The Golden Globes nominees were announced Monday morning, signaling to all that awards season is officially in full swing. As we wade through the months of trophy-giving and champagne-swilling, these nominations hint at whose stocks are up and whose are down. Read on for a summary of this morning’s Winners and Losers.
Winner: The Shape of Water
K. Austin Collins: In a year full of awards-worthy movies about the Battle of Dunkirk, police negligence, America’s “hidden homeless,” liberal racism, and more than your usual dose of coming-of-age stories, the season’s growing front-runner is … the movie about a sexy fish man? Quite a flex! Guillermo del Toro’s adult fantasy The Shape of Water won the Venice Film Festival this year and has proved, ever since, to be a quiet juggernaut on the awards circuit. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association honored it with seven nominations, the most for any film this year, including nods for Sally Hawkins (best actress, motion picture—drama), who plays a mute custodian who falls in love with an amphibian man; her costars Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer; and Del Toro himself, for direction and writing (which he shares with Vanessa Taylor). This is a big come-up for Del Toro, whose last strong awards showing was with the even better Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).
Loser: Phantom Thread
Collins: It’s one of the best movies of the year, but Paul Thomas Anderson’s delicious, deviant chronicle of a fashion house in the 1950s was shut out by the HFPA, picking up only nominations for Daniel Day-Lewis (best actor, motion picture—drama) and Jonny Greenwood (Best Original Score). The oversight is a little surprising. Phantom Thread is a much better movie than whatever the phrase “awards bait” means, but it’s also, on its face, got all the signs of being great awards bait. It’s sumptuous, full of capital-A Acting, historical and costumey (it’s about fashion!), impeccably made, a little full of itself, and abundant with style. I expected a little more love, like nods for Anderson’s writing and directing, maybe, or for Lesley Manville and the film’s costar, Vicky Krieps. The Globes lack technical categories, like editing, costumes, and the like—but the Oscars don’t. Maybe those categories will make the difference.
Alison Herman: Bluntly, Amazon needed a win here. The company’s Hollywood division as a whole is currently mired in a sexual harassment scandal, one that’s extended to the star of Transparent, its longtime awards-season favorite. And in a less broadly troubling development that nonetheless has a real effect on the strange microclimate that is the Globes, the HFPA’s beloved Mozart in the Jungle has yet to release new episodes this year, removing the streamer’s dependable awards workhorse from the field of play.
Enter The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a late-year breakout that checks almost every one of the HFPA’s boxes: too late for the Emmys, giving the Globes first crack at formally welcoming a new show into the fold, and led by a superlatively talented actress in her first leading role, practically bookmarking the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series—Musical or Comedy slot that’s gone to the likes of Gina Rodriguez, Rachel Bloom, and Issa Rae, who’s nominated once again this year. Rachel Brosnahan is Amazon’s best shot at an actual statue; Kevin Bacon’s surprise nod for I Love Dick is merely icing on the cake.
Just as important as the actual nominations, however, is what Brosnahan and Bacon are nominated for: a female-starring, -created, -written, -directed, and -produced series about a woman breaking into a boys’ club and a feminist theory tract made TV show, respectively. At a time when Amazon is rebuilding its brand from the ground up after creative stumbles in general and charges of misogyny in particular, this is about the best PR the Everything Store could have hoped for.
Winner: The Early ’00s
Herman: Will & Grace is back, baby! And so is Jessica Biel with The Sinner, a show that’s probably taking away from more deserving candidates’ space in the Limited Series category but whose sheer randomness I respect. Globes gonna Globes, ya know? The ’90s have had their time to shine; we’re now entering the 15-year nostalgia sweet spot for the early aughts, and the HFPA has decided to step forward and become that half-decade’s standard bearer. When you ask for particular taste in an awards show, you gotta take the bad along with the good—and while honoring cynical multicam revivals with outdated sexual politics is “bad,” it’s the price we pay for the Maisels and SMILFs of the Globes world.
Loser: The Director Upstarts
Collins: It’s hard to argue with the expected director nominations for the likes of Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk) and Steven Spielberg (The Post), and though I’d love to argue about that nod for Martin McDonagh, life is too short. Still, given the surprising and, frankly, heartening range of movies that seem like serious contenders in the awards conversation this year, these director nominations feel a little stale. No Jordan Peele? No Greta Gerwig? No Sean Baker? This is more than a call to nominate more women and/or people of color—though more demographic diversity wouldn’t hurt. Peele, Gerwig, and Baker are all directors whose work, for one reason or another, had an impact on the industry conversation. They’re younger, on average, than the nominees here. And their movies were better than the weakest links on the roster. Baker, with his imaginative casting, sympathetic eye, and microbudget inclinations; and Peele and Gerwig with their idea-rich, vibrant, beloved, and unexpectedly profitable runaway success indies, all deserve to be here. A few of the actual nominees do not.
Herman: Relative to its intrigued-yet-mixed critical reception, Frankie Shaw’s SMILF fared the best of pretty much any series on the Globes roster. Both the show and Shaw herself earned plaudits for a dramedy that’s less than half a dozen episodes old, an extremely strong endorsement for a surreal comedy that costars a hapless Boston mother—and aspiring WNBA player—and her 3-year-old, literally named Larry Bird. If Showtime hadn’t already bestowed a second season, it certainly would now. As for the show’s chances of winning, I’d say Shaw’s creator status gives her the slight edge over Brosnahan for the final award.
Even beyond its most irreverently named representative, motherhood is everywhere in the Globes this year: Pamela Adlon got a nomination for Better Things, her extraordinary autobiographical series about single-parenting three daughters; Big Little Lies continued its uncontested awards dominance; Top of the Lake: China Girl, centered around adoption and surrogacy, picked up a nomination. And over on the film side, mother-daughter dramedy Lady Bird got its share of welcome acknowledgement. (If we want to get really dark, The Handmaid’s Tale probably counts here, too.) There’s been a lot of noise made about what a great time it is for women on TV, an overbroad, debatable statement. But specific and affecting stories about motherhood are one positive consequence of increased representation; it’s nice to see the Globes recognize it. Now make like Lady Bird and call your mom.
The Boss Baby (Best Motion Picture, Animated) and Baby Driver’s Ansel Elgort (Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy): Hello.
Loser: Critical Darlings
Herman: Incredibly, Twin Peaks: The Return manages to hit both of the Golden Globes’ obvious sweet spots: a slew of established and famous stars to class up the telecast (David Lynch! Laura Dern!), plus a sheen of the arty/novel/outré to differentiate the Globes from other major awards shows. The Globes love nothing more than to plant their flag in territory where the Emmys have yet to tread, and thanks to its summer run, The Return wasn’t eligible for this September’s round of honorees. Yet The Return couldn’t even manage a Limited Series nomination—the 18-part event garnered just a single acting nod for Kyle MacLachlan, admittedly magnificent in his tripartite role but far from the only standout in one of the best shows of the year. How could the Globes resist the trolling opportunity to nominate Dern for her performance as Diane and not as Big Little Lies’s Renata Klein? Very easily, it seems.
Other best-of-list favorites didn’t fare much better. The Young Pope, too, earned a nomination for lead actor Jude Law but not the series as a whole. And for one last time, The Leftovers was passed over entirely. (Even the Emmys had the good sense to double-nominate Ann Dowd for both The Leftovers and The Handmaid’s Tale; at the Globes, she’s being recognized for her turn as Aunt Lydia only.) The Deuce will be represented by Maggie Gyllenhaal, but was puzzlingly locked out of an otherwise moribund best drama category composed almost entirely of retreads (The Crown, This Is Us, Stranger Things) and blockbuster hits the Emmys have either gotten to already or will soon enough (The Handmaid’s Tale, the latest season of Game of Thrones).
Partly, this is a consequence of the Globes’ limited TV categories, which recognize only actors and series and leave out writing, directing, and technical honors. Partly, however, the snubs hew closer to “huh?”—Freddie Highmore for The Good Doctor, anyone?—than “good for them.”
Winner: Christopher Plummer
Collins: This feels a little political. Plummer, nominated for supporting actor for his turn in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World, was a last-minute addition to the movie, stepping in to replace Kevin Spacey after a series of a sexual assault allegations were made against the actor just more than one month ago. Plummer is undoubtedly good in the movie—but when isn’t Plummer good? Here, he plays J. Paul Getty, the oil tycoon whose 16-year-old grandson was kidnapped for ransom in 1973. Scott’s reshoots with Plummer apparently cost $10 million, but they were reportedly done as of November 29, which means, among other things, that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which doles out the Globes, would have seen the movie very, very recently—sometime in the past two weeks. Surely that—plus Scott’s quick, decisive judgment to replace Spacey, and Plummer’s Old Pro ability to pick up the reins so suddenly—helped.
All the Money in the World also picked up a nod for best actress in a drama (Michelle Williams) and for Scott’s direction, which feels like a statement: Spacey may have misbehaved with impunity, and despite copious rumors, for years and years. But his collaborators, who’ve swiftly wiped their hands clean of him, are decidedly untainted. Things are suddenly looking pretty good for House of Cards at the Globes next year.
Winner: The “Supporting Actress” Category
Collins: The usual (and misguided) line is that supporting actress is a somewhat dull, noncompetitive field, which is how a lead actress like Viola Davis can steamroll her way to Oscar and Globes success through an unabashed bit of category fraud—and I ain’t mad about it. But good luck making that judgment this year, when the category seems righteously stacked with old and new faces. Allison Janney (I, Tonya) and Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) were to be expected, and Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water) has more or less become a supporting actress stalwart. But props to the HFPA for tipping hats in the direction of Mudbound’s Mary J. Blige and Downsizing’s Hong Chau—fresh talent. I'd have loved to have seen Michelle Pfeiffer earn a nod for chasing Jennifer Lawrence around the house in Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, or Tiffany Haddish for blowing the roof off of Girls Trip, or Lesley Manville for holding the reins to Daniel Day-Lewis’s ego in Phantom Thread. But it’s a good year.
Loser: Words Having Meaning
Herman: In a fantastically poor bit of timing on the part of the HFPA, Big Little Lies predictably dominated the limited series categories … just days after HBO announced production on a second season with the same star-studded cast, turning Big Little Lies into a regular ol’ series. That announcement was great news for Chardonnay aficionados and for the general health of TV as a medium, but the development also stretches the “limited series” gambit—already a loophole frequently exploited to escape the drama designation and slip into a less competitive field—to its absolute limit.
In fairness to Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, they’re hardly alone. Fargo has long since established its three seasons to date as part of the same narrative continuity, with the third volume—which earned Ewan McGregor, though not standout Mary Elizabeth Winstead, an acting nomination on top of its series nod—even incorporating a major recurring character in Russell Harvard’s deaf assassin Mr. Wrench. Top of the Lake: China Girl, meanwhile, switched out its setting and supporting cast, but it’s still another entry in the saga of Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss), as told by legendary filmmaker Jane Campion. And though it has the strongest case of the three for being a separate work of art, Showtime didn’t submit Twin Peaks: The Return as a limited series for integrity’s sake. Adding a couple of new words to the title or even new faces to the ensemble doesn’t make a second (or third) season an entirely different show. Just ask The Wire, which radically reshuffled in its sophomore outing while maintaining its core identity.
I doubt we’ve seen the end of this particularly obnoxious strain of awards gamesmanship; for that, either the HFPA or the Academy would need to put its foot down, and I don’t see either wanting to get into an argument over semantics with movie stars. But category fraud has tipped over to the point of definition-unraveling. Sooner or later, lines will have to be redrawn—for the mere sake of clarity, if not fairness.
Winner: The Status Quo
Collins: John Williams for Best Original Score (The Post)?? Yawn. Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, and Denzel Washington for perfunctory acting nominations in nothingburger movies? Double yawn. Make no mistake: A great range of movies got nominations this year, from pleasant surprises like James Franco’s The Disaster Artist to good, deserving stalwarts like Spielberg’s The Post. But somehow, these nominations feel a little boring overall. I guess they can’t help but feel so, in a year that seemed so up-in-the-air and full of possibility, in terms of awards traction. No one was going to walk away completely satisfied.
Still, for many of us, this was the year we expected to witness the come-up of genuine phenomena, like Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele—which can still happen! But maybe that wish overlooks the fact that we’re working on awards time. And in awards time, this is the year the gates finally get opened to the likes of Guillermo del Toro and Martin McDonagh, people who probably should have gotten this much attention from the Globes years ago, with better movies. By that logic, Gerwig, Peele, and a legion of others, including Sean Baker and Dee Rees, will get their due in, what, five years? Ten? I guess I can wait. But I wish we didn’t have to.