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3 winners and 2 losers from the 2019 Golden Globes nominations

Vice, the new Dick Cheney biopic, leads the list for movies, while the TV nominations are as weird as ever.

Golden Globes
Among the big nominees at the Golden Globes were the Amazon series Homecoming, the Dick Cheney biopic Vice, and the superhero saga Black Panther.
Amazon; Annapurna; Marvel

The 2019 Golden Globe nominations are the usual mix of wild, outside-the-box thinking and stubborn attempt to rubber-stamp Oscar frontrunners. And that’s before you get to the always distractible TV categories!

In the movie categories, the as-yet-unreleased Dick Cheney biopic Vice leads the comedy or musical film categories with six nominations, followed by The Favourite and Green Book, both of which received five. Both BlacKkKlansman and A Star Is Born (competing as a drama, despite its musical elements) lead the drama categories with five nominations apiece.

There is also recognition for two of the year’s biggest Hollywood success stories. Black Panther, the first solo superhero film with a black star in Marvel’s current cinematic universe, earned a Best Picture nomination in the drama category, and Crazy Rich Asians, the first major studio film since The Joy Luck Club to feature a predominantly Asian and Asian-American cast, earned a Best Picture nomination in the comedy or musical category.

In the television categories, FX’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story leads the overall pack with four nominations, including Best TV Limited Series. Seven shows — FX’s The Americans, HBO’s Barry, Amazon’s Homecoming, Netflix’s The Kominsky Method, Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, HBO’s Sharp Objects, and Amazon’s A Very English Scandal — received three nominations each to tie for second-most-nominated program.

But there are other stories afoot in the nominations list beyond simply the raw totals. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see some patterns start to emerge — like the three winners and two losers below.

Winner: Vice

Christian Bale plays Dick Cheney in Vice.
If nothing else, the makeup is solid.
Annapurna Pictures

Early screenings of Adam McKay’s Vice — an angry “comedy” about Dick Cheney’s rise to power as vice president under George W. Bush — left critics sharply divided. Some loved the film. Others (myself included) came away with much more negative opinions. (The movie comes out on Christmas Day.)

But it’s clear that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association loved it. The movie earned the most Golden Globes nominations of any film, coming away with nods in six categories: one for Best Comedy or Musical; three acting nods for Christian Bale (who plays Dick Cheney), Amy Adams (who plays Lynne Cheney), and Sam Rockwell (who makes a very fine George W. Bush); and two for McKay as both screenwriter and director.

Whether the film can maintain that momentum through the Oscars may depend on how victorious Vice turns out to be when the Globes are handed out on January 6. The next day, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will begin handing in their ballots for the 2019 Oscar nominations, which will be announced on January 22. Coming fresh off a Globes sweep — or even a strong showing at the awards — could help boost Vice’s chances with the Academy. But it’s possible a snub could have the opposite effect. — Alissa Wilkinson

Winner: new TV shows

Amazon’s Homecoming received several nominations.

As always with the Globes, it was once again that much easier to earn a nomination if your show came out in the past calendar year.

Across the 10 nominees in the Drama and Musical/Comedy series categories, only three shows — drama The Americans (eligible for season six), comedy The Good Place (eligible for seasons two and three), and comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (eligible for season two, which debuted the day before the nominations were announced but screened earlier for press) — are nominated for a season later than their first. And, somewhat remarkably, this is the very first time either The Americans or The Good Place has made it into the series category at the Globes.

Now, the Golden Globes are always distracted by the shiny and new. And when it comes to new shows, the voters mostly picked a solid lineup, including some streaming newcomers (Netflix’s Bodyguard and Amazon’s Homecoming in drama; Netflix’s The Kominsky Method in comedy), some new entrants from pay cable heavyweights (like Showtime’s Kidding and HBO’s Barry, both in comedy), and an eclectic duo of basic cable dramas (BBC America’s Killing Eve and FX’s Pose).

Quite a few of these nominated new series are going to be ones I consider for my year-end “best of TV” list. There are no outright baffling choices in the mix, especially when you factor in how much the Hollywood Foreign Press Association would love to have The Kominsky Method’s Michael Douglas and Kidding’s Jim Carrey show up to their awards ceremony. (Given how much the HFPA has historically loved Carrey, he may even win.)

But TV isn’t defined by the shiny and new most of the time, which runs directly against how the HFPA tends to do things. After all, the awards could just as easily have nominated Better Call Saul in that drama category. Or former Golden Globe darlings like This Is Us, Westworld, and The Handmaid’s Tale. — Todd VanDerWerff

Which brings us to an eternal point ...

Losers: the Golden Globe nominations process for television

The Terror

As with everything Golden Globes, the “nominations process” seems non-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.

And that’s before you get to cases of outright category fraud like the limited series nomination for TNT’s The Alienist, a show that announced a sequel season (or, as we call it in the biz, “a season two”) shortly after earning an Emmy nomination for limited series on the premise that it was a one-off. (Helpful suggestion here: AMC’s icebound The Terror was tremendous TV, and one look at it would tell you the upcoming season two will have to tell a completely different story.)

I like the TV shows that have been nominated for the 2019 Globes (give or take a Kominsky Method — I haven’t finished watching it). I even like most of the limited series that have been nominated. 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 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. — T.V.

Winner: “Relevance”

Laura Harrier and John David Washington in BlacKkKlansman.
BlacKkKlansman received five nominations.
Focus Features

Some of the 2019 Globes’ most-nominated films — including Vice (six nominations), BlacKkKlansman (five), Green Book (five), and If Beale Street Could Talk (three) — share a similar quality: They’re all films set in the past that speak directly to the current political, social, and cultural climate in America.

How successful they are in saying anything about contemporary America depends largely on the audience. The three most-nominated films among them have all divided critics; they’re also the ones that seem the most pointed, even ham-fisted.

Vice uses Dick Cheney’s life and career as a cipher for the rise of a war-hungry Republican Party, and a post-credits tag in which several people start slinging insults at one another — including “libtard” — makes it clear that director and screenwriter Adam McKay is not merely making a historical biopic.

Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, meanwhile, traces the rise of white supremacy mostly through a story about two police officers, one black and one Jewish, who infiltrate a Ku Klux Klan chapter in 1970s Colorado Springs. But many of the conversations its characters have are such obvious references to the era of Donald Trump that the film had foreign audiences howling in recognition at its Cannes debut. And lest you miss the point, the film finishes with several minutes of footage from the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

And while Green Book never reaches the present, the conversations its characters have about race and identity feel like they’re taking notes from 2018. (Unfortunately, the film’s potential for and interest in thoughtful engagement with those ideas gets buried in its missteps.)

Some critics have praised the films anyhow, but I’m highly skeptical that they do more than stroke the audience’s ego. So perhaps one of the reasons that If Beale Street Could Talk — which includes plot points about alleged sexual assault, police brutality, and racial inequality — works so well is that it doesn’t try too hard to be “relevant” to today. Part of the reason for this may be that Barry Jenkins’s Golden Globe-nominated screenplay is adapted from a 1974 novel by James Baldwin, and it feels firmly rooted in that era, content to tell its story without grabbing the audience member by the collar and yelling, “Don’t you see how relevant this is to today?”

The HFPA also nominated plenty of films whose connection to contemporary social conversations is more thematic and less overt — Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, Boy Erased, and The Favourite are all among them. But it’s clear that the organization is interested in movies that speak directly to our time, and might be willing to reward them next month when the awards are handed out. — A.W.

Loser: the songs of Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Poppins and these adorable cherubs aren’t singing. What’s up with that?
Jay Maidment/Disney

Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns — which stars Emily Blunt as the beloved flying nanny, who has returned to London to look after her now-grown charges Michael and Jane — earned four Golden Globes nominations. Both Blunt and her co-star Lin-Manuel Miranda snagged nods for their performances; Marc Shaiman is nominated for his score; and the film earned a berth in the Best Musical or Comedy category as well. (The movie will hit theaters in the US on December 19.)

But there’s one big, glaring omission: No songs from Mary Poppins Returns are nominated in the Original Song category. Shaiman and his long-time co-writer Scott Wittman (the pair co-wrote songs for Smash and Hairspray, among many others) are conspicuously absent from the category. And that’s a little odd, given that Mary Poppins Returns is the only true “musical” nominee in the Best Musical or Comedy category (the other four are non-musical comedies).

The 1964 Mary Poppins was rife with memorable songs: “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Chim Chim Cheree,” “Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag),” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.” But the songs from Mary Poppins Returns, unfortunately, are nowhere near as memorable. At best, they feel like imitations of those from the original film, without nearly as much charm. (The longest musical sequence is set to a song that repeats, over and over, the line “trip a little light fantastic with me,” which does not exactly roll off the tongue.)

To be the only musical nominated in the Best Musical or Comedy category and not have any of your actual songs nominated is a little startling, but it’s fairly indicative of what audiences are in for with Mary Poppins Returns when it comes out in a few weeks. — A.W.

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