The Golden Globes are an easy target.
Every December, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, whose name is uttered with equal parts fear and mockery in the hills of Los Angeles, unveils its picks for the best films and television of the year. Often, its nominees are questionable. Its membership? Shadowy and unworthy of respect. Its choice of host? Pathetic. (Sorry, Ricky Gervais. Not too sorry, Jimmy Fallon.)
But none of these mostly true facts have stopped the industry from paying extraordinarily close attention to the HFPA's recommendations. For various reasons – timing, history, star power, marketing – the Globes have remained a coveted trophy, acting as a reliable bellwether for which way the winds will blow come Oscar time. (Last year's Globes victors, for instance, include La La Land, Moonlight, and … Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Nocturnal Animals. Okay, we can't all be Nostradamus.)
This year, though, the Globes are under an especially large spotlight, or boasting a particularly big bullseye, whichever metaphor you prefer. This is all due to the twin hashtag forces currently rocking the entertainment industry: #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite.
To deal with the former, which has eclipsed the latter these waning days of the 2017 zeitgeist: Heading into Monday's nomination announcement, the Globes were expected to address the wave of sexual-harrassment and assault allegations flooding out of Hollywood. They needed to show that the gatekeepers were finally listening, that change was afoot, that the shadows of Harvey Weinstein and his ilk would no longer loom over what is otherwise, so they say, a spotless creative industry.
Most of the weight was expected to be shouldered by Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, a dark comedy that attempts, however uneasily, to reconcile issues of both violence against women and America's venomous strain of racism. The film is not a perfect answer – or even one that makes sense given how most movies gestate over years, and can only be measured against the current cultural conversation by accident – but it's one that works, for now.
And so the HFPA put Three Billboards on a pedestal, nominating it for six Globes, including best actress (Frances McDormand), best supporting actor (Sam Rockwell), best director (Martin McDonagh), best screenplay, best score, and best picture. Fine, okay, sure.
A more unexpected Globes tactic was the elevation of Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World, the most direct ricochet of the #MeToo conversation. By handing over a bunch of nods to the thriller, which has been seen by few outside the HFPA circle, the Globes betray a distinct odour of desperation.
All the Money in the World famously replaced star Kevin Spacey – who faces several accusations of making unwanted sexual advances – with Christopher Plummer in a last-minute bid to save the film's prospects. The unprecedented tactic worked, with Scott's extreme act of reshooting Spacey's scenes landing the film three Golden Globe nominations, including best supporting actor for Plummer, a direct rebuke to Spacey.
Whether All the Money in the World, and Plummer's last-minute performance in it, is even good doesn't matter at this point: the HFPA is trying, perhaps too transparently, to recognize the importance of the film's moment, rather than its actual content.
Matters are even less inspiring on the #OscarsSoWhite issue. One year after the HFPA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences inched closer to embracing diversity, the Globes are seemingly back to square one – through no fault but its own.
While Jordan Peele's scathing racial satire Get Out scored a nomination for best picture and best actor (for Daniel Kaluuya), the Globes ignored the two elements that made the film what it is: its director and its incendiary screenplay.
Meanwhile, Dee Rees's stellar racial drama Mudbound was shut out, save for a best supporting actress nod (for Mary J. Blige) and best original song. The sincere and hilarious dramedy The Big Sick, which starred and was co-written by Kumail Nanjiani based on his experiences as a Muslim comic in a post-9/11 America, was completely shut out, despite receiving near-universal acclaim. And 2017's true breakout movie star, Tiffany Haddish of Girls Trip, was snubbed.
This is where the HFPA reveals how it will, probably sooner than later, lose its Oscar-predictive status. As AMPAS slowly but surely moves forward with expanding its membership to a younger, more diverse base, the HFPA risks finding itself stuck in a black-and-white past. It is a reality where the establishment figures lip service is better than no service at all.
Let this be the last year, then, where the Golden Globes steer the course of awards season. Change is due. Your move, Academy Awards.