Tom Beasley argues that the Golden Globes do not deserve their position as a major awards ceremony and Oscars precursor…
The film world briefly lit up with awards excitement earlier today with the announcement of the nominations for the 2018 Golden Globes. It was Guillermo del Toro’s warm and wildly enjoyable fantasy romance The Shape of Water that led the field, with seven nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Also featured prominently were Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Christopher Nolan’s war thriller Dunkirk and gay romance Call Me By Your Name. It was a less exciting day for those behind The Florida Project, which was shut out in all of the major categories, with the exception of Willem Dafoe for Best Supporting Actor.
The eyebrow-raiser, though, was the appearance of Jordan Peele’s potent horror satire Get Out, which popped up in several of the comedy categories, including Best Film and Best Actor for Daniel Kaluuya.
For awards season nerds – this writer included – the Golden Globes are the odd duck of the run-up to the Oscars. It’s a ceremony that makes strange choices and often seems to be more interested in who the HFPA can get on the red carpet than in awarding the best films and filmmaking of the year gone by. The ceremony only has a 60% record for predicting the Best Picture Oscar over the last 20 years, despite the fact it always has two bites at the cherry.
The issue with the Golden Globes comes down to this distinction between films that fall into its ‘Drama’ categories and those that are positioned in the ‘Musical or Comedy’ field. Every year, this creates a strange situation where films that have anything more than a couple of chuckles rippling through the audience in their early screenings are thrown into the ‘Musical or Comedy’ categories.
This hides them from the big hitters in the dramatic categories, whether that’s fair or not. It’s a cowardly move from distributors seeking to avoid the competition of the more crowded categories. Comedy supremo Judd Apatow has described this sort of strategy as a “punk move” in the past – and it’s tough to disagree with him.
On the face of it, though, this sort of category fraud can feel like a good thing for movies like Get Out, which would have been unlikely to even get a nomination in the ‘Drama’ category. A couple of years ago, Ridley Scott’s The Martian won two awards at the Golden Globes thanks to its perhaps undeserved classification as a comedy. It wouldn’t have come close to those prizes had it been competing against The Revenant or Spotlight, which won that year’s Oscar for Best Picture. If lighter movies want awards season attention, they have to compete as comedies.
However, this flies in the face of actual comedy films. The genre is notoriously under-represented at awards ceremonies. In the last 20 years, only three winners of the Golden Globe award for ‘Musical or Comedy’ have gone on to win the big prize at the Academy Awards. The Golden Globe category is a rare opportunity for comedy to shine, so it must be frustrating for comedy filmmakers to see their work being usurped and minimised by films that simply have a few funny lines in the script.
All of that brings us back to the issue of how useful, or in this case useless, the Golden Globes are as a tool for predicting the Oscars. The problems are twofold. Firstly, the category split inflates the perceived chances of films that never really stand a chance, from The Kids Are All Right in 2010 to American Hustle in 2013. These films are given a credence in the race they don’t necessarily deserve, which makes picking a winner tougher.
Secondly, splitting the ‘Drama’ category and the ‘Musical or Comedy’ movies stifles the competition between the different runners. Last year, for example, La La Land and Moonlight competed in separate categories at the Golden Globes, so that ceremony gave no insight into which of those two films was a more likely winner. The same is likely to be true this year, where the highly-fancied Lady Bird is competing in the ‘Musical or Comedy’ category, away from the likes of The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
This is particularly a problem in this year’s acting races. On the male side of things, James Franco’s comedic turn as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist will be kept separate from competitors like Timothée Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name and Daniel Day-Lewis for Phantom Thread, which will be his final screen performance. It’s true for the women, too, with Saoirse Ronan’s Lady Bird work kept away from a highly competitive race against Frances McDormand (Three Billboards), Meryl Streep (The Post) and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water).
The Golden Globes are essentially useless in predicting the Academy Awards, as they obscure the true competition that will be present at the Oscars. More than any of the other glamorous ceremonies during awards season, the Globes are a distracting explosion of glitter and noise that signify very little indeed.
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.