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The Golden Globe Nominations Are Inexplicable — Again

There are few things in this life that you can count on, but here’s one of them: every year, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will announce the nominees for their annual Golden Globe awards, and every year critics and film fans and award watchers and, frankly, anyone with even a passing knowledge or interest in movies and television will look them over, furrow their brow, and issue their preferred variation on a forcefully confused “WTF?”

Because, at risk of putting too fine a point on it, the Golden Globes are sorta bullshit. The HFPA consists of 90 or so members, covering Hollywood for outlets elsewhere, and let’s just say the Globes have a reputation for not always putting the quality of the work at the top of their criteria for inclusion. The kindest explanation for the many downright bizarre nominations over their nearly 70-year history is that they are infatuated with star power, and are particularly keen on getting a lot of famous faces to show up at their televised award ceremony. The less polite way to put it is that they can be bought.

There’s plenty of stories of less-than-scrupulous campaigning; the most famous dates back to 1981, when the group gave Pia Zadora their “Newcomer of the Year” award for her work in the not-yet-released Butterfly; never mind that it was a terrible performance by an actress who’d made her film debut 17 years earlier (in Flavorwire favorite Santa Claus Conquers the Martians); Zadora was married at the time to multimillionaire Meshulam Riklis, who reportedly flew HFPA voters to his Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas to gamble, and to his home for elaborately catered lunches and screenings of the film. More recently, there is the story of The Tourist, the critically panned (20% on Rotten Tomatoes) Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie vehicle that racked up nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress — in the Musical/Comedy category, despite the fact that the film was neither a comedy nor a musical. What seemed at first a play to get two of the world’s biggest movie stars to their ceremony turned out to be something fishier: Sony is said to have flown HFPA voters to a Las Vegas junket prior to the nominations, where they were put up at luxury hotels, fed, and provided entertainment in the form of a private concert by Cher (whose own Sony flop, Burlesque, was rewarded with a Best Picture-Musical/Comedy nom of its own).

Point is, we should know better by now than to take these things seriously — but every year, there are enough snubs, oversights, and left-field nominees for everyone to get worked up and confused, in spite of the fact that the Golden Globes are less an Oscar/Emmy prognosticator than a giant PR stunt. Here’s some of their weirder moves this year:

  • The Mad Men snub. The five Best Television Drama nominees are Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Downton Abbey, Homeland… and The Newsroom. Look, I’m an out Newroom fan and defender, and even I think this is fucking insane. This season of Mad Men — wild, experimental, unpredictable, and admirably cold-blooded — was one of that show’s best. Which is to say: it was one of the best things on television.
  • Silver Linings Playbook is a comedy? One of the things that could be awesome about the Golden Globes is their format of separating movies into separate categories, Drama and Comedy/Musical, just like television. It shouldn’t have to be this way — comedy is just as difficult to do well as drama, and those that make us laugh shouldn’t be, as a general rule, ghettoized from those that make us cry — but the fact that they embrace us seeing these things differently should result in recognition for films that will go unrecognized. Instead, it usually results in nominations for crushingly dull light rom-coms — which we saw this year, in the form of three nominations for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, two for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and one for Hope Springs, but none for This is 40 — and gross misclassification. You guys, Silver Linings Playbook is not a comedy. It has some laughs and a happy ending, but it’s mostly serious, and at the very least defies that kind of easy categorization — especially when the Globes appear to have decided just as arbitrarily that the light and funny Hitchcock is a drama. Huh?
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild. We could write a whole post on the great movies that the HFPA ignored, but most pundits seem to be singling out the zero (0) nominations for Beasts, which has a pretty big awards campaign push from Fox Searchlight behind it. It is, quite simply, one of the year’s best films. But you know what it doesn’t have? Big stars for that awards ceremony.
  • McConaughey. If you’d have told us a year ago that we’d be lamenting the lack of award recognition for perpetually shirtless purveyor of unwatchable romantic comedies Matthew McConaughey, we’d have laughed you out of the room. But Mr. McConaughey had an amazing year: his terrific performances in Magic Mike and Bernie landed him a Best Supporting Actor award from the New York Film Critics Circle, and his menacing turn in Killer Joe would be an awards magnet, were this a fair or just world. But in spite of his star power, not one of those performances was nominated. Some may say that the films themselves were too off-kilter for seriously play — but Jack Black got a Best Actor nomination for Bernie, and McConaughey’s The Paperboy co-star Nicole Kidman got a Supporting Actress nomination as well, and that movie is batshit insane.
  • John Williams for Best Score. Okay, maybe I’m the only one talking about this. But c’mon. Did you see Lincoln? Great movie, deserving of its many nominations — except this one, where Williams provided his typical faux-inspiring pomp-and-circumstance horse dung, in spite of the fact that it was frequently at complete odds with the events onscreen. You’re just encouraging him, awards people!
  • Best Television Comedy or Musical-Smash. The only show whose hate-watching numbers even approach The Newsroom, Smash was the most irritating inclusion in a category that had no room for Louie, Parks and Rec, or Community. Then again, the Emmys seldom do better in this category, so we probably shouldn’t complain.

Those are our picks for the most irritating Golden Globe nominations — share yours in the comments!

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