New from Every Movie Has a Lesson by Don Shanahan: EDITORIAL: Lessons and reactions to the 2019 Golden Globe film nominations

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2019 GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATIONS REACTION SPECIAL

Originally published a special edition of “What We Learned This Week” on the Feelin’ Film podcast website, here are my lessons, reactions, and trends from the film selections and nominees of the 2019 Golden Globe Awards as chosen by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Enjoy my editorial rantings and ravings!

LESSON #1: DON’T TAKE THESE AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS TOO SERIOUSLY

This has to be said every year.  The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is a very divergent organization of random different tastes.  The headscratchers you will read about from the full list of nominees is one-part limited scope and two parts popularity contest.  They have money and throw a heck of a party.  That’s it.  Honestly, this awards group and show has no business being the second most-touted and most-promoted awards show of the annual season.  It’s not a good bellwether anymore for prognostication either.  The Screen Actors Guild or Independent Spirit Awards deserve this level of primetime TV stage and attention.  

LESSON #2: A STAR IS BORN WANTS TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY

Much annual buzz is made about the Golden Globes’ loose split of drama and comedy/musical categories that doubles the names of a Best Picture field.  That division does tend to elevate things that probably shouldn’t be there in the first place just because it checks a comedy or musical box.  One clear frontrunner is A Star is Born and it is slotted right where it belongs as a drama.  The easy and lazy thing to do would have been for it to compete (and rake) in the comedy/musical half, but Warner Bros. wanted its prize possession in the drama field.  It’s nominations in the top categories for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress show its strength and respect.

LESSON #3: BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY CAN’T BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY

This is the absolute counterexample from Lesson #2.  Bohemian Rhapsody, a higher audience hit than critical favorite, is going to get crushed in the drama side of the categories.  It is completely outclassed by the other four nominees.  That is the exact kind of movie that should have taken the easier road in the comedy/musical category.  Rami Malek deserves the Best Actor nod he received, not matter which place he got it.  Admittedly, the competition for Malek against Bradley Cooper and Willem Dafoe in drama is probably a tad easier than Christian Bale, Robert Redford, and Viggo Mortensen in comedy, but he’s going to need quite the sentiment to win that popularity contest.

LESSON #4: AMERICAN INDEPENDENT FILMS DON’T PLAY WELL OVERSEAS

In order to be an American indie film that gets Golden Globe nominations, the film needs to play more of the festival circuits overseas.  Cannes Grand Prix winner BlacKkKlansman and Toronto darling If Beale Street Could Talk each Best Picture- Drama nominations and had connected acting nominations (John David Washington, Adam Driver, Regina King).  First Reformed with Best Actor frontrunner Ethan Hawke was shut out entirely.  Even though I look at Lesson #1 and say it’s OK, a film like that still needed a little bit of this TV stage to garner a few more voters for the future Oscar stage.

LESSON #5: VICE AND ROMA ARE POSITIONING THEMSELVES AS SLEEPING GIANTS

A Star is Born has reigned as a big public hit since October, but Adam McKay’s Vice is going to hit us like a ton of bricks come later this month.  Most people haven’t seen it yet, but it’s coming. Annapurna is slow-playing its ace-in-the-hole and the political dramedy leads all film nominees with six total Golden Globe nominations.  Watch out.  It will be interesting to see how this humor plays in red state USA.  On the softer end, Netflix’s Roma crossed over from Best Foreign Language Film to score strong mainstream nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay.  The film is legitimately a dual-category threat for the future Oscars.  Let’s see how well general audiences embrace its heavy drama once it debuts on its streaming service.

LESSON #6: BEFORE OR AFTER THE OSCARS, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT TOKENISM

I’m as happy as the next movie fan to see Black Panther getting its due respect as a Best Picture- Drama nominee at the Golden Globes.  It represents genre film and diversity on many levels.  We should celebrate that it has transcended stigmas to earn that seat at the table.  Unfortunately, the cliche is coming that the “nomination is its reward.”  It’s there, but it’s not going to win.  Casual fans need to come to terms with that in a few ways.  One, the film has its flaws that objectively keep it from being the outright Best Picture of the year.  Some folks can’t see that.  Second, until a genre film not named The Lord of the Rings can break the glass ceiling to win, these inclusions are going to pile up and feel like thrown bones to fans just for ratings.  They are going to feel like tokenism to appease people and, unfortunately, specific demographics.  Someday, the right film is going to surge, fantasy elements be damned, to a level of quality and critical praise that can’t be denied.  Black Panther isn’t that film, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.  That said, until a true victory comes, these can feel like steps on an unnecessarily endless ladder.

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