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  • James Kunovski

Thoughts on the Golden Globes, SAG & Critics’ Choice Film Noms

*These write-ups were done in the order that nominations for each respective ceremonies was announced, so there will be repeated analysis of the same film/person and some references to then-future events.

Golden Globes

First, the Golden Globes have the honour of my scrutiny. Will the Oscars be influenced by the *interesting* choices of the HFPA? A lot of the more strange decisions mentioned below will unlikely seep into the Oscars, though don’t entirely rule them out. In the years you think they have lost their damn mind, the Academy repeats their decision (i.e. Green Book winning Best Comedy/Musical and Best Picture). I still think prognosticators give the Golden Globes too much attention. They should not be taken that seriously in the award scheme of things. Every year they nominate the whackiest bunch, instigating more collective confusion than gratitude. This year, regardless of the altered industry and cinema experience, was no different. Although, to be fair, you could grab a highlighter and paint more than a few nominees that will re-emerge when Oscar nominations are announced, March 15.

Just when you thought the industry had lost interest in the superficially spectacular but hollow Mank, the HFPA remind you it still sparks interest (in some circles). Is this just continued applause for David Fincher, whose The Social Network won the most awards at the 68th Golden Globes, or an indication that this screenwriter-biopic falls most comfortably in voters’ laps? Mank received the most nominations of any film and I still hang onto the idea that despite some pause, it will receive the most Oscar nominations thanks to its sturdy craft. Likewise, other Oscar frontrunners showed up — Nomadland gained four nominations and The Trial of the Chicago 7 managed five.

Da 5 Bloods was shut out despite members fawning over BlacKkKlansman though the HFPA’s exclusion of their biggest “idol” might have thrown the world off its axis. Lauded recipient of thirty-two nominations, Meryl Streep was snubbed twice for her sublime performances in Let Them All Talk and The Prom. Ostensibly the best part of the latter’s candy-coated train wreck, voters recognised her co-star James Corden whose performance garnered plenty of flack. Something is up with the HFPA.

Time to talk about the elephant-in-the-room-of-picks that the Academy will not (for the love of God) replicate. The inclusion of Sia’s Music for Best Musical/Comedy and for lead Kate Hudson is bizarre from controversy to voter accessibility — how did enough members see its limited/non-existent release? Was someone doing extraneous campaigning? The other, completely blind-siding pick was Jared Leto in supporting, as the prime suspect in John Lee Hancock’s slow-burn, The Little Things. Only recently released in the States on HBO Max, five of Goldderby’s thousands of users predicted Leto’s admission.

Speaking of last minute additions, The United States vs. Billie Holiday and Judas and the Black Messiah (the latter premiered at Sundance two days before nominations were announced), could surprise as Oscar contenders. Pioneering their respective films are Andra Day and Daniel Kaluuya, who were both nominated. Billie’s two nominations were the film’s first major award body picks. It’s also time to start thinking of Promising Young Woman as a serious Oscar player. Goldderby has ranked it eighth as a Best Picture frontrunner — still enough to make the slots but only by a narrow margin. If the Academy knows what’s good, Emerald Fennell’s thrilling genre-mash could liven the Oscars pool; it was nominated for four Globes. There were a few positive surprises, namely, a female-majority directors group. The three women nominated were Chloé Zhao of Nomadland, Regina King for One Night in Miami and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman. Only two female directors were nominated in the previous decade.

Screen Actors Guild

Announced a day apart, there was plenty of crossover between the SAG and Golden Globe nominations. Sixteen out of SAG’s twenty nominated actors were also recognised by the Globes. Some times the SAGs can be arbitrary with their choices like when they awarded Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place & Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation despite absence in recognition elsewhere and they will sometimes omit the eventual Oscar winner — Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk, Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained and even further back, Marcia Gay Harden for Pollock. Regardless, they are chosen by actors who make up the largest branch of the Academy. In that regard, what do their picks for 2021 have to say?

Potential disregard for Mank was insinuated by SAG voters when they rewarded Gary Oldman but not standout, Amanda Seyfried. It’s surprising that there is still a push for Oldman’s somewhat bland take on Herman J. Mankiewicz. Delroy Lindo was once again snubbed for his transcendent turn in Da 5 Bloods, politics likely playing a part, but it just doesn’t make sense to honour the film with Best Ensemble when Lindo stands at the helm of the dynamic group. Over the course of critics and festival circle awards, five boys from The Trial of the Chicago 7 have shown up. There is no way the Academy will nominate all five, so they will probably settle on Sacha Baron Cohen who was nominated here and at the Golden Globes.

Missing from the supporting field is Paul Raci as the guiding deaf mentor in Sound of Metal. A favourite in critic circles (he won sixteen awards), hopefully a nudge by the Critic’s Choice Awards can send him to the Oscars. Glenn Close was nominated for Hillbilly Elegy at the Golden Globes and once again at the SAGs with co-star Amy Adams in tow. I wish they would stop attaching this film to their worthy careers but alas. Is this just another case of voters purposely distancing themselves from critic and audience reception and sticking to what they personally like? There’s a whole lot of acting going on in Hillbilly Elegy — I guess they liked that. Also surprising in the supporting race is Helena Zengel from News of the World, another giftee of a Golden Globe nomination. Come Oscar time, keep an eye out for more than that film’s cinematography. At least Minari has the support of an actors branch, especially after its rule-specific shutout at the Globes. On a broader sense, it is overdue acknowledgement of Asian actors but for stars Yeun and Youn, a small but essential stepping stone in their marvellous careers.

Critics’ Choice

With the nominations for the Critics’ Choice Awards announced on February 8, we are coming to the end of those more influential pre-Oscar ceremonies. Though, Scott Feinberg from the Hollywood Reporter (himself a voter on these awards) informs that there is “virtually no overlap” between this voting body and the AMPAS, award season fuels its own fire by taking cues and suggestions from show to show. Thanks to their stacked slots where upwards to ten films can be nominated, there’s plenty of Oscar consideration to chew on.

Is it that time of the article to acknowledge *checks notes* David Fincher’s Mank. Why yes, because that film received twelve, or the most, nominations, essentially sweeping the below-the-line categories. Delroy Lindo finally got his nomination. His category welcomed eight contenders, from which three will be inevitably cut from the Oscar lineup and Lindo teeters on the uncertainty of the fifth slot. Close for Hillbilly Elegy was also nominated and at this rate the Oscars are inevitable. From the class of performers who are usually the sole nominated on behalf of their film, Vanessa Kirby from Pieces of a Woman continues her streak. However, she now has company with co-star Ellen Burstyn in supporting.

As quickly as the Critics’ Choice hinted at some late-breaking Oscar FYC campaigns, such as the few nominations for First Cow, Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Zendaya for Malcolm & Marie, they also nailed the coffin on a few long shots, like Sophia Loren’s comeback in The Life Ahead. From the long-winded Academy shortlist for International Feature Film (where The Life Ahead can’t be found — Italy favoured Notturno), Another Round (Denmark), La Llorona (Guatemala) and Two of Us (France) fair the best chances.

The Critics’ Choice Best Picture lineups are always an interesting bunch, especially when in retrospect, you have the Oscar Best Picture nominees to compare. While there’s usually fair overlap, they also nominate a few outliers — take last year’s Uncut Gems and the year prior’s First Man, If Beale Street Could Talk and Mary Poppins Returns. What can this selection teach us about the Oscars? Mainly, that the trend of inclusion and exclusion will likely continue. There is a mix of forthright competition, the likes of Mank, Nomadland and The Trial of the Chicago 7 showed up, along a surprising set of “little films that could” which entail Promising Young Woman (with six nominations, including costumes & makeup/hair) and Sound of Metal (Paul Raci finally achieved major body attention too). Joining those two groups is a true outlier which could upset the Oscar race. Paul Greengrass’ non-shaky-cam News of the World received seven nominations. Included are stars Tom Hanks and Zengel. A sentimental duplicate of western and frontier genre tropes, such wide embrace for Greengrass’ film seems bizarre, especially from critics. The Academy loves to welcome unspectacular crowd-pleasers, especially when biopics are concerned (even though News of the World is not that) and an unintentional wide appraisal/voting for the film could likely land it among the competition. The smaller films need to do the most work to etch their Oscar legacy, but that seems more possible this year with an exceedingly focused pool of contenders. And then there’s the adulation for Minari, ranking second with ten nominations, as one of the freshest, most exciting and rightful choices this award season. Like so many other films featured these past three nomination announcements, there is now a clear and transparent path to Oscar success.


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