Golden Globes: Inside the Genre and Category Deliberations, From 'Promising Young Woman' to 'Borat Subsequent Moviefilm'

News of the World
Universal Pictures

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association's reminders list committee is in the midst of its process of reviewing distributor preferences for the Golden Globes categorization of 2020 films (drama or musical/comedy?) and performances (lead or supporting?), which will continue through their screening deadline of Jan. 26.

In the meantime, as Variety was the first to report (here and here), the most consequential decisions made by the committee so far have been to (a) overturn Focus' submission of Promising Young Woman as a musical/comedy — made at the request of filmmaker Emerald Fennell, who describes it as a very dark comedy — forcing the film to compete as a drama; (b) deem Disney+'s Hamilton eligible in the musical/comedy film categories at the Globes, even though it will not be eligible for the Oscars at all; and (c) insist that Amazon classify all four of its One Night in Miami stars as lead or supporting — the distributor opted for the latter — even though two are being pushed as leads and two for as supporting actors for other awards contests.

However, contrary to the earlier reporting, the HFPA has, for the very most part, deferred to studio preferences this year.

The Hollywood Reporter, having spoken to multiple people involved in the decision-making process, can confirm that there was, in fact, no committee questioning of Netflix's submission of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom as a drama, as opposed to a musical/comedy, even though music is central to its story. And there was no objection within the committee to Netflix's decision to enter all members of the ensemble cast of The Trial of the Chicago 7 as supporting actors, as it is doing for the Oscars, as well.

Meanwhile, 12-year-old newcomer Helena Zengel, for her performance in Universal's News of the World, was, in fact, submitted and immediately approved for the supporting actress category, and there was no committee objection whatsoever. (The HFPA, even more than the film Academy, tries to keep child performers in its supporting categories, not least to preserve room for as many "big names" as possible in the leading categories).

Amazon's Borat Subsequent Moviefilm breakout Maria Bakalova was not moved by the committee from the supporting category to the lead actress (musical/comedy) category. After receiving indications that the committee might object to the alternative classification, Amazon opted not to court a debate.

And Saoirse Ronan of Neon's Ammonite was submitted for the supporting actress category, not moved there.

Additionally, there was never any discussion of A24's Minari contending outside of the best foreign-language film, given that it clearly meets the existing criteria for that category and, correspondingly, as THR previously reported, its distributor/filmmakers submitted it there.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which votes on the Oscars, does not divide films by genre and defers to the votes of its acting branch when it comes to performance classifications. And the nominating committee of SAG-AFTRA, which determines the SAG Awards nominations, merely defers to studio preferences.

But the HFPA has a formal review process, described in its own bylaws as follows: "When the award entry period is completed, HFPA members review all entries to determine whether the initial entries were made in the appropriate award categories. The members of HFPA's reminders list committee initially review the draft reminders list for entry errors and omissions and to spot potential misclassification issues. HFPA's reminders list committee members will attempt to correct such entry errors... committee members may contact the studio or publicist submitting a motion picture or television program to discuss those issues and to resolve them informally. The studio or publicist submitting the motion picture or television program also may be asked to submit materials in support of any classifications that the reminders list committee member believes should be submitted to the full HFPA Active and Lifetime membership for discussion."

The rule continues, "If the committee believes that a motion picture or television program may have been misclassified as either a drama or a comedy, the committee will ask the director(s) of the motion picture or television program to submit a letter justifying the initial classification as drama or comedy for submission to the full Active and Lifetime membership and for other appropriate use. Issues that cannot be resolved informally are then presented, along with the revised draft reminders list and any materials submitted in support of specific classifications, to the full HFPA Active and Lifetime membership."