It’s easy to hate on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which has a bad reputation for nominating people it would like to show up for the Golden Globes, rather than the best performers of the year. But the association’s nominations, which came out today, got some things right this year. Here are the best–and worst–decisions the HFPA made this year:
Right: An endorsement of Michael Schur’s brand of comedy with nods for Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Parks and Recreation: I don’t know that I think that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the best new comedy of the fall (more on that in a moment). But it’s quite a good one, and a Golden Globe nomination may help bolster its prospects of a second season. And more to the point, seeing both of Schur’s comedies get nominations is a lovely vote of confidence in the idea that you can be extremely funny while still being nice and optimistic about the world.
Wrong: A snub of Trophy Wife, the actual best show about (okay, white, upper-middle-class) modern American family life: It’s incredibly boring to see Modern Family get another nod for Best Comedy, especially in a year when Sarah Haskins’ Trophy Wife has burst onto the scene as the best new comedy of the fall. The show’s name is terrible, but in the lead role of a younger woman who becomes a well-intentioned lawyer’s third wife, Malin Ackerman is incredibly funny. And the conceit that her character Kate, rather than end up locked in an antagonistic cycle with her predecessors Jackie (Michaela Watkins) and Diane (Marcia Gay Harden), becomes friends and allies with them, has been an incredible source of humor.
Right: Lots of love for Top Of The Lake, with nominations for both the mini-series and Elisabeth Moss: The Sundance Channel made a strong play for attention this year, and none of its entries were more enduring than Top Of The Lake, a strange, frightening mystery about the disappearance of a very young girl after she’s raped and becomes pregnant by her father. Elisabeth Moss is searingly angry as a detective outraged by the reemergence of a culture of sexual violence that contributed to her own rape as a teenager.
Wrong: Nominating Jason Bateman over Jason Biggs for Best Actor, TV Series Comedy: I’m very happy to see Netflix both making good content and getting rewarded for it. But it’s dull to see the HFPA reward Jason Bateman for reprising his role on Arrested Development, rather than Jason Biggs’ work in Orange Is The New Black. As Larry, who finds himself flailing after his fiancee goes to prison for drug smuggling, and then appropriating her experiences and stories about women of color with whom she’s incarcerated to boost his own career as a writer, Biggs was alternately kind, wounded, sly and manipulative, and poisonously unaware of his own privilege.
Right: Julianna Margulies for Best Actress in a TV Drama: The Good Wife is on a tremendous role this season, and I’d say the divine Ms. M has never been better, but she’s always completely excellent. Every nomination she accrues is a beacon that other network dramas should follow to excellence.
Wrong: Favoring Robin Wright’s work in House of Cards (or anything House of Cards, really) over Laverne Cox’s in Orange Is The New Black: I like Robin Wright fine, but watching her play yet another ice queen in yet another political drama (and in between this and State of Play, she’s been in two remakes of British shows that were real comedowns) doesn’t do much for me. Instead, Laverne Cox was terrific as Sophia Burset, a woman maintaining her transition, and expanding her own heart in prison as she bonded with a pacifist nun and found a way to move forward in her relationship with her wife, a process that involved letting the other woman go.
So, SO right: Recognizing Lupita Nyong’o for her work in 12 Years A Slave: I’m also very pleased to see Chiwetel Ejiofor get nominations in both film and television categories. But Nyong’o's performance in 12 Years A Slave, in its reproachful silences, whispered requests, and explosive outbursts is one of the things I saw on screen that will stay with me longest. The various nominating bodies tend to favor familiar actors and directors over whatever’s newest and most exciting. Thank goodness Nyong’o got them out of their rut.
SO Wrong: The fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association completely forgot about Fruitvale Station: If 12 Years A Slave is a grand, morally austere, gorgeous judgement on America’s original sin, Fruitvale Station, about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, who was shot to death on a BART platform in 2009 is an important counterpart to it: warm, often incredibly funny, and a reminder that the past depicted by 12 Years A Slave isn’t really past. I wish the HFPA had recognized them together.
Right: A resurgence a science fiction in the form of nominations for Tatiana Maslany for her work in Orphan Black, recognition for Gravity, and the screenplay for Her: Yes, there are a whole lot of nifty devices in summer blockbusters. But prestige television and cinema provided nice reminders that the near future will do more for us than simply provide new ways to blow things up. As a whole bunch of clones in Orphan Black, Tatiana Maslany provided a fascinating commentary on fractured contemporary identities. Gravity restored the majesty and terrors of space, ignored by policy, to the popular imagination. And Her is a gorgeous, sexy exploration of how we might discover that there’s other intelligent life in the universe. I’m glad to see the HFPA remember that dreaming the future is an entirely worthy pursuit for mass culture.
Wrong: Kludging together the supporting acting categories in television: Is there any part of the Globes’ setup that produces worse decisions that combining all the supporting acting categories across three different tranches of culture in television? The lockout of Orange Is The New Black‘s supporting cast is just one of the crimes perpetuated by this setup. Ditto with The Americans, which seems set to be the show that sets a new record for underappreciation by awards bodies. But why not take the opportunities to recognize six great performances instead of two?