As a result of the Golden Globes' position in the awards season calendar, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) annually finds itself in a dilly of a pickle. The first, best way to make anybody care about their ceremony would seem to be attracting big time celebrities to their red carpet, so that the event can at least be assured of high publicity.
The HFPA are just as subjective as BAFTA, or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who dole out the Oscars every February, so there's no reason for you to agree with their particular choices for the best films, performances or scripts of the past year. However, they are also pretty much unaccountable, and notable for nominating, or giving awards to famous people they want to come to their ceremony.
Most infamously, in 1981, the Best Newcomer award went to Butterfly's Pia Zadora. No? Me neither. But Zadora's millionaire husband, Meshulam Riklis, treated members of the HFPA to a trip to Vegas for a screening of the film, which may or may not have swayed their vote in his wife's particular category.
Much more recently however, we had the farce of last year's nominations for Best Musical or Comedy, which, after the obligatory choice and eventual winner, included Alice in Wonderland, RED, Burlesque and The Tourist. Burlesque seemed to have been included as the operative Musical part of the category, while RED was an unorthodox, but not unfathomable choice. The really boggling choices were the two movies that happened to feature Johnny Depp.
For one thing, I'm not sure how Alice in Wonderland qualifies as either a Musical or a Comedy. For another, The Tourist is an example of what we in the business of watching films call “fucking terrible”. And apparently, Sony, who distributed The Tourist, also treated the HFPA to a trip to Vegas.
In his barbed opening monologue, “controversial” host Ricky Gervais spoke of the “ridiculous rumour” that The Tourist was only nominated because the HFPA wanted to hang out with its stars, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. "That is rubbish,” he joked. “That is not the only reason. They also accepted bribes."
Normally, we look forward to the announcement of the Golden Globes nominations each year, because they're good for a laugh. However, after the bad taste left by last year, this year's selection seems to be something of a palate cleanser. The HFPA are typically listing some of the favourites in this year's surprisingly open road to the Oscars, with The Artist securing six nominations, and The Descendants and The Help flagging close behind with five nods apiece.
While it's not possible to comment on The Descendants this far ahead, as it won't be released in the UK until January, it could be observed, if one were cynical enough, that the HFPA seem to be courting that film's star, George Clooney, this year. Clooney is nominated for co-writing and directing The Ides of March, and the film is up for Best Picture in the Drama category.
Also for The Ides of March, Ryan Gosling scooped a Best Actor nomination in the Drama category. As Gosling is So Hot Right Now, he's also got a nomination in the Comedy Or Musical category, for Crazy, Stupid, Love. It's been a busy old year for the actor, but surely the performance for which he most deserves recognition would be his lead role in Drive?
Aside from having our suspicions about those we've just mentioned, there don't appear to be any stunt nominations this year. Certainly, if they wanted to grab attention, the HFPA might have nominated Andy Serkis' performance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes for Best Actor, but they haven't. We can't quibble with the choices of Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender or Brad Pitt, because each of them has a decent amount of hype about their performances from this year, aside from their star status.
Bridesmaids and The Help were both big box office successes, led by female audiences, and they have been accordingly recognised in the shortlist. Speaking personally, I found Bridesmaids to be overrated, but if there's any obvious upset to be had in The Artist's category of Best Picture, Comedy or Musical, it could be that Bridesmaids takes the Globe ahead of the Oscar frontrunner.
While The Help is almost certainly on its way to a Best Picture nomination at the next Academy Awards, we can also predict that it won't pick up many wins to match its nominations. For a while, Viola Davis seemed like a lock for many of the Best Actress gongs on offer, but it seems very possible that she could be squeezed out by the acting juggernauts in her category- Meryl Streep, nominated for The Iron Lady, and Glenn Close, nominated for Albert Nobbs.
Elsewhere, if the Golden Globes sometimes act as a barometer of popularity for the Oscars, it's great to see certain films receiving the acknowledgement they deserve. Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, which got a US release way back in May, and was feared to have been released too early for awards bodies to remember come this time of year, grabbed four nominations. Perhaps in the run-up to February, it will become one of the favourites again.
50/50 received two nominations in the Comedy categories, including a Best Actor nod for Joseph Gordon-Levitt's extraordinary performance. He's also listed alongside Brendan Gleeson's career-best role in The Guard, which might have warranted a Best Comedy nod itself.
It's generally harder to judge if the Globes have got it right this time around, than it was at this point last year. A lot of their picks are amongst the end-of-year favourites for awards season, meaning that those films haven't yet been released in the UK. While I'd have liked to see The Guard nominated for Best Comedy or Musical, I can't pinpoint an undeserving nominee whose place it should have taken.
Awards season remains fairly open, so the only win we would confidently predict would be for The Ides of March. Given how support has fallen off during awards season, the HFPA's championing of the film should bear out a win for at least one of its four categories, probably Best Screenplay. The only other thing of which we can be confident is that Ricky Gervais' re-appointment as host will make the whole affair worth watching.
From their populist indignation with the host after last year's ceremony, to their gleeful press release, headed “Yes, Ricky's Back!”, the Golden Globes have proven to be more of an Oscars pre-party red carpet bash than a serious endeavour, but they at least seem to have learned their lesson about not giving Gervais too much material to rib on, right off the bat.