Golden Globes 2.0: Decoding Choices After the Debacle
New international voters unveil a shockingly un-embarrassing lineup — which was always half the fun
Let’s start with a stipulation that the Golden Globes have always been something of a goof. A vestige of really old Old Hollywood — the awards were born after a group of foreign correspondents banded together in the 1940s in an attempt to get more access to the system — the Globes harkened back to the days when reporters cozied up to the stars and were at the beck and call of the studios.
Over the years there may have been a handful of legitimate journalists among the ranks of what became known as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but the organization’s tone was mostly set by its more star-obsessed members who weren’t shy about asking impertinent questions or pulling an actor aside for a selfie. All those fun and games came crashing to a halt in 2021 in the wake of a Los Angeles Times investigation into the group’s lack of Black members and assorted ethical lapses. A lot of the town’s personal publicists, tired of playing along with the HFPA’s demands, called for a boycott, and the show’s long-time broadcast partner, NBC, dropped the 2022 ceremony entirely.
After a number of attempted reforms, a chastened Globes stumbled back into the limelight this past January with an NBC airing that drew a measly 6.3 million viewers. But further change was afoot. New ownership, headed by Todd Boehly, CEO of Eldridge, and Jay Penske, CEO of Penske Media and Dick Clark Productions, took over the Globes, turning it into, alas, a for-profit enterprise. The non-profit HFPA was disbanded. Golden Globe president Helen Hoehne, with an assist from veteran Variety journalist Tim Gray, who came aboard as executive VP, set about recruiting a wider voting body, which is now said to number 300 journalists from around the world, representing 75 countries. And just last month, after the opposite of a bidding war, CBS agreed to air the show, set for Jan. 7 and also streaming on Paramount+.
As a consequence, heading into this morning’s announcement, Hollywood’s corps of plugged-in awards consultants were pretty much in the dark. In the past, they were often able to predict the behavior of the much smaller and idiosyncratic circle of Globe voters, but how the Globes’ new far-flung constituency would behave was pretty much an open question.
Unfortunately for those who’ve enjoyed knocking the Globes for its wackier past choices — the infamous Pia Zadora new star of the year award in 1982, the Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie spy thriller The Tourist nominated for best musical/comedy in 2010 — there were no zany out-of-left-field surprises when the Globes unveiled its 2023 nominees. Somewhat predictably, two of the year’s biggest movies, Barbie, with nine nominations, and Oppenheimer, with eight, led the film list. (If Oppenheimer wanted to overtake Barbie, it would have had to add a song or two, since Barbie racked up three song nominations).
Instead, what stood out were the international films that made the cut. Until it issued a rule change in 2021, the Globes refused to consider non-English moves for its top best drama and best musical/comedy awards. (Parasite, from 2019, the eventual best picture Oscar winner, was relegated by the Globes to its foreign language film category.) But this year, with non-English films given access to all categories, the six best drama nominees included the French film about a murder investigation, Anatomy of a Fall; the German-language Nazis-next-door drama The Zone of Interest; and the love story Past Lives, much of which is in Korean. (In addition to Oppenheimer, the category also included Killers of the Flower Moon and Maestro.)
Musicals? Meh. Foreign Films, Yes!
The new voters, instead of focusing on American fare, cast a wider net. Of the 12 movies nominated for best drama and best musical/comedy, six debuted at either the Cannes or Venice festivals, suggesting that at the new Globes, having an international profile plays a much bigger role than it ever did when the whole exercise often seemed to be more about corralling as many Hollywood stars as possible. For example, one of the lists’ genuine surprises was the nomination of Alma Poysti as best musical/comedy actress for the Finnish entry Fallen Leaves.
On the other hand, musicals, which don’t always travel abroad, seemed to get short shrift. The Color Purple, Wonka and The Little Mermaid all failed to score best comedy/musical nominations, although The Color Purple’s Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks did collect musical/comedy actress and supporting actress noms, respectively, and Wonka’s Timothée Chalamet was recognized with a musical/comedy actor nom as well. In that, he appears to upholding something of a minor Globes tradition since both 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory both earned one nom each — for their stars Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp.
On balance, the nominations may earn the Globes some much-needed cred. In fact, the noms shared a number of titles with the honorees voted this past weekend by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, which named The Zone of Interest best picture and Oppenheimer runner-up. LAFCA’s taste is hardly mainstream, though, and that could pose a challenge for Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner, who are producing this year’s show — which has not yet named a host — in hopes of attracting wider audience.
Of course, there are plenty of familiar faces in the Globe’s TV nominations, where Succession, with nine noms, led the list, followed by The Bear and Only Murders in the Building with five each, and The Crown, with four. (Meryl Streep, who’s already amassed eight Globes, bested her own record of 32 noms by earning a 33rd nom for Murders.)
And, as if to provide insurance that this year’s noms wouldn’t be too obscure, the Globes is introducing a new category: An award for “Cinematic and Box Office Achievement,” more colloquially known as its blockbuster trophy. The prize is reserved for movie that gross more than $150 million worldwide, at least $100 million of which comes from the U.S. The top four worldwide grossers of the year — Barbie, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Oppenheimer and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 — all picked up noms, along with Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1, John Wick: Chapter 4, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour. Swift’s concert film currently ranks 20th on the worldwide list, but in terms of shaking up the box-office by skipping studio distributors and striking a deal directly with theater chain AMC, Swift definitely rewrote the rules. Plus, a win would allow the Globes to one-up the Academy, since pure concert films don’t qualify for the Academy’s best documentary Oscar.
As she wrapped up this morning’s pre-dawn announcement, Globe president Hoehne issued an invitation: “Please join us for Hollywood’s party of the year.” But let’s further stipulate that, although the Globes are known for a certain boozy, loosey-goosey-ness, to call it the party of the year has always been something of a stretch. Things were different back in the '70s, when things got genuinely wild. In 1973, when comedian Redd Foxx was called to the stage to accept an award for Sanford and Son, his fellow nominee Paul Lynde launched into a drunken rant that could be heard throughout the ballroom.
Today, the Globes are known more for the bemused memes they trigger. For while insisting they are still fun, they also want to be seen as respectable.
But a respectable Golden Globes? Now, that’s an oxymoron.