Golden Globe Awards this morning, is a very different group than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which will announce its nominations for the 90th Oscars on Jan. 23. The HFPA is an organization comprising Hollywood-based journalists who write for foreign publications; the Academy is an organization comprising people who work on movies. The HFPA is a small club of 90-something people in which everyone knows each other; the Academy is a sprawling organization of 8,427. (The two groups share only one member in common: 90-year-old actress-turned-journalist Lisa Lu). The HFPA is largely composed of non-Americans; the Academy remains predominately American. And the HFPA gets to nominate twice as many films and lead performers but only half as many screenplays as the Academy.

For all of these reasons, and others, the two organizations approach their ballots very differently, as has been established by their very different choices over the years.

The HFPA, to a greater extent than the Academy, loves high-profile projects with household names, and is trepidatious about indies. This might help to explain the near-total absence of The Florida Project, one of the most critically acclaimed contenders, from its nominations. (Willem Dafoe bagged a supporting actor nom.) It might also clarify the omission of Call Me by Your Name and Get Out from the director and screenplay categories — both films got best picture noms, but the Globes' director and screenplay categories usually reveal which films would have landed best picture noms if there were only five slots, or the minimum number the Academy can nominate in its corresponding category.

Another thing that certainly didn't boost the prospects of Get Out was the recent controversy, raised by its writer-director Jordan Peele, about the Globes' categorization of his film as a musical or comedy, rather than a drama. Whether or not he was correct in his objections to that categorization, it was one made by his own distributor, Universal, and the HFPA would have preferred that it were handled quietly, like other category disputes, rather than in the media.

If that sort of thing can hurt a film with the HFPA, the reverse — flattery — can certainly help it. The HFPA also loves special treatment. Its members are wined, dined, gifted and comped travel. Academy members are not allowed to accept such largesse. Sometimes, its members are also shown movies before others. In the aftermath of recent revelations about Kevin Spacey, Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World was reshot with Christopher Plummer, and only recently wrapped. The HFPA was shown a cut of the film before anyone else — the rest of the media will see it on Friday — and promptly nominated it for best director (Scott), best actress (Michelle Williams) and best supporting actor (Plummer). The film may well deserve the recognition, but it also may have been graded on a curve.

Everyone expected big Globes showings from films like The Shape of Water (the noms leader), The Post, Dunkirk and Lady Bird. So the more interesting thing, to me, was which films "overperformed" or "underperformed," at least based on widespread expectations heading in. I think I, Tonya, from upstart distributor Neon, certainly made a statement with best musical/comedy and actress (Margot Robbie) noms, along with one for supporting actress (Allison Janney). The Disaster Artist, which many assumed would be limited to a musical or comedy actor nom for James Franco, also got a picture nom, as did The Greatest Showman, a late-breaking musical. (No group loves musicals more than the HFPA — it once even nominated Hairspray! for best picture.) Other noteworthy noms include Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya, who largely has been overlooked up to this point, Battle of the Sexes' Steve Carell, who is being pushed for best supporting actor at the Oscars for that film, and Baby Driver's Ansel Elgort for best actor (musical or comedy). It perhaps shouldn't have come as a surprise that the HFPA bestowed a best actress nom upon Helen Mirren for the low-profile The Leisure Seeker, seeing as they've always loved her (see past noms for the likes of Hitchcock and The Hundred-Foot Journey). And, it must be noted, the HFPA is the latest group to endorse a supporting actor nom for The Shape of Water's Richard Jenkins over his co-star Michael Shannon.

Alas, for every film or person that had a good day, another had a bad day. The Big Sick was completely shut out, when musical/comedy picture, actor (Kumail Nanjiani) and screenplay noms had looked likely; I suspect it may rebound with the SAG Awards nominations, but today has got to hurt. The same goes on the drama side for Darkest Hour, which was overlooked for a best drama nom, although leading man Gary Oldman nabbed an actor nom. The musical/comedy Beauty and the Beast may have peaked too early, and the drama Wonder too late — I thought the former's Emma Watson and the latter's Julia Roberts had a shot at lead actress (musical or comedy) and supporting actress noms. And for folks like Wonder Wheel's Kate Winslet, Stronger's Jake Gyllenhaal, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool's Annette Bening, The Meyerowitz Stories (New & Selected)'s Adam Sandler, mother!'s Jennifer Lawrence, Downsizing's Matt Damon and Wonder Woman's Gal Gadot, this was probably a demoralizing — though not totally unexpected — morning, since big names do better with the HFPA than anyone and they still came up short.

Onwards we go!

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