The new year dawns, and with it, the new awards season. More than just a necessity for getting people talking about the film industry in the face of the fact that nothing good is going to come out for a couple more months, and people are trying hard to get back into the drudgery of their day-to-day lives coming off the bender of performative aspirational consuming and daydreaming that the holiday cycle begets, the Golden Globes are also an award given entirely by film critics.
The Hollywood Foreign Press is a fascinating body in its own right, and I’m not going to touch on too much of it here, except to say that I’m probably spending 2019 being even more considerate of who it is that’s sending the message in each of these awards shows.
Because it is a message, and it’s being sent by a body for a set of reasons, and those reasons, it turns out, matter. We live in a world where a man can rise out of the trashiest corner of popular culture and declare himself expert enough to lead a nation. Our consideration of popular culture matters. Again, this is a point for another time, but as the first awards show of the year, it gets into the headnote here.
But all of that is a look ahead, here in the middle of what’s supposed to be a look backward at the year that just happened. The Golden Globes themselves continue to shift, but only in the direction they already had been – the “television miniseries” category continues to be the place where heavyweight prestige dramas duke it out, regardless of whether or not they have continuing seasons and all that, and a dismaying percentage of the movies involved are fucking biopics.
So it goes.
Best Miniseries or Television Film
I will give Escape at Dannemora this: it has a premise that could very easily go wacky, and a cast that basically reads like a comedy, and still manages to pull a boring-ass “based on a true story” execution out of that. Great job, Ben Stiller. Similarly, I’m surprised Russell T. Davies managed to write an entire miniseries – in this case A Very English Scandal – that managed to stick more or less to its plot, sort of. Great job, Russell T. Davies. I would have sworn that The Alienist aired more than just one year ago, but it didn’t , so here it is. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story had some really great moments and a couple of truly great performances , but was also baggy through the middle and didn’t actually help itself out any with its reverse-chronology storytelling. My misgivings about Gone Girl aside, Gillian Flynn is a very good screenwriter, Amy Adams is a very good actress, and Sharp Objects was a very good miniseries.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sharp Objects
Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Thandie Newton continues to be underappreciated for her work in Westworld, even as I also believe that Westworld itself is somewhat over-praised. It’s not enough to get her the win here, but I think it’s worth acknowledging. She’s certainly better than Yvonne Strahovsky is in The Handmaid’s Tale. Penelope Cruz did a good job playing her literal actual real-life friend , but it wasn’t that good, and I’m also not sure how much of a feat that is. Patricia Clarkson did a good job on Sharp Objects, a generally good show. Alex Borstein was the only thing that was watchable about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, so it goes to her.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film
It’s nice to know Alan Arkin is still out there, certainly. He’s still a good actor or whatever, even if he’s basically given a fat ball down the middle playing a cantankerous agent. Given that latter information, though, I have decided not to reward pandering. Kieran Culkin continues to be the more interesting Culkin, acting-wise , but still not actually very good at it. Edgar Ramirez is in The Assassination of Gianni Versace for like twenty total minutes, despite being the title character, and while he does a fine job, he’s not that impressive . A Very English Scandal is very English boring awards-bait, and Ben Whishaw (who I like, generally) does not rise above this. So that leaves us with Henry Winkler’s excellent turn in Barry.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Henry Winkler, Barry
Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film
Longtime readers will remember that it used to be a running joke that when I couldn’t come up with a winner or didn’t have an opinion about a category in any given awards show, I would give the award to Mrs. Coach’s Hair. I abandoned the practice a few years ago, as all running jokes must eventually be allowed to run their course . Everyone in this category except Patricia Arquette (which: what?) did admirable work in the category. But, with apologies to Amy Adams, Mrs. Coach’s Hair is only attached to one of these women, and she also did a great job of actoring.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Connie Britton (and, by extension, Mrs. Coach’s Hair), Dirty John
Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film
Hugh Grant and Benedict Cumberbatch could have one hell of a boring-off for their work this year. It pains me to say that, and yet here we are. This is why more people should consult with me before they nominate people for awards. Or, alternately, before they write stupid television. Anyway, Antonio Banderas is a fine Picasso. The Alienist was fine, and Daniel Bruhl is a big part of the reason why. I must, however, single out Darren Criss, for doing such a great job of capital-A acting that I was able to put aside – if only briefly – how annoying I find capital-A acting and be impressed by his abilities. He really turned himself into Andrew Cunanan, and I can’t help but be really impressed by it.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
Candice Bergen joins the “inexplicably nominated for awards for playing a character she played for many years many years ago.” She can join Debra Messing up at the head table of that particular club. Rachel Brosnahan does a fine job as the Standard Issue Amy Sherman Palladino Protagonist. She’s not very convincing as a standing-up comedian. Alison Brie is doing truly incredible work on GLOW, and is genuinely impressive episode after episode. Kristen Bell is the central part of the best ensemble, as part of the best television show currently on the air.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kristen Bell, The Good Place
Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
Oh, right. The best show except Atlanta. Maybe. I have a hard time choosing, guys. Anyway, this is the season with “Teddy Perkins,” and Donald Glover is nominated in part of rit, and frankly, that’s the best television episode to air in a very, very long time, Good Place be damned. The rest of these people are fine and did fine work, and maybe next year that will matter.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Donald Glover, Atlanta
Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama
This Golden Globes has the misfortune, for Caitriona Balfe, of appearing after a season that disappointed pretty much everyone . Much was made of Julia Roberts’ television work here, and her finally deigning to appear on some prestige television. She’s still just Julia Roberts, though, so while I suppose kudos for jumping on the thing of the times, fewer kudos for being the least of the acting Robertses. Elisabeth Moss is fine. Sandra Oh was fine in the surprising Killing Eve. Keri Russell managed to deliver a series of really excellent performances, that remained surprising and worthy of praise all the way to the end of The Americans, and that’s something to appreciate.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER:: Keri Russell, The Americans
Best Actor in a Television Series – Drama
Pretty much all the stuff I just said above except this time for Matthew Rhys. Pose was a nice surprise, and Billy Porter was a big part of why. Stephan James on Homecoming and Jason Bateman on Ozark, on the other hand, continue to be indicative of why this whole peak-tv prestige business is pretty underwhelming. I have very little to say about Richard Madden in Bodyguard. See? Matthew Rhys. He’s great, he deserves it.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy
Welp, Atlanta isn’t here because the Hollywood Foreign Press is dildos, so it’s gotta be The Good Place. Now, admittedly, I think I’d have a much harder time choosing, but it’s only the one, so it’s obviously The Good Place.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Good Place
Best Television Series – Drama
Eh. Killing Eve and Pose are at least entertaining, but I really don’t see how anything tops The Americans, which climbed the mountain of figuring out how to stick the landing. You heard me. I said they climbed the mountain to stick the landing. Blow me.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Americans
Best Animated Feature Film
So, Isle of Dogs was a fun little variation on the Wes Anderson thing. Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet were both worthwhile sequels to great movies, even if neither scaled the heights of the original. Mirai is beautiful. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not just the best Spider-Man movie ever made , not just among the very best superhero movies ever made, but might have actually been my favorite movie of the year, animated or otherwise. It’s so good, you guys.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Original Song
It really should be one of the songs from the Christmas-adjacent Spider-Man tie-in thing, but I suppose “All the Stars” is an awfully good song. Especially when put up against “Shallow” . The matching up of Jonssi and Torye Sivan is fine, and kind of inspired, but ultimately kind of boring. I have very little to see about “Requiem for a Private War”.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: SZA, “All the Stars” (f Kendrick Lamar)
Best Original Score
We got another example of Alexandre Desplat doing what Alexandre Desplat does. I’ve never much cared for Marc Shaiman, and I’m not super into it here either. With First Man, Justin Hurwitz may finally have done something that wasn’t the coolest part of the movie for which he was hired. Ludwig Goransson has done every Ryan Coogler movie, and while I here his music basically every time I look at Michael B. Jordan as a result, I actually didn’t think that Black Panther was his best work, although I did like the score. Marco Beltrami finally got to put his horror-movie-scoring talents to use in an interesting and creatively-fulfilled way with A Quiet Place, and that’s pretty cool.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marco Beltrami, A Quiet Place
I have a fear that Green Book is going to be nominated for too many things. I really genuinely have this fear. I do not like this fear, because it implies that I am a joy-hating jerk who doesn’t like nice things, and that’s kind of true: I am a joy-hating jerk who doesn’t like nice things, and Green Book is very, very nice. I think that there’s nothing wrong with Roma, and I appreciate that Alfonso Cuaron wanted to at least do something interesting with the biopic, but none of that is the screenplay. Adaptations are tricky, and If Beale Street Could Talk is based on one of my actual all-time favorite novels, and I’m almost always unable to glean how much of that sort of thing is the source material and how much is the screenplay. It’s nice that they didn’t drop the ball, though. The problem, then, is that The Favourite is a goddamn period drama full of inter-court machinations, and Vice is a period-piece about the relatively-recent past. So maybe I’ll just call it for If Beale Street Could Talk and be happy with it.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Alfonso Cuaron and Bradley Cooper are both here for their passion projects. They both got to make the movies they wanted to make the most, and the result in both cases was so unspectacular that I kind of wonder why they were so hung up on it . I think I’ve already made it clear that I’m not here to praise Green Book. I think Vice was an interesting bit of business, but I dunno. Spike Lee is surprising in his continued ability to surprise and make the most of his work, and BlacKkKlansman was astonishing.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Well, at least nobody from Green Book is here. Two of the people from The Favourite are, though. It’s not going to be any of them. Amy Adams did an Amy Adams-y job in Vice, and that’s good for her. Claire Foy did a uh…job in First Man, and that’s I guess good for her also. I’m left praising Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk, which is good for me.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Here’s some more of that Green Book! Gosh, I was almost worried I wouldn’t have to keep considering it every goddamn time. Timothee Chalamet remains delightful, but I have no idea why he’s nominated for his nothing-special work in Beautiful Boy. Perhaps because he’s him. It’s nice to see Richard E. Grant doing good work again , but I’m not really sure this is winner-caliber stuff. I love Sam Rockwell, and I love Adam Driver, and Adam Driver was in the better movie.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
The very least I can say for The Favourite is that Olivia Coleman is very Queen Anne-ish. Emily Blunt had the willingness to take on a giant, iconic role , and that’s a worthy decision, but, y’know, not the thing that wins here. Constance Wu was as good as everybody else in Crazy Rich Asians, a movie that I’m happy exists and that I’ll also be happy to stop thinking about. Charlize Theron was dunked back into the Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody well, and while it’s a fine outing for the triumvirate, it’s not as good as Eighth Grade. Eighth Grade is a pretty admirable piece of storytelling, and Elsie Fisher does a great job.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
There is no way that Lin-Manuel Miranda deserves an award for his performance in Mary Poppins Returns. I’m willing to die on that hill. Green Book is also back, here, and I’m not happy about that either. It’s a shame, because I generally like both Lin-Manuel Miranda and Viggo Mortenson, and here I am being upset with them. Life is pain. Christian Bale and John C. Reilly both played real people, and I’m not a fan, although I appreciate that there’s a Laurel & Hardy biopic out there in the world. That brings us to Robert Redford for The Old Man & The Gun, which is pretty good, and he’s pretty good in it. Hell, he’s Robert Redford.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Robert Redford, The Old Man & The Gun
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
The Wife is a serious attempt to grapple with an important and timely issue, and Glenn Close is very good in it. I shouted out Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me earlier, and I’ll do the same for Melissa McCarthy: she’s a gifted actor who doesn’t stray outside of her usual lane often enough, and I really wish that she would. Probably not the best here, but still pretty good. Destroyer is at least an earnest attempt to make Seachers-style rescue movie with a woman, and I think it brings Nicole Kidman one step closer to her character-actor-identifying magic phase . A Private War is trying really hard to do a big job about an embedded journalist, and it’s got some interesting parallels to Destroyer in execution, if not in philosophy . I’m not giving this award to Lady Gaga, because A Star is Born is stupid.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Glenn Close, The Wife
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
I suppose 2019 is, in addition to the year where I talk about awards shows and what they’re here for, also the year where I make it clear that I do not like biopics. I do not think they are a good thing for the world in general. I think that there is no way to fictionalize someone’s life in such a way that doesn’t diminish the people around them, I think that narrativizing something as complex and disordered as a human life is a great way to sell the idea of the human experience short, and I think that even good (or, well, “good”) biopics unfairly set the story of something in stone in a way that does violence to the world that it existed in, even if minorly, even if unintentionally. The acting in biopics, then, is even worse than usual acting, but also works to support my point in microcosm: it’s an impression with feelings in it, and its relationship to creating a performance out of words is the same as creating a story out of the cannibalization of events from the past – I think that it’s diminishing and not as good as, y’know, literally any available alternative. All of which is to say: Rami Malek is a good actor, but not as Freddie Mercury, and Willem Dafoe is a good actor, but not as Vincent Van Gogh. Lucas Hedges is probably a fine actor, but not as Garrard Conley, even with the names changed. Bradley Cooper worked very hard to make A Star is Born, and then turned in a Kris Kristofferson impression to anchor it to, which makes the whole thing seem even weirder. John David Washington was good in BlacKkKlansman.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman
Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical
I don’t wish specific harm to any of these movies, except maybe Green Book, but I also can’t imagine getting particularly excited about any of these. The last couple of years the Golden Globes have made some really left-field choices in these categories, and this year it’s just super-boring. Ah, well. I guess it’s a good thing Crazy Rich Asians was good enough.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Crazy Rich Asians
Best Motion Picture – Drama
This is a surprisingly good field, considering that every category up until now has been pretty lackluster, but I have to land in favor of Black Panther if only because it avoids the Dork Age trap that superhero movies are on the edge of. When superhero movies want to add moral ambiguity, they generally do so by having the character teeter on the edge of interpersonal violence or brooding or whatever. Black Panther did it by having a philosophical difference between the good-hearted but imperialist protagonist, and the well-intentioned extremist antagonist. There are lots of reasons to love Black Panther, and that one is very much the result of it being a masterful example not just of that kind of storytelling, but of superhero storytelling in general, and it’s always impressive when something can carry out a story that works beyond its genre while still remaining of its genre.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Black Panther