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‘The Irishman’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood’ Lead the Golden Globe Nominee Pack for Best Picture

“It’s what it is,” Robert DeNiro’s Frank Sheeran warned Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa in director Martin Scorsese’s latest epic offering, The Irishman. Although a reluctant mafia threat meant to pacify an angry Union leader, DeNiro could just as easily have been referring to the announcement early this morning of the Golden Globe nominations, of which The Irishman – along with the films Marriage Story and Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood – distinguished itself from the rest of the filmatic pack by cleaning up with a whole slew of nominations.

 For some fans of the movies, December 9, 2019 was anxiously looked forward to because of the world premiere of director Jason Reitman’s trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife. At our household though, this morning was all about the announcement of the Hollywood Foreign Press Golden Globe nominations. For those not in the know, the Golden Globes are the faster, hipper version of the Academy Awards and considered the best measure of just what films we will see nominated for the Oscar come January 13, 2020. This year’s nominees gave us a lot to unpack, so let’s take a quick gander at the major nominees, even as we ponder the films and filmmakers left out in the cold.

Best Motion Picture – Drama

1917

The Irishman

Joker

Marriage Story

The Two Popes

No big surprises here; Martin Scorsese’s generations spanning epic about Jimmy Hoffa and Frank Sheeran was an odds-on favorite for a Best Picture nod and the closest thing to a lock you’ll find outside of a First National Bank.

 The inclusion of the Todd Phillips film Joker was a surprise to this cineaste. I had anticipated the controversial film to lock in nods for Best Actor and Screenplay, but the inclusion of a Best Picture nod – in the coveted Drama category, yet – bodes very well indeed for the film come Oscar time. Warner Brothers and Phillips took a huge gamble with a film that some pundits claim glorifies violence and is notable primarily for the tour de force performance by its lead actor, Joaquin Phoenix. The nod for Best Picture in Drama validates the film in an odd way and gives it more mileage as it zooms towards the Dolby Theatre early next year.

The Sam Mendes period war film, 1917, has had a slow and steady buzz around it for months now. Credit master filmmaker Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Revolutionary Road) and a return to form for a maestro who had spent the last few years in the world of the James Bond franchise. 1917 is a staggering work with long, uninterrupted takes that takes us into the bowels of hell known as the first World War; Stunning and worthy of every accolade bestowed upon it. Welcome back, Mr. Mendes!

Marriage Story brings back to the fore master director Noah Baumbach in a story about a stage director and his actress wife who undergo an excruciating divorce. Baumbach channels some of his own angst and pain and mixes well with his own trademark dark humor and the result is easily his best film since the superlative The Squid and the Whale. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are excellent in this and continue to remind us why – sans superhero and sci-fi space operas – they are two of the best actors of their generation.

In an age where religion is more than ever a so-called hot button issue, director Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes shows audience’s that common ground is possible between opposing religious factions.

Which brings us to…

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood

Knives Out

Jojo Rabbit

Rocketman

Dolemite Is My Name

I’m always thrown off my prognostication game when it comes to just which picture will get the Best Drama versus which one will get a nod for Best Musical or Comedy. Such was the case with director Quentin Tarantino’s magnum opus love letter to the Hollywood of the late 1960s, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood. While Tarantino’s rich writing treads awfully close to comedy, it’s more the inane comedy that naturally populates our daily lives than over-the-top Caddyshack sort of humor. If I were a member of the mysterious Hollywood Foreign Press, Once Upon a Time would have received my vote for Best Drama, but hey, apples and oranges, right? Whatever the category, I’m happy to see Tarantino’s best effort in some time get the recognition it deserves.

Knives Out is a welcome surprise to this genre lover. It reminds me that humor, horror, suspense and a little dash of commentary can work like gangbusters when done correctly, and Rian Johnson directed all of the above ingredients deliciously to craft one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had in a theater since You’re Next.

Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit concerns itself with a lonely German boy who discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their family attic. Jojo has an imaginary friend in the form of Adolf Hitler and this salient plot point alone should probably have sank this wonderful little film before it even began filming considering the uber-politically correct times we currently find ourselves in. Luckily, the film is alive and well and teaching viewers that blind nationalist hate can be overcome and defeated; major plaudits for the Foreign Press for showing this little gem some much needed love.

Rocket Man has been a slow burn towards this nomination and it almost always seemed to have this category locked up. While not a fan of the film myself, it has a huge and loyal group of supporters that pushed it to this preliminary finish line. Helping matters is that it’s one of the few musicals to be released in 2019, making it a comfortable fit in this category.

Dolemite Is My Name is an actor’s showcase for the often underestimated Eddie Murphy. Murphy portrays real life filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore in Craig Brewer’s bio-comedy and does so with an intensity that is impossible to resist: A worthy nomination.

The two top categories of Drama and Comedy-Musical informed the nominees largely for Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Director. Joaquin Phoenix and Leonardo DiCaprio, two of the most exciting actors working in film today, each scored their own respective nod for Joker and Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood, respectively, while Renee Zellweger (the odds on favorite for her resplendent turn in the film Judy) Eddie Murphy, the always underrated Jonathan Pryce and the impossibly talented Saoirse Ronan also racked up nominations for their groundbreaking work.

A serious omission is almost de regular for any awards ceremony, and the Goleden Globes are no exception this year. Case in point is Shia LaBeouf who literally wrote his own comeback story in his intimately remarkable film Honey Boy. After admittedly sabotaging his own acting career for years, LaBeouf returned to fine form in this autobiographical story and it’s a glaring oversight by the usually fastidious Hollywood Foreign Press to omit him from this year’s proceedings. At least he’s in good company: Other ridiculous oversights include Robert DeNiro for his considered and heart-wrenching work in The Irishman. Direcotr Greta Gerwig was shut out, too, and the omission of Ford v. Ferrari had me reaching for my blood pressure meds.

Want to see the full list of the nominees for this year’s Golden Globes? Head on over to The Hollywood Reporter on the full skinny and be sure to set those rabbit ears on top of your old Philco for the January 5, 2020 broadcast of the Golden Globes with returning host (YAY!) Ricky Gervais.

About Ryan Vandergriff

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