So this was the Golden Globes’ plan for making everybody happy: Expand the number of nominees in every category from five to six.
It’s not a sneaky plan by any means – the Critics Choice Awards, among others, have been doing it for years – but it gives you so much more breathing room when you’re putting together a slate of nominations designed to get the studios, networks and streamers back on your side, which is something the Golden Globes need badly.
After all, doing away with that pesky limit of five nominees per category means you can drop three (!) films largely or partly not in English in your Best Motion Picture – Drama category (“Anatomy of a Fall,” “The Zone of Interest” and “Past Lives”) and still find room for the must-haves “Oppenheimer,” “Barbie” and “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
It lets you include a surprise actress in the comedy category, Alma Poysti from “Fallen Leaves,” without having to cut out favorites and old friends Emma Stone, Margot Robbie, Fantasia Barrino, Natalie Portman and Jennifer Lawrence.
It allows you to have two women in a Best Director category that is usually and infamously man-heavy, Greta Gerwig for “Barbie” and newcomer Celine Song for “Past Lives,” without snubbing Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Yorgos Lanthimos or Bradley Cooper.
The move to super-size the Globe categories may make the awards even less reliable as an Oscar predictor, since the Academy is sticking with that time-honored five-nominees-per-category rule, but it leaves 17% more people (and companies) happy. And let’s face it, making people (and companies) happy is the Golden Globes’ Job 1 at this point.
This, after all, is an awards show that is described this way on the website of CBS, the network that broadcasting its show on Jan. 7: “The Golden Globes come to CBS after its longstanding relationship with NBC ended, and as the award show works to rebuild its credibility under new leadership following a widely publicized scandal and boycotts over allegations of racism and ethical lapses within the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which organized the Globes and voted for years to determine its nominees and winners.”
If your broadcast partner feels compelled to air your dirty laundry, you obviously have some cleanup to do. And that made the nominations for the 81st annual Golden Globes part of a salvage effort, or maybe an attempted rescue. Can they persuade the industry that the Globes, which Hollywood decided it didn’t need back when the HFPA was running the show and the money was largely going to charity, are worth keeping around now that more people are voting and the money is flowing in a different direction?
To that end, Monday morning’s nominations were about as safe and as inclusive as they could possibly be. In almost every category, the newly expanded body of voters played it straight, going for almost all the favorites and staying away from the kind of baffling oversights or curious inclusions that sometimes come with the territory with the HFPA.
The Globes haven’t gotten rid of most of the voters who got them in trouble — about two-thirds of them are still on the voter rolls — but those HFPA vets are now outnumbered by international journalists who have tripled the size of the voters from about 100 to 300.
To be honest, the nominations aren’t all that different from what they would have been with the HFPA, probably. They’re less idiosyncratic, probably, because you can’t deny that the old Globes made some questionable decisions at times. But hey, so do the Oscars. The question is, can we trust that the new questionable choices were made because of the understandable blind spots we all have, rather than because of ethical lapses or studio largesse?
The plan was to make that case, and the nominations more or less did.
“The Color Purple” didn’t get as much love as it might have, losing a presumed spot in the Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy category to “Air,” perhaps, but it was a latecomer to the race, as was “Wonka.” Alexander Payne supporters have a legitimate gripe that he was overlooked in the Best Director category, but he somehow seems above the fray. And Best Screenplay was perhaps the most difficult film category, not finding room for either Payne’s “The Holdovers” or Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction.”
But the few things that qualified as surprises weren’t annoying ones. Poysti delivers a wonderfully deadpan performance in “Fallen Leaves,” a gem worthy of attention. Bruce Springsteen’s song from the little-seen “She Came to Me” is a very affecting ballad that has gotten almost no attention this season, but it warrants a spot in a category that is otherwise chock full o’ “Barbie” tunes. (The Jack Black riff “Peaches” from “The Super Mario Bros.” movie is arguably not so deserving, but we can’t expect the Globes to completely abandon their time-honored tradition of chasing stars).
And in that tradition, there’s the new Cinematic and Box Office Achievement category, which to be honest feels a little desperate. Documentaries are specifically excluded from eligibility for the Globes, and so, specifically, are recordings of live performances, but why stick to those old rules (3a and 3b in the rulebook) when you can nominate Taylor Freakin’ Swift for “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” which may well have just become the first doc ever nominated for a Golden Globe?
Desperate? Well, yeah. But times are tough for “Hollywood’s party of the year” ™, so why not? The salvage project has begun.