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Golden Globe Nominations Show HFPA at Its Most Mercurial

Consistent only in their inconsistency, the recognitions do little to predict future awards

Golden Globes: Film and TV Nominations
Courtesy of Focus Features/HBO/Warner Bros.

If you’re looking to the mercurial tastes of 90 international journalists for clues as to how film and TV professionals will ultimately view the year’s releases, this week’s Golden Globe nominations announcement did very little to shed light.

In movie world, “La La Land” and “Moonlight” (along with “Manchester by the Sea”) were already the frontrunners of the season. Leading the Golden Globe film nominations with seven and six mentions, respectively, the two films went further to etch their status in stone.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. did manage to broaden the field in a few other categories. To a supporting actor race that has been dominated by Mahershala Ali of “Moonlight” and Jeff Bridges of “Hell or High Water,” the group added Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Nocturnal Animals”) and Simon Helberg (“Florence Foster Jenkins”).

It also afforded some campaign capital to fringe hopefuls like Jessica Chastain (“Miss Sloane”) and Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”), and brought attention to GKids’ foreign animated contender “My Life as
a Zucchini.”

But don’t expect the HFPA recognition for Ryan Reynolds (“Deadpool”) and Jonah Hill (“War Dogs”) to translate to Oscar potential. Variety may be the spice of life, but the HFPA still has eyes for big stars.

The three nominations for “Nocturnal Animals” — supporting actor, director, and screenplay — were interesting, not least because they outpaced Focus Features’ other awards hopeful, “Loving.” Last week, news came to light that the HFPA had to decline rather expensive bottles of cologne from “Nocturnal Animals” director Tom Ford, per rules stipulating that such offerings be confined to a market value not exceeding $95. The group has a sordid history of perceived pay-for-play, being bought off with extravagant excursions and valuable gifts. But it has been trying to shed that image over the last several years. And the fact is, many members really liked Ford’s film.

Shutouts for Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” and Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” certainly aren’t helpful for Warner Bros. and Paramount’s respective Oscar campaigns for those films — particularly the latter, a late-breaking entry that could use all the help it can get. But no one ever said that missing out on Globe recognition was a death knell, and those studios ought to know: Warners’ “American Sniper” and Paramount’s “True Grit” both turned up goose eggs with the HFPA, only to land multiple Oscar nominations, including best picture.

On the TV side, the group proved as fickle as ever. While maintaining their passion for anointing new series — “This Is Us,” “Westworld,” “Atlanta,” “The Crown” — the members inexplicably turned their backs on those they crowned (pardon the expression) last year. “Mr. Robot” won’t be making a return trip to the podium to collect a best drama trophy, nor will best drama actress Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”) or best supporting actress Maura Tierney (“The Affair”).

No matter. The Globes spread their love far and wide, muddying any larger message about their preferences. The only thing consistent about the noms was their inconsistency.

Looking for loyalty? Globe-winning CW stars Rachel Bloom and Gina Rodriguez made the comedy actress slate, but Netflix’s “Narcos” was snubbed for drama, as was its lead actor, Wagner Moura.

Looking for star power? Globes favorite Sarah Jessica Parker made the cut for HBO’s “Divorce” — as did perhaps the biggest head scratcher of them all, Nick Nolte for Epix’s “Graves.” Meanwhile, “How to Get Away with Murder” star Viola Davis joined Henson in falling off the slate for TV drama actress (though she was nominated for supporting actress for her big-screen role in “Fences” ).

While some categories were completely reinvented — “Game of Thrones” is the only returning nominee for best drama — nearly all of the comedy nominees are back, including last year’s oddball choice (and winner), Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle.”

As much as the HFPA likes to crown new series, sometimes it takes several seasons to recognize others, like “Black-ish” (now in season three) and “The Americans” (season four). But when it does, it goes all in: This year, it showered the ABC comedy with three noms, and gave the FX drama two.

The big winner, of course, was “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” which topped the list with five nominations. The FX true-crime anthology has already racked up Emmys, so its awards cred is established.

Where the Globes tally will help is with a new show like “This Is Us,” NBC’s first nom for best drama in 10 years. The series, from 20th Century Fox TV, racked up three noms overall, including recognition for actresses Mandy Moore and Chrissy Metz — although the male actors were slighted (maybe because of the Globes’ odd supporting actor category, which includes TV movies and nominated Sterling K. Brown for “O.J.”). The next Pearson family dinner is going to be soooo awkward.

Let the games begin.