The Golden Globes Nominations: Tasteful to a Fault, but Have They Lost That Old Globes Outrageousness?

Golden Globes
Michael Buckner for Variety

When I sat down this morning to watch the Golden Globes nominations, it was with a slight note of anxiety. Sure, I hoped that my favorite films would be nominated (like “Tár”), but it’s not as if I was so invested in that. If I were, it would mean that I took the Golden Globes more seriously than I do. Here’s the irony: It’s that very lack of seriousness — the invisible asterisk that’s always hovering next to the Globes, the one that says Lighten up! Who cares, really? It’s just the Hollywood Foreign Press Association! — that was now under threat. As the nominations were announced, I thought, “Please, Golden Globes! Atone for your sins, fix your corrupt ways, but don’t take away the precious vulgarity that we love.”

The Globes, after all, are in the midst of a reinvention that’s about as serious as anything you’re going to see in the Hollywood awards world. In 2021, the HFPA got called on the (red) carpet when it was revealed that the organization had no Black members. This was a scandal dire enough to shake any organization. But in the case of the Globes, the immorality of it wound up shining a new light (thanks to a series of reports by The Los Angeles Times) on the slippery glad-handing ethics that had long defined the HFPA and had, in fact, become part of the group’s brand identity.

The vulgarity of taste was all tied into that. The essential idea — you might call it the legend — of the Golden Globes is that the HFPA was a star chamber of junketeers who loved, more than anything, to rub elbows with famous Hollywood figures, the implication being that there was inevitably some overlap between the elbows they got to rub, the selfies they got to pose for, and the actors and movies they chose to nominate. A slippery slope of sleaze? Undoubtedly. Yet that’s part of what made the Globes the glitzy dissolute showgirl of awards shows. And there’s a way that the very corruption of their ethics liberated the Globes to be more shameless in their nominations. Over time, that made them a corrective to the Oscars.

This morning’s nominations announcement was, in effect, the first act of Golden Globes: The Reboot, the first salvo in the brave new era of the HFPA’s image-polishing. Were the nominations racially inclusive? At the very least, there was improvement on that score. And, of course, there’s room for more of it. As a critic, that’s something I care about. But given the history of the Globes — the fact that they’ve been universally regarded as the trashy “fun” awards show, because we don’t have to take them too seriously — I was also invested in whether the nominations would preserve the HFPA’s infamous willingness to push the envelope of good taste.

I’ll be honest, crushing as it is to admit: This year, the Golden Globes nominations are smart, tasteful, considered, and a whole lot of other words I don’t necessarily associate with the Golden Globes. If, for instance, you take the 10 movies that are nominated in the two best picture categories (best motion picture, drama; best picture, musical or comedy), and if you imagine that those will be the exact 10 best picture nominees in this year’s Academy Awards race, they are, quite simply, an unassailable slate. There isn’t a ringer in the bunch. In fact, with titles that range from “Tár” and “Triangle of Sadness” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” on the one hand, to the popcorn bonanzas of “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” and “Avatar: The Way of Water,” I would say that the Globe nominations strike the perfect balance of high, middle, and lowbrow that I’ve long argued the Oscars should have, but that in recent years the Oscars have gotten away from. The director and screenplay categories? Totally high-end. So far, so un-vulgar.

The acting categories, however, could be said to include a glimmer or two of the old Globes’ attitude. I was pleased to see Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy, from “The Menu,” both receive lead actor nominations. Yet “The Menu” is a movie that has gotten less respect than it deserves; it’s been called a “horror comedy,” when in truth it’s a savvy satire of hifalutin foodie culture with an infusion of horror. (To my mind, the movie where body-chopping horror feels like a dramatic intrusion is “The Banshees of Inisherin.”) And while I believe that Ana de Armas gave a spectacular performance in “Blonde,” bringing off the near-impossible feat of becoming Marilyn Monroe, the truth is that that movie has been so tainted by the hostility and the almost condemnatory attitude that the media had toward it, as if the film itself were somehow an attack on Marilyn, that the willingness to nominate de Armas now comes off as a classic brazen/counterintuitive Globes move.

That said, there’s no use denying that if you’re looking for the old Globes vulgarity in this new set of nominations, you may need to use a magnifying glass. Many would say that’s a good thing. But it raises, more than ever, a dramatic question for the Oscars: Will they now be different from the Globes? Or will the Globes, with their newly refined sense of taste and responsibility, have set the table for the Oscars and already eaten the main course? In Hollywood, there’s only so much good taste to go around.

From Variety US