Everyone loves to beat up on the Golden Globes. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, they say, is a laughing stock of an organization, composed of PR flunkies and third-rate junket press. The nominees, they cry, are laughable. And their choice of host, well, who wants to keep writing cheques to Ricky Gervais year after year?
Most of the above is, well, true. But that has not stopped the rest of the film industry from paying serious attention to which way the winds are blowing over at the HFPA. For myriad reasons – timing, star power, history – the Golden Globes matter, and set a good portion of the industry's agenda for the much-coveted awards race, which ends at Oscar's feet.
This year's nominees, announced Monday morning, are no exception. Discounting a few oddball choices (Deadpool for best comedy/musical? Tom Ford for best director? Florence Foster Jenkins for seemingly every other category?), the HFPA has both followed the current cultural consensus and helpfully narrowed down the top contenders.
La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Lion and Hell or High Water are all riding higher now thanks to the HFPA, and will likely continue to dominate the conversation as the year heads to an end and the Oscar nominations are revealed in January. But more than that, they are films genuinely deserving of such attention – some more perhaps than others, but all near-universally acclaimed by critics and audiences both.
The only truly troubling development, at least from this critic's perspective, is the seemingly final confirmation that, after a lifetime of bad behaviour, Mel Gibson's comeback is a done deal. His gory Second World War drama Hacksaw Ridge secured Golden Globe nods for best director, best actor (Andrew Garfield) and best drama – this despite the fact that the film holds a wobbly rating throughout the critical community (71 per cent on Metacritic) and is far less artistically composed than, well, the season's other Andrew Garfield movie, Silence. (The fact that Martin Scorsese's epic drama was shut out by the HFPA is disheartening, to say the least.) But Hollywood loves a good comeback narrative, and this year, it seems Gibson is the one providing it.
Despite this reservation and the ones detailed above, I still retain a sliver of faith in the HFPA – if not in its composure and purpose, then at least in its reading of the zeitgeist.
After all, even the Globes have got it right where Oscar has got it wrong so many times before. In 2011, for example, the Academy Awards honoured The King's Speech as that year's best picture, though few thought that highly of the film then, and you'd be pressed to find die-hard admirers today. The Globes, meanwhile, that same year gave its award for best drama to David Fincher's The Social Network, a film that has aged considerably better. Ditto 2012, when the affecting and original drama The Descendants triumphed at the Globes, whereas the Academy chose to honour the now-maligned The Artist.
Need more examples? Well, just look to 1999 (Saving Private Ryan at the Globes, Shakespeare in Love at the Oscars), 2003 (The Hours at the Globes, Chicago at the Oscars), and, most tellingly, 2006 (Brokeback Mountain at the Globes, the punch line that is Crash at the Oscars).
Still, someone needs to tell the HFPA that its Deadpool joke was a good one, worthy of the character himself, but we're going to need to see the real nominee, please and thanks. Now.