I spent yesterday morning wincing anew when I revisited this year’s Golden Globe nominations—generally a celebration of mediocrity surrounded by the occasional gem. The fact that the year’s best film, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” as well as one of its most universally acclaimed masterpieces, “First Cow,” were completely shut out of nominations speaks to how out of touch the small clutch of nominators at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association really are.
But this early awards show is still important in the run-up to the Oscars. In advance of this Sunday’s airing of the Golden Globe Awards, here are my thoughts on the major film categories.
BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
There are only two films in this head-scratching list of so-called exceptional nominees that deserve to be anywhere near a “best of” list. Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is more about Sorkin’s own cleverness as a writer than about the film’s own historical moment, and the smug and self-satisfied “Promising Young Woman” is simply a rancid piece of work. On the better side, “The Father” is as compelling a portrayal of senile dementia as has ever been presented onscreen, but the frankly obvious winner, for reasons of both quality and buzz, is “Nomadland,” a work of sublime docufiction that feels wholly of its time.
Should win: Nomadland
Will win: Nomadland
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
VIOLA DAVIS MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
ANDRA DAY THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY
VANESSA KIRBY PIECES OF A WOMAN
FRANCES MCDORMAND NOMADLAND
CAREY MULLIGAN PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Full disclosure: I’ve not seen “Pieces of Woman” or “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday.” The disappointing early reviews of the latter, which opens on Hulu today, make any nominations for it a curious surprise. At any rate, these are placeholder nominations simply to get to five. This is Frances McDormand’s nomination to lose, and she won’t lose. Hers is a bracing and intelligent performance—her most groundbreaking work since “Fargo”—in which all notions of “acting” disappear into the ether.
Should win: Frances McDormand
Will win: Frances McDormand
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
RIZ AHMED SOUND OF METAL
CHADWICK BOSEMAN MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
ANTHONY HOPKINS THE FATHER
GARY OLDMAN MANK
TAHAR RAHIM THE MAURITANIAN
Here we have a genuinely competitive category, and I am in no way certain of the victor. I’ve sung many praises of Riz Ahmed’s work as a drummer struggling with deafness in “Sound of Metal,” but the film’s absence of other nominations—in itself a significant oversight—likely doom Ahmed’s chances here. But he’s a dark horse alongside Gary Oldman in “Mank,” if only because voters love inside-Hollywood drama. My selection, though, goes to Anthony Hopkins in “The Father.” Having a family connection to Alzheimer’s, I can confirm the accuracy of Hopkins’ heartbreakingly nuanced portrayal of the frustrating and debilitating condition. I suspect, however, that Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death, and the admittedly powerful emotional calisthenics of his performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” will contribute to his inching out Hopkins, by a hair’s breadth.
Should win: Anthony Hopkins
Will win: Chadwick Boseman
BEST MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
To state the obvious, “Hamilton” is not a movie. It’s a filmed stage production, and has absolutely no right to be included here alongside content conceived, from day one, as motion pictures. It simply is an apple in a category of oranges. The fact that, when surrounded by such slim pickings, it’s almost destined to win, and will be a blemish on the Globes. In a fair fight, the clear winner should be “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” another brave act of subversive cinema from Sacha Baron Cohen, which reinvigorated a brand, captured the zeitgeist and even made some news.
Should win: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Will win: Hamilton
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
MARIA BAKALOVA BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM
KATE HUDSON MUSIC
MICHELLE PFEIFFER FRENCH EXIT
ROSAMUND PIKE I CARE A LOT
ANYA TAYLOR-JOY EMMA.
Can I duck out of this category? The only film I’ve seen here is “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” and I’m surely not alone, even among critics. Honestly, filling the categories with so many gnomic, middlingly reviewed obscurities isn’t going to lead to decent ratings or interest from the cinematic intelligencia. It just renders the musical/comedy categories as largely irrelevant. That said, I hope Bakalova wins.
Should win: N/A, doesn’t matter
Will win: N/A, doesn’t matter
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
SACHA BARON COHEN BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM
JAMES CORDEN THE PROM
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA HAMILTON
DEV PATEL THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD
ANDY SAMBERG PALM SPRINGS
Can I get another “Meh”? Like Best Actress/Musical or Comedy, this is a category of mostly second-rate nominees. I suspect the academy will lazily offer the Tony … oops, I mean the Golden Globe, to Miranda, if only because the competition is once again this slim. There was nothing wrong with Patel and Samberg’s performances, but if you were looking for either actor to stretch themselves, you wouldn’t find it. Cohen, at least, adopted new guises for Borat’s second go-round, and his ability to inhabit characters in a way that genuinely duped so many people says something about his chameleonic prowess in front of a camera.
Should win: Sacha Baron Cohen
Will win: Lin-Manuel Miranda
BEST MOTION PICTURE – ANIMATED
Ain’t no party like a “Soul” party, ‘cause a “Soul” party don’t stop. All respect to “Wolfwalkers,” “Soul” is among Pixar’s best work in its history. It’s a milestone film that should have received nominations beyond the animation ghetto.
Should win: Soul
Will win: Soul
BEST MOTION PICTURE – FOREIGN LANGUAGE
ANOTHER ROUND (DENMARK)
LA LLORONA (GUATEMALA / FRANCE)
THE LIFE AHEAD (ITALY)
TWO OF US (FRANCE / USA)
Even in the foreign-language category, there’s a local myopia in the overwhelming buzz surrounding “Minari,” a foreign film for people don’t go to see foreign films, a film that’s about 30 percent English-language. I remain skeptical of its rapturous response: “Minari” is a well-constructed story of an immigrant family striving for the American dream, nothing more, nothing less. The braver vote would go to “Another Round,” an uncomfortable study of the slow creep and self-denial of alcoholism.
Should win: Another Round
Will win: Minari
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN ANY MOTION PICTURE
GLENN CLOSE HILLBILLY ELEGY
OLIVIA COLMAN THE FATHER
JODIE FOSTER THE MAURITANIAN
AMANDA SEYFRIED MANK
HELENA ZENGEL NEWS OF THE WORLD
I actually didn’t hate Glenn Close’s work in “Hillbilly Elegy;” if the movie wasn’t so critically lambasted, she might actually have had a chance. It turns out this one is a no-brainer. Olivia Colman, as the long-suffering daughter of Anthony Hopkins’ elliptically declining senior, flawlessly channels the pain, helplessness and occasionally absurd humor of losing someone even while the person is still alive. I suspect the Hollywood Foreign Press will agree with me.
Should win: Olivia Colman
Will win: Olivia Colman
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN ANY MOTION PICTURE
SACHA BARON COHEN THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
DANIEL KALUUYA JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
JARED LETO THE LITTLE THINGS
BILL MURRAY ON THE ROCKS
LESLIE ODOM, JR. ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…
A toss-up of which I am decidedly dispassionate. I loved Bill Murray’s seemingly effortless work in “On the Rocks,” but I don’t think it’s “important” enough to take a Globe away from dramatic actors re-enacting historical traumas and triumphs. There’s nothing particularly exciting about Cohen’s embodiment of Abbie Hoffman beyond the accent and hair and makeup, but I suspect the Globes will weirdly reward his contribution here over his superior work in “Borat.” If I had my druthers, I’d go with Odom’s fine portrayal of Sam Cooke at a career crossroads in “One Night in Miami.”
Should win: Leslie Odom Jr.
Will win: Sacha Baron Cohen
BEST DIRECTOR – MOTION PICTURE
EMERALD FENNELL PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
DAVID FINCHER MANK
REGINA KING ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…
AARON SORKIN THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
CHLOÉ ZHAO NOMADLAND
Another no-brainer. Emerald Fennell and Aaron Sorkin should be nowhere near this category, and the cinematic flourishes added to Kemp Powers’ play “One Night in Miami” only detracted from its original, primordial power on the stage. The award will, and should, go to Chloé Zhao for deftly weaving documentary and fiction into a singular whole in “Nomadland,” and for coaxing unvarnished truth from both Hollywood actors and the real-life nomads that surrounded them.
Should win: Chloé Zhao
Will win: Chloé Zhao