This year’s Golden Globe nomination list might be notable for being the one that brought Mel Gibson out from under his pall of shame and back to the Hollywood top table – a place which many had thought would be for ever denied him.
His antisemitic remarks and subsequent disgrace have now evidently been forgiven, if not forgotten, and he has now best film (drama) and best director nominations for his grandstanding second world war pacifist movie Hacksaw Ridge – and a best actor nod for Andrew Garfield. This fact creates an atypically serious focus for the Globes nomination list, which traditionally – and very refreshingly – gives a fair shake to the lighter end of the movie spectrum, creating an awards space for musicals and comedies, though perhaps ghettoising them away from the perceived quality fare.
Picking quarrels with snubs and omissions has maybe become too much of a critical bloodsport in recent years. Though I can’t get too exercised about the lack of Globe nominations for Clint Eastwood’s Sully (a bafflingly dull and creaky picture), it is quite extraordinary that Martin Scorsese’s powerful and valuable movie Silence has been utterly overlooked. I thought this movie had its flaws, but it was the work of a deeply serious and substantial film-maker, perhaps the most important working in the US today. The idea of it losing out to, say, Lion, must have ruined Scorsese’s breakfast today. I also object to the nadaconferred upon Jim Jarmusch’s lovely, gentle film Paterson, Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship and Andrea Arnold’s American Honey; Globe voters, moreover, have zero interest in Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake. As so often, Cannes success is no sure guide to the glittering American prizes, although Paul Verhoeven’s provocative rape-revenge movie Elle gets a foreign-language nod and its lead, Isabelle Huppert, is in the best actress (drama) category.
Elsewhere, this is shaping up to be the year of La La Land, which has seven nominations, or Barry Jenkins’s critically adored Moonlight, about stages in the life of a gay African-American man, which has six. La La Land’s nods include best film (comedy/musical), best actor, best actress (again in the comedy/musical) and best director – which, through a procedural quirk, is not in fact divided into drama and comedy/musical in the same way. La La Land is a glorious paean to Hollywood, rather like The Artist, and features a lovely relationship between sardonic jazz musician Ryan Gosling and wannabe star Emma Stone; the movie is beguilingly, seductively romantic and sad. Moonlight’s entries include the categories of best film (drama), and its more serious identity might give it the edge in the Academy awards. It is powerful and may speak to a more contemporary-minded constituency in the Globes that thinks that in the era of #blacklivesmatter – quite apart from its own merits – Moonlight is a film with more urgency and relevance.
Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, taking five nominations, is a wonderful film from a director whose persistence has earned him respect, through a kind of visionary self-belief that allowed him to bring his earlier masterpiece Margaret to the screen, whose success made this possible. It has an intensely, almost overpoweringly focused leading performance from Casey Affleck – a best actor (drama) nominee – as an angry, lonely man who finds that his dead brother has made him guardian of his nephew. Lonergan shows an extraordinary command of tone and style, mixing comedy with drama of the weight of Miller or O’Neill.
Elsewhere, Tom Ford’s sensationally good psychological suspense thriller Nocturnal Animals is rewarded, with best director and best screenplay nominations – but disappointingly nothing for Michael Shannon in the best supporting actor category. Rather obtusely, the Globes have nominated Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s performance as the sinister, feral criminal who sets the nightmare in motion. It’s a perfectly decent performance, but not in Shannon’s league (playing the Texan cop), and really Laura Linney deserved something for her wonderful portrayal of the sorrowing Texan mamma. Amy Adams could and should have got something as well, though she is nominated for her appearance in the sci-fi drama Arrival.
David Mackenzie’s thriller Hell or High Water has proved to be extremely popular, with a best film (drama) nomination and best supporting actor nod for Jeff Bridges. This is another reason I would have liked to see Michael Shannon get a nomination for Nocturnal Animals: he and Bridges could have had a Texas lawman-off.
Garth Davis’s Lion is a tremendously effective, big-hearted picture, based on the true story of the former street kid who used Google Earth to locate the Indian village of his birth. It has a best film (drama) nod, but – rather confusingly – a best supporting actor mention for Dev Patel, who by any measure is surely the lead in this film? Could it be that its exec producer Harvey Weinstein, a past master of wrangling awards voting, has shrewdly calculated how to maximise his chances for an award?
As far as the other acting nominations go, it’s good to see a nomination for Ruth Negga, giving a very considered, underplayed performance in the true-life drama Loving, about which I was a little agnostic generally; she is, however, great. Natalie Portman has given what some think is the performance of her career as the post-assassination Jackie Kennedy in Jackie; she might well walk away with a Globe. However, I am entirely dismayed by the nomination for Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic, an entirely phoney and posturing family dramedy, which shows Mortensen himself at his most mannered.
It is great that Deadpool – about which many critics were rather sniffy – has picked up Globe nominations in the comedy/musical category, for best picture and for Ryan Reynolds’s performance. Could this be a counter to anti-superhero prejudice? Otherwise, Stephen Frears’s entertaining Florence Foster Jenkins has tickled Globes voters into a best comedy/musical mention and nominations for Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and for Simon Helberg. I myself wouldn’t necessarily bet against Grant pinching the best actor prize from other contenders, including Colin Farrell for The Lobster, and Jonah Hill who has sneaked in with his turn in the very uninteresting arms-dealing comedy War Dogs.
So the frontrunners are La La Land and Moonlight. But if there’s one feelgood moment I want to take away from the 2017 Globes list, it is the nomination for Sing Street in the musical/comedy category: a wonderful and genuinely heartwarming movie about a kid in Dublin forming a band. It would be great to see John Carney’s film get a Globe.
This article was written by Peter Bradshaw, for theguardian.com on Monday 12th December 2016 17.48 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010