Recently, the Golden Globes were handed out in the most low-key fashion imaginable. Gone are the days of glitzy, alcohol-laden bashes, complete with Ricky Gervais making near-the-knuckle digs at Hollywood icons, who look as if they’d happily knock him down. Instead the results this year were announced in that most pandemic-friendly of ways: via the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s social media feed.
It was socially distanced, devoid of any potential for gossip or scandal — two qualities forever associated with the Globes — and deeply boring.
The results themselves were mainly sensible. The Jane Campion-directed quasi-western Power of the Dog, with Benedict Cumberbatch, has established itself as the frontrunner by now, over Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical drama Belfast, and duly won awards for Best Drama, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor. It is a shame that Cumberbatch was not awarded Best Actor for his extraordinary performance as the closeted rancher Phil Burbank, but one cannot have it all. And Steven Spielberg’s new version of West Side Story shrugged off its box office failure to win Best Musical, Best Actress in a Musical and Best Supporting Actress.
Although we continue to await the Academy Award nominations — which have gone in increasingly woke directions in recent years — there are several indications from the recent announcements of the Screen Actors’ Guild shortlist and BAFTA longlist which way the wind is blowing. It seems impossible, for instance, that Lady Gaga and Kristen Stewart will not be recognized for their powerhouse performances as, respectively, Patrizia Reggiani in House of Gucci and Lady Diana in Spencer. Both have been at the forefront of just about every awards ceremony (although both were also narrowly beaten out by Nicole Kidman’s strange performance as Lucille Ball in Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos).
There are snubs and oddities, too. Ben Affleck should have been nominated for his flamboyant, brilliant role in Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, but neither he nor the film have received a great deal of attention, a consequence, undoubtedly, of its commercial failure, which saw it last barely a week in cinemas.
I was reasonably indifferent towards Don’t Look Up but it has overcome bien-pensant disdain to be both a popular favorite and, it would appear, a serious contender for awards recognition across the board. And it is amusing that Kenneth Branagh looks as if he will win his first Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, after being nominated in five separate (and distinct) categories previously. Those of us who primarily think of Branagh as an actor-director may yet be surprised to learn that he’s a garlanded screenwriter.
It would be a mistake to take awards chatter too seriously. Although the industry has recovered much of the momentum that it lost throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021, many high-profile films have been significant financial flops and there is a general sense that Netflix and other high-profile streaming services will wind up dominating the awards, much to the chagrin of the traditional movie theaters and their proprietors. The days when a big mainstream film such as Gladiator or Return of the King could triumph at both the box office and with awards voters may well be behind us forever.
In their place will be thoughtful, more obscure films — such as Power of the Dog — which will appeal to cineastes while being overlooked by those worshipping at the altar of Marvel. So let’s hope that Spider-Man: No Way Home doesn’t sweep all the awards, in a moment of panic by voters, because then we’ll know that we’re all in the deepest of trouble.