Will The Irishman clean up? Or Marriage Story? And how will Once Upon a Time in Hollywood fare? Peter Bradshaw offers a lowdown of the main categories and his predictions and omissions
Wintry mob drama … Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, with Jesse Plemons, Ray Romano, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Photograph: Netflix
Best film (drama)
The best film category is dominated – just like everything else in the cultural conversation around movies – by Netflix, which has the majority of the nominees: Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story and Fernando Meirelles’s The Two Popes.
The other two are Sam Mendes’s 1917 and Todd Phillips’s box-office smash Joker. This is a really good list, in my view, with one exception: I am unconvinced that Joker is anything other than an amazingly crass, boorish and shallow movie, stridently but incorrectly congratulating itself on its own supposed supercoolness: there is a decent, but overrated performance from Joaquin Phoenix.
1917 is one from the heart, a one-shot nightmare that succeeds in being tremendous, exhilarating and affecting. Scorsese’s wintry mob drama is a magnificent film, one of his very best. For me, the film flew by.
Marriage Story is a gorgeous, beguiling film – desperately sad, and yet with a persistent heartbeat of romance. The Two Popes is the kind of undemanding middleweight biopic that tends to be rewarded during awards season: an imagined dramatic account of the confrontation between Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and the cardinal who succeeds him: Francis (Jonathan Pryce). I regretted the absence of Claire Denis’s sci-fi High Life – and even more the snub to Greta Gerwig’s wonderful new version of Little Women.
Will win: Marriage Story.
Should win: The Irishman.
Shoulda been a contender: Little Women.
Best musical or comedy
This category is traditionally where the often-mocked Globes scores, because it makes space for the crowd-pleasers at which most awards bodies turn up their noses.
It is a lively list this year, although I am astonished at the way pundits have rolled over for the fatuous and pointless Jojo Rabbit. It strikes a very queasy series of false notes.
Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman is a rousing and entertaining account of the early life of Elton John with a great (singing) performance from Taron Egerton, although it is clearly the authorised version permitted by Sir Elton himself.
My favourite on this list is Quentin Tarantino’s dizzying, dazzling Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, a black comedy about late-60s Los Angeles which is brilliantly conceived and designed. Rian Johnson’s Christie-esque whodunit, Knives Out, has been much praised, although I have to admit to being the tiniest bit disappointed with the big reveal. Eddie Murphy’s Dolemite Is My Name is a hilarious Blaxploitation biopic comedy, and thoroughly deserves its nomination.
But where on Earth was Booksmart? That really was an out-and-out comedy, without any pretensions to anything other than getting laughs.
Will win: Knives Out.
Should win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Shoulda been a contender: Booksmart.
Best actor (drama)
Here is where this year’s Globes look a little bit under par. It is great to see Adam Driver get his nomination for Marriage Story, while Antonio Banderas establishes a gold-standard with his great performance in Pedro Almdodóvar’s autofictional movie Pain and Glory. But I found Christian Bale’s mannered and twitchy performance as the hot-tempered racing-car genius in the middling Ford v Ferrari almost insufferable (the same goes for Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker). Jonathan Pryce does an honest, good-natured job with the role of Pope Francis in The Two Popes. It is very surprising that Robert De Niro somehow didn’t get a nod for his gloomy hitman in The Irishman, Brad Pitt probably deserved something for his troubled spaceman in James Gray’s Ad Astra.
Will win: Adam Driver.
Should win: Antonio Banderas.
Shoulda been a contender: Robert De Niro.
Best actress (drama)
Cynthia Erivo brought sheer passionate commitment, charisma and verve to the role of the anti-slavery campaigner Harriet Tubman; her closest competitor is Renée Zellweger, who won hearts and minds with her very intelligent and heartfelt portrayal of Judy Garland. It is a good performance, although the film itself puts a sugary soft focus on the wrenching agony of Garland’s decline. Saoirse Ronan is characteristically forthright and excellent in the role of Jo in Gerwig’s terrific new version of Little Women. Scarlett Johansson is also very good in Marriage Story, with flashes of passion, anguish and rage that are all the more powerful for bursting out of that kind of opaque reserve that she habitually creates.
I am very unconvinced by Charlize Theron’s mannered and odd impersonation of Fox News star Megyn Kelly in Bombshell; the film’s confusion over the fact that Kelly is no feminist shows up in her performance. Perhaps the Globes should have looked outside Hollywood and rewarded Yong Mei for her heartwrenching turn as the grieving mother in Wang Xiaoshuai’s So Long, My Son.
Will win: Renée Zelleweger.
Should win: Cynthia Erivo.
Shoulda been a contender: Yong Mei.
Best actor (musical or comedy)
Some really great stuff here from Leonardo DiCaprio as a failing TV cowboy actor, and – the singing especially – from Egerton in Rocketman. There is a blast of comic energy from Murphy as the 70s Blaxploitation comic Rudy Ray Moore; as for Daniel Craig, he brings plenty of amusement and drollery to his performance as the intellectual private detective in Knives Out (although I sometimes wonder if he really does have comedy bones). It is a bit dismaying to see Roman Griffin Davis in here for his moderate child-actor moppet turn in the worryingly overindulged Jojo Rabbit. I would have liked to see Robert Downey Jr nominated for his very distinctive and personal performance as Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame.
Will win: Taron Egerton.
Should win: Leonardo DiCaprio.
Shoulda been a contender: Robert Downey Jr.
Best actress (musical or comedy)
My feeling is that Awkwafina has this sewn up for her starring turn in The Farewell, a heart-rending and sweet movie about the Chinese-American experience. Cate Blanchett can never be anything other than a potent and intelligent screen presence, and her performance as the agoraphobic architect who goes missing in Where’d You Go, Bernadette? has been much admired. As for Emma Thompson, she has been nominated for her role as an acid-tongued British talk-show host in Late Night – a good performance although, oddly, she is more obviously funny in a far inferior film, the box-office smash Last Christmas, in which she was the grumpy Croatian mum. Ana de Armas is really good in Knives Out, but again I have to say in terms of real comedy – not comedy-drama, not drama with bittersweet comic touches, but actual comedy – Feldstein is streets ahead of anyone here. One person who deserved to be on this list is that great singer and actor Jessie Buckley for her full-throated performance in Wild Rose, the story of a Scottish woman yearning to be a country music star.
Will win: Awkwafina.
Should win: Beanie Feldstein.
Shoulda been a contender: Jessie Buckley.
Best supporting actor
There are some big names and revered silverback gorillas in this list – all of whom are doing an excellent job, although I couldn’t help wondering if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association could cast its net a little wider? For opaque reasons, Anthony Hopkins has a best supporting actor nomination, despite being of equal importance to Pryce in The Two Popes. Tom Hanks’s performance as the American TV legend Fred Rogers is causing critics to gibber with awestruck delight, although Brad Pitt may pinch it with his wonderfully mature performance in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which showcases his marvellous Gary-Cooper-like ease.
But the frontrunners have to be Al Pacino and Joe Pesci for their fantastic performances as the Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa and the coolly understated mobster Russell Bufalino in The Irishman. I reckon Pesci will get it – to a roar of pleasure from the assembled crowd.
Will win: Joe Pesci.
Should win: Joe Pesci.
Shoulda been a contender: Wesley Snipes (Dolemite Is My Name).
Best supporting actress
Jennifer Lopez started as an actor; do not rule out the possibility that she will be rewarded for her performance in the widely enjoyed raunchfest Hustlers, as the mentor-stripper who takes Constance Wu under her wing. Yet the Globe might well go Kathy Bates for her part as the everyman-hero’s mother in Clint Eastwood’s biopic drama Richard Jewell. Elsewhere, there is Margot Robbie for her (fictional) role in Bombshell; very uninhibited performance, and Robbie is not hampered like her co-stars by having to produce a quasi-impersonation of a real-life person. Annette Bening gives an intelligent, careful but uninspired performance inThe Report. But the winner here is surely Laura Dern, for her hilarious portrayal of a cunning divorce lawyer in Marriage Story.
Will win: Laura Dern.
Should win: Laura Dern.
Shoulda been a contender: Julia Butters (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).
What on earth happened to Gerwig for Little Women? Or indeed Alma Har’el for Shia LaBeouf drama Honey Boy? At any rate, there are some heavy-hitters here: Mendes has a well-deserved nod for his superlative 1917, as do Scorsese and Tarantino. Perhaps the most notable nominee is the Korean film-maker Bong Joon-ho for his fascinating social satire Parasite; fast becoming the talking point of the 2020 awards season.
Will win: Martin Scorsese.
Should win: Martin Scorsese.
Shoulda been a contender: Greta Gerwig.