If nothing else, the first Golden Globes ceremony of the 2020s will have many of Hollywood’s biggest stars attending. Brad Pitt will be there for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon will be there for The Morning Show. And remember affable ol’ George Clooney? He’ll be there for Catch-22, the miniseries he produced and directed in part.
You might notice that many of those names, movie stars though they may be, will be attending the 2020 Globes ceremony for TV projects. That fact reflects a very strange divide slowly opening up within the Golden Globes.
Traditionally an organization that prides itself on getting big stars to come to its ceremony and on offering a somewhat accurate (but not actually that accurate) prediction of the Oscars, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has found its two primary goals hotly divided in an era when the Oscars increasingly reward smaller films that don’t always have high-wattage star power.
Fortunately, the streaming era means lots of big stars are trying TV on for size. But a lot of these celebs’ shows aren’t very good. The Morning Show is passably entertaining, but one of the five best drama series on TV? No. And Catch-22 — did you even remember that existed? (Did you even know it existed?) And this shift to pushing star-driven TV projects means that some of the actual best stuff on TV, series ranging from Netflix’s When They See Us and Russian Doll to HBO’s Watchmen, gets left out in the cold.
But there are bright spots here, especially in the HFPA’s increased willingness to embrace movies made in languages other than English, and especially if you work for Netflix’s marketing department. So with all of that in mind, let’s look at four winners and five losers from the 2020 Golden Globes nominations.
Winners: Foreign language films
Despite the shadowy group known as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association handing out the Golden Globes every year, until very recently, foreign language films haven’t often gotten a lot of love at the awards ceremony outside of the specific foreign language film category.
But that’s changing. Last year, the Mexican film Roma nabbed nominations for not only Best Foreign Language Feature, but also screenplay and director; this year, Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s social thriller/horror Parasite — popular with both critics and audiences — picked up three nominations, including Best Foreign Language Feature and two in the so-called “major” categories: one for director and one for screenplay. It didn’t pick up a nomination in either of the main best feature film categories, but Parasite has been making inroads with critics’ groups as well, and those who watch the Oscars race think it has a strong chance of being nominated in many of the Academy Awards’ major categories next month.
These Globes nominations will push Parasite a little further down that path. And if Roma is any indication, they may be a harbinger of Oscar gold. Roma took home both the Best Foreign Language and Best Director awards from the Globes last year, and it eventually won Oscars in both of those categories, along with cinematography (and garnering seven other nominations).
In a more surprising pick, the HFPA nominated Lulu Wang’s heartfelt family comedy-drama The Farewell in the Best Foreign Language category — an interesting move, since both the film’s funding and its star Awkwafina are American, and a substantial portion of the movie is in English. But the majority of the dialogue is in Mandarin, which means it counts as enough of a foreign language film to be nominated in the category at the Globes, while Awkwafina nabbed a nomination for her role. The Oscars won’t be nominating the movie in the same category come January, as the rules around the matching category — now called “Best International Feature” — stipulate that the movie must be produced outside the US, and additionally require individual countries to nominate a single film from their country. (China’s selection is the animated film Ne Zha.) —Alissa Wilkinson
Winner: Apple TV+
Apple TV+ is among the bumper crop of new streaming services debuting in the next year, such as Disney+ and the upcoming HBO Max. But when it debuted on November 1, Apple TV+’s offerings earned tepid reviews. A particular failure with critics was The Morning Show, a workplace drama set at a morning TV news show and starring Steve Carell, Jennifer Aniston, and Reese Witherspoon. The show tries to explore issues around workplace sexual harassment, predators and their enablers, and the Me Too movement. It improves in later episodes (I’ve watched it), but the show stumbled out of the gate, a fact that its producers tried to blame, somewhat disingenuously, on critics being “Apple haters.”
However specious that argument may be, you know who isn’t an Apple hater? The Hollywood Foreign Press Association. It sent The Morning Show home with three nominations: two for stars Witherspoon and Aniston, and one for Best TV Drama, which is no small accomplishment for a new streaming service. It’ll be competing with favorites like Big Little Lies, The Crown, Killing Eve, and Succession, but the nominations suggest there’s life in Apple TV+ — or at least that Apple knows how to campaign for an award well. —AW
Netflix has worked hard to position itself as a major studio (it joined the MPAA last year following the Oscars) and awards contender, with last year’s Roma covering itself in glory throughout the season. Roma’s strong showing seems to have lit a fire under the streaming giant, which propelled itself into awards season this year with a slate of prestige movies, both films the company produced and films it acquired, including at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
And that investment seems to be paying off. While some of Netflix’s smaller films (like Atlantics and I Lost My Body) have largely been getting attention from critics’ groups, three big contenders have emerged on the film side, all of which received multiple Globe nominations. Martin Scorsese’s mobster epic The Irishman, which reportedly cost Netflix a whopping $175 million to make, nabbed five nominations: screenplay, director, two supporting actors (Joe Pesci and Al Pacino), and best drama. Noah Baumbach’s divorce dramedy Marriage Story brought home six nominations, for its score, screenplay, three performances (Laura Dern, Adam Driver, and Scarlett Johansson), and best drama. And The Two Popes, which opened in limited theaters on November 27 but won’t start streaming on Netflix until December 20, earned four, for its screenplay, two performances (Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce), and best drama.
All three films are likely to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, which is almost certainly Netflix’s endgame. And The Irishman and Marriage Story are both strong contenders for the top spot. But they not only just face a crowded field of competitors, ranging from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to Parasite; they may also face anti-Netflix bias from some members of the Academy. The industry is changing, but it’s not clear yet what the end result will be. — AW
Loser: The Globes’ status as TV awards arbiters
As with everything Golden Globes, the “nominations process” seems like it’s not shady — members mostly vote on their favorite TV shows and movies — while also so clearly being (at best) distracted by anything new, and (at worst) corrupted by networks desperate to promote their new shows by any means necessary that it starts to smell a little fishy.
But regardless of whether you view the awards as hopelessly corrupt or just sort of silly, it’s undeniable Globes voters are frequently swayed by the sorts of TV shows that land on magazine covers, not the ones that are actually, objectively “the best” (whatever that means). The awards ceremony has an aversion to genre series (the Watchmen snub; Kit Harington’s nomination for Game of Thrones marks not just the show’s sole nomination but its first nomination for a performance since 2012). It loves star-studded follies (The Morning Show, Big Little Lies). And it always has more of an eye on new TV than the Emmys seem to, regardless of critical acclaim (The Morning Show, again).
For many years (and we’re talking, like, back in the 1990s and 2000s), that predilection for nominating new things meant the Globes were sometimes held up by TV fans as cooler than the Emmys, which has always been staid and stuck in its ways. But as the amount of TV shows has exploded in the past decade, the Emmys has seemed like it’s trying to keep pace and the Globes has been caught flat-footed, increasingly trapped by its own evident lack of interest in trying to reward artistically relevant TV in favor of stuff that might allow famous actors to turn up at their awards ceremony.
This is an old problem. I’ve written at least some version of this blurb every year since 2014 (when I joined Vox), and the Globes’ horrible TV taste has only gotten worse. What’s more, the HFPA has shown no interest in updating its nominating process to reflect and correct these issues.
Do the Globes nominate good shows? Sure. Maybe Succession will vanquish the more Globes-y choice of The Morning Show and make people huff about how the Emmys would never pick such a cool show. But I never come away from a list of Golden Globes TV nominations thinking that it recognizes even close to the best of what was on TV in the last year, not in the way that the Emmys, at least, tell me which shows people in the TV industry would most like to be working on.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association can and should do better when it comes to TV, but it’s also clear the organization will forever view the TV awards as a value-add to its star-studded movie-awarding package. —Emily VanDerWerff
Winner: Politically relevant contenders
Perhaps it’s no shocker, in 2019, that a number of the Golden Globe contenders seem unusually primed to contribute to cultural conversations with political implications. And it’s still not clear whether that’s a draw or a detraction for the voters.
Yet it’s noticeable that the Globes, which have in recent years led to political backlash and campaign speculation, includes a number of nominated movies and shows that take aim directly at hot-button issues which will animate much of the next year’s political discourse. Joker, from director Todd Phillips, landed four nominations (for score, director, best drama, and Joaquin Phoenix’s performance); the film is a muddled but angry look at inequality and elitism.
Bombshell, about the Fox News women who took down Roger Ailes over sexual harassment, nabbed two nominations, for stars Margot Robbie and Charlize Theron. Richard Jewell, which tells the story of the man unjustly accused of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic bombing, plays like an anti-FBI and anti-journalist drama; it picked up one nomination for Kathy Bates, who plays Jewell’s mother.
The Two Popes weaves into its narrative a look at recent scandals in the Roman Catholic Church as well as a conversation about world inequality and global immigration; it nabbed four nominations. The Morning Show, with its exploration of the Me Too movement and the complexities of workplace sexual harassment policies, took home three nominations. And Unbelievable, a Netflix drama about the struggle that survivors of sexual assault face with those who don’t believe their stories, earned three nominations: two for stars Kaitlyn Dever and Merritt Weaver, and one for best limited series.
None of these spend much time naming specific contemporary political figures, such as Donald Trump; they’re all trying to bring context to current issues, some more successfully than others. But even if none of them win in their categories, they’ll offer stars and presenters at the Globes on January 6 an opportunity to start 2020 with what will most likely dominate the year, inside and outside of the entertainment world: political speeches. —AW
Loser: When They See Us
One big exception to Netflix’s good morning of Globe nominations was limited dramatic series When They See Us, which went home empty-handed. The four-episode series, directed by Ava DuVernay (Selma, 13th, A Wrinkle in Time), dramatized the events around the Central Park Five, the five teenage boys who were accused of attacking and raping a female jogger in Central Park in 1988. All five served jail time, but DNA evidence later showed that they were not involved, and the convictions of all five were vacated.
The show made a substantial impact when it debuted on May 31, causing, in particular, issues for the case’s prosecutor Linda Fairstein, who was dropped by her book publisher and targeted by a boycott campaign on Twitter in reaction to the series; she also resigned from the board of her alma mater, Vassar. The show earned universal acclaim from critics and went on to receive 10 Emmy nominations, and star Jharrel Jerome won for his lead performance at the ceremony in September.
But it didn’t make a dent in the Globes, which went for limited series like Chernobyl, Fosse/Verdon, Unbelievable, and The Loudest Voice instead. The Central Park Five have remained in the news because of President Trump’s continued doubling down on his questioning of the five now-exonerated men, whose execution he called for in full-page ads in 1989. It seems that the Globes’ love this year of politically relevant nominees only goes so far. —AW
Loser: TV performers of color
Among the Oscar predicting set, there’s a vague set of alarm bells going off. For all of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ efforts to diversify its membership, this year’s awards sure look like they’re going to be much, much whiter than the last few ceremonies. Most major Oscar predictors foresee a fairly white lineup ahead of us. Another #OscarsSoWhite seems unlikely — if nothing else, a nomination for Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers seems safe — but an #OscarsAlmostAllWhite? That could happen.
The HFPA does not seem particularly interested in diversity in the way the Oscars are, but the Globes nominations suggest that the organization did what it could to fight back against this trend this year — but only in the movie categories.
Where the movie categories saw actors of color both expected — Lopez, Awkwafina for The Farewell — and unexpected (Ana de Armas of Knives Out) nominated, the TV acting categories were kind of a disaster in this regard by comparison. Three actors of color were nominated (Rami Malek for Mr. Robot, Billy Porter for Pose, Ramy Youssef for Ramy), but you’ll note that they’re all men. That’s three names, sure, but three whole performers across a list of 40 names in total is pretty paltry.
Worse, to not nominate more performers of color on TV requires essentially pretending some of the best work on TV doesn’t exist. The Globes totally ignored Netflix’s When They See Us and its Emmy-award winning champion Jharrel Jerome, for instance; the awards also failed to recognize Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh, their Actress in a Drama Series winner from last year. And while Watchmen was probably too forthrightly comic book-y for the Globes to really take a shine to it, Regina King, at least, should have gotten a nomination for her work.
A big reason other awards shows end up “so white” is because the earlier precursor awards that narrow the field of performers to seven or eight major contenders often narrow actors of color right out of that field. The Globes did whatever its part is to make sure that doesn’t happen at this year’s Oscars, but they seem to have completely blanked on doing so for future TV awards. —EV
Cats hasn’t screened yet for critics, but the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has seen it. And a movie like Cats — a star-studded screen adaptation of the wildly popular Andrew Lloyd Webber musical — looks, at least on the surface, like clear goofy Globes bait. This is doubly true since the awards maintain a separation between drama and comedy or musical in many film categories, which clears a path for movies like Cats to thrive, or at least get a nod.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Cats at least followed the path of The Greatest Showman two years ago and picked up a few nominations, perhaps for its cast (which includes everyone from Idris Elba and Judi Dench to Jennifer Hudson and James Corden), or in the Best Comedy or Musical category.
Alas, no such luck. The only nomination the movie nabbed was Best Original Song, for the “Beautiful Ghosts,” written for the movie by Webber and Taylor Swift, who also stars in the film. (With that pedigree, it was practically guaranteed a nomination.) It’s not an encouraging sign for the movie, which opens on December 20. Time will tell. —AW
Loser: Disney’s efforts to brand The Lion King as not an animated movie
Can confirm Disney did not submit The Lion King as animated film for the #GoldenGlobes. HFPA did this on their own. Hilarious.— Gregory Ellwood - The Playlist (@TheGregoryE) December 9, 2019
The 2019 version of The Lion King — the one with the photorealistic computer-animated animals — won’t be up for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, because Disney chose not to submit it there. But the HFPA doesn’t care about what Disney wants! The HFPA cares only about trolling the world, and in this case, it nominated Lion King for its own animated feature prize, something that is absolutely delightful. So at least there’s one bright spot in this list of losers. —EV