It was no great surprise to see that “La La Land” continued barreling through awards season on Golden Globes nomination morning by standing out in seven categories, and naturally “Moonlight” landed a strong showing as well.
But the Hollywood Foreign Press is a quirky organization that can act in surprising ways that sometimes reflect smart campaigning — and other times simply speak to the idiosyncratic nature of the organization. Here are some of the contenders that caught us off-guard.
Denzel Washington’s lively adaptation of the August Wilson play was considered a major contender for Best Drama because…well, it’s a beloved August Wilson play directed by Denzel Washington and featuring a top-notch cast, exactly the sort of material the HFPA seems likely to reward in big ways. But the film only landed two nominations, for Washington and Viola Davis, which suggests that voters saw it primarily as filmed theater featuring two beloved actors doing first-rate work. Expect that narrative to continue.
…And “Jackie,” Too?
Critics may love it, but Pablo Larraín’s edgy psychological riff on the aftermath of the JFK assassination seems to be primarily appreciated for Natalie Portman in the lead role, while the HFPA was more divided on other aspects of the film. Portman was its only nomination.
Tom Ford’s In the Game…
The fashion maven-turned-filmmaker’s second feature has been considered a bit too esoteric for major awards season traction, especially as it has been overshadowed by Amy Adams’ other big role this season in “Arrival.” But it seems that the HFPA actually responded quite well to Ford’s two-pronged story, giving him both a coveted Best Director slot and Best Screenplay. He’s got some stiff competition there from fall season heavy-hitters Barry Jenkins and Kenneth Lonergan, but as Ford crept into the category anyway, it’s not too late to count him out.
…But Michael Shannon’s Not.
As the scowling detective at the center of the B-movie script of “Nocturnal Animals,” which serves as an metaphor for the main drama, Shannon does what he does best — a creepy tough guy with a dubious agenda — and he does it really, really well. In fact, even those who were lukewarm to the movie tended to give Shannon credit for elevating the experience. But that didn’t seem to work for the HFPA. Instead, the group nominated Aaron Taylor-Johnson for his role in an even eerier part as the story’s murderous villain. Notably, he does have a kind of nude scene and is playing against type, but it is a somewhat random recognition even more shocking in light of the Shannon snub.
Hailee Steinfeld’s sarcastic turn in Kelly Fremon Craig’s bubbly teen coming-of-age story is unquestionably her most commanding screen achievement since her debut five years ago in “True Grit,” and we’ve been championing her far and wide. But the movie closed the Toronto International Film Festival and opened just a few weeks ago; it hasn’t been nearly as visible this season as other big contenders. By landing a best acting nomination, Steinfeld proves that her performance was strong enough to break through the noise.
“Deadpool” Lands a Pair
The raunchy Marvel action-comedy picked up two nominations, for Best Comedy/Musical. All kinds of non-Oscar fare sneaks into that category, but “Deadpool” — which grossed over $760 million worldwide — may be a bigger player than expected. While “La La Land” looms large, Reynolds may have a shot over Gosling and the other actors in the category given the memorably wacky nature of his performance. But even if he doesn’t, it’s a nice contrast to the usual absence of superhero movies in performance categories. Of course, this isn’t your average superhero movie.
Oh, Hey, Colin
Then again, another nice surprise in the acting category for best musical/comedy was Colin Farrell in “The Lobster.” Yorgos Lanthimos’ idiosyncratic, Cannes-acclaimed dystopian satire came out early in the year, but Farrell — who gained weight for the part of a monotonous bachelor in a future where being single is illegal — has stayed in conversation for undergoing such a remarkable transformation. Alongside Reynolds, he makes the acting category for comedy/drama one of this year’s most intriguing among the nominees even as it recognizes some more familiar players.
“Lion” Love Pays Off
The Weinstein Company
The emotional tale of a young man who finds his missing family years after getting separated from them seemed to lost its momentum after premiering on the festival circuit. It’s a well-liked tearjerker with plenty of defenders, but lacks the grandiosity of “Moonlight” and others. But The Weinstein Company knows this game well, pushing “Lion” out as much as it could while coasting along on the moving nature of the story. It ended up with four nominations across very different categories — Best Drama, acting nods for Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, and Best Score. This may not have been the Weinsteins’ best fall slate in ages, but it seems the company still has one significant dog in the race. But that’s not all they’ve got…
Sing For “Sing Street”
John Carney’s musical take on an eighties boy band was well-liked at Sundance but seemed to fade from the conversation over the course of the year. But it turns out that the moving coming-of-age story and its hard-rocking tunes wowed HFPA enough for it land alongside “La La Land” as the other actual musical (of sorts) in the musical/comedy category.
The 74th Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Jimmy Fallon, will take place on Sunday, January 8, 2017 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and be broadcast on NBC.