Golden Globes: Which Contenders Are Makin' 'Em Laugh (Or Sing)?

Funny_Globes_Illo - THR - H 2016
Illustration by: Scotty Reifsnyder

Are you a filmmaker with a comedy who's looking for some awards love? Then be thankful that the Golden Globes exist.

Comedy always has been something of an unwelcome guest at the Oscars. With rare exceptions, it's mostly overlooked. But it's quite another story at the Globes, since the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group of 85 L.A.-based journalists for international publications whose votes determine Globe nominees and winners, separates dramas from musicals or comedies.

The Academy doesn't do that, of course. Because it long has had a preference for "serious" films, most of the loudest Oscar buzz generally centers on movies that also show up in the Globes' drama categories.

This year is no exception: The vast majority of heavy-hitting Oscar hopefuls also will be vying for noms in the Globes' drama categories. Among them: A24's Moonlight, Roadside Attractions/Amazon's Manchester by the Sea, CBS Films' Hell or High Water, Focus Features' Loving, Fox's Hidden Figures, Fox Searchlight pair The Birth of a Nation and Jackie, Lionsgate's Hacksaw Ridge, Paramount twosome Arrival and Fences, Warner's Sully and The Weinstein Co.'s Lion.

By contrast, there are only a handful of likely Oscar hopefuls lining up to compete in the Globes' musical or comedy contest. Lionsgate's light-as-air La La Land is the big gorilla in the race, certain to show up across the board with Globe noms for picture, actor (for Ryan Gosling) and actress (Emma Stone). But after that, there are a lot of question marks. The backers of 20th Century Women (A24), Rules Don't Apply (Fox) and Florence Foster Jenkins (Paramount) hope those films will register multiple noms as well, but they easily could be limited to acting recognition for Annette Bening, Warren Beatty and Meryl Streep, respectively. (The HFPA, we know, loves its A-listers.)

That leaves a slew of slots in the musical or comedy categories for films and performers that as yet haven't received much awards attention — or even buzz — elsewhere, but that have, effectively, been hiding in plain sight and could emerge suddenly when Globe nominations are announced Dec. 12. And that, in turn, could give them the boost they need to become Oscar contenders, since the Globes will be held Jan. 8, right in the middle of the Jan. 5-13 voting period for Oscar noms.

According to HFPA sources, 2016's version of 2012's Salmon Fishing in the Yemen — an under-the-radar, early-in-the-year release that took everyone by surprise when it landed musical or comedy picture, actor and actress Globe noms — could be one of two international productions released in May, each directed by an auteur and starring long-established HFPA favorites from abroad.

The first is A24's The Lobster, a dark comedy about dating rituals written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and starring Colin Farrell (who got a Globe nom for the comedy In Bruges, for goodness' sake) opposite Rachel Weisz (who won a Globe for the drama The Constant Gardener and was nominated for the drama The Deep Blue Sea). The second is Fox Searchlight's sun-drenched story of seduction along the Mediterranean, A Bigger Splash, directed by Luca Guadagnino and featuring memorable performances by Ralph Fiennes (a five-time Globe nominee, most recently for the comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Tilda Swinton (a three-time Globe nominee, most recently for the drama We Need to Talk About Kevin).

Other formidable contenders include Tim Miller's genre-subverting comic book movie Deadpool (Fox), along with its leading man, Ryan Reynolds; John Carney's commercial disappointment Sing Street (The Weinstein Co.), which nonetheless has loyal fans; and Ben Falcone's The Boss (Universal), a broad comedy starring Melissa McCarthy, who last year carried the comedy Spy to a Globes best picture nom and landed her first acting nom for it as well. The prospects for several other films are more iffy: There's Christopher Guest's latest mockumentary, Mascots (Netflix), which is getting a big push despite the filmmaker's prior films, with their love-it-or-hate-it humor, having a weak track record at the Globes (Best in Show is the only one that was nominated in this category). Ethan Coen and Joel Coen's Hail, Caesar! (Paramount) and Woody Allen's Cannes opener Cafe Society (Sony Pictures Classics) both boast big-name directors and casts but widely were dismissed as trifles when released this year and largely have been forgotten. And Shane Black's The Nice Guys (Warner Bros.), a silly popcorn movie, still could earn a mention because it stars Gosling and Russell Crowe.

There also are many big-name performers who have stronger shots than their films — several of whom are longtime Globe darlings. Take, for instance, 11-time nominee and two-time Globe winner Sally Field, for her nutty office worker in Hello, My Name Is Doris (Roadside Attractions); Kate Beckinsale, who does career-best work as a conniving 18th century widow in Whit Stillman's Love & Friendship (Roadside Attractions/Amazon); two-time nominee Viggo Mortensen, who is unforgettable as a survivalist, of sorts, in Matt Ross' Captain Fantastic (Bleecker Street); six-time nominee and two-time winner Renee Zellweger, who returns to a familiar part for which she has been nominated before, in Sharon Maguire's Bridget Jones's Baby (Universal); Susan Sarandon, as a busybody matriarch in The Meddler (Sony Classics); past Globe nominee Greta Gerwig, playing "the other woman" in Rebecca Miller's Maggie's Plan (Sony Classics); and six-time nominee, two-time winner and past Globes host Tina Fey as an accidental war correspondent in Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Paramount).

And, if the HFPA accepts the notion that first-quarter releases Born to Be Blue, I Saw the Light and Miles Ahead are musicals, rather than dramatic biopics about late musicians Chet Baker, Hank Williams and Miles Davis, respectively (an approach that has worked in the past for Ray, Walk the Line and Inside Llewyn Davis but not for Get On Up), then you can add their respective stars Ethan Hawke, Tom Hiddleston and Don Cheadle to the list.

In other words, there are no shortage of films and performers who may be long shots for Oscar consideration (because the Academy tends to lack a sense of humor) but who have a very realistic shot of showing up at the Golden Globes, which, whatever its shortcomings, values laughter just as much as tears.



An American in Paris (1951)
This musical starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron bested A Streetcar Named Desire for the Oscar.

The Apartment (1960)
Billy Wilder's black-and-white masterpiece starred Jack Lemmon opposite Shirley MacLaine.

Tom Jones (1963)
This British import became the first since Hamlet, 15 years earlier, to win the best picture Oscar.

The Sound of Music (1965)
With 10 Oscar noms and $158 million gross ($1.2 billion today), it was a lock for best picture.

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Some still grumble about the Oscar win for a film centered on a black man working for a white woman.

Chicago (2002)
It had been 34 years since a musical had won best picture until Rob Marshall's film went all the way.

Gigi (1958)
Caron was at the center of what widely is considered the last great MGM musical.

West Side Story (1961)
The Broadway hit was adapted for film by director Robert Wise and choreographer Jerome Robbins.

My Fair Lady (1964)
Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison reinterpreted Pygmalion for director George Cukor.

Oliver (1968)
The Brits returned to the winner's circle with Carol Reed's adaptation of the Dickens-based musical.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)
This Harvey Weinstein-championed film won the Oscar over Saving Private Ryan.

The Artist (2011)
This love letter to Hollywood's silent era was made by a team of French artists (and a dog).

This story first appeared in a November standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.