The Golden Globes Sobers Up (Sort Of): Years of Ridicule and Bribery Rumors Scares HFPA Straight

There were a few surprises in the Golden Globe nominations, but the biggest takeaway is that the foreign press wants to be taken seriously.

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“The Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. Bit louder, bit trashier, bit drunker, and more easily bought.”

Ricky Gervais, the sultan of scorn, uttered that cheeky bit while emceeing the Golden Globes ceremony a few years back. You see, the Globes have always been viewed as Oscar’s ugly, inebriated stepsister; an awards night more concerned with cramming as many A-list stars into the same room as possible, plying them with bottomless bubbly, and letting nature take its course.

And they would, it seems, nominate any movie—no matter how inane—to get those big-name butts in the seats. Gervais had a field day excoriating The Tourist, the tone-deaf Angelina Jolie/Johnny Depp vehicle that somehow managed to snag three Golden Globe nods (in the Musical or Comedy category), including Best Picture. Or the controversy surrounding Burlesque, the patently absurd 2010 musical that landed three Globe nods, including Best Picture, after the film’s studio flew Globes judges to Las Vegas for an all-expenses paid trip that included luxury hotel suites, fancy restaurant meals, and a private concert performed by the star of Burlesque, Cher.

All that seemed to be a thing of the past on Thursday morning when, around 8:20 a.m. ET, the nominations were announced for the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards. The ceremony will be held on Jan. 11, 2015, with dynamic duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler returning to host the show for their third and (sadly) final time.

Kate Beckinsale, Peter Krause, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Piven (and his toupee), announced the nominations, and were joined by Theo Kingma, President of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and possible member of SPECTRE.

The Complete List of Golden Globe Nominees

On the film side, Alejandro Inarritu’s Birdman led things with 7 nominations, including Best Picture (Musical or Comedy), and for the most part, the nominees seemed to serve as a fairly decent barometer for the Oscars. Last year, the Globes were particularly prescient, awarding the eventual Oscar winners for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best (Original) Screenplay, Best Animated Feature Film, and Best Foreign Language Film.

Here are the biggest surprises (and snubs) in the Golden Globe’s film categories:

SNUB: Unbroken

Remember the aforementioned Angelina Jolie flick The Tourist that nabbed all those unearned Golden Globe nominations? Well, it seems as though the HFPA has soured on Jolie, awarding her ambitious biopic of Olympian-cum-World War II hero Louis Zamperini zero nods despite assured direction, an epic, globe-spanning story, and a breakout performance by Jack O’Connell. It’s stranger when you consider that Jolie’s previous directorial effort, In the Land of Blood and Honey, scored a Golden Globe nom despite far more mediocre reviews and a meager budget.

SURPRISE: Quvenzhané Wallis, Annie

I can’t really communicate exactly why this is such a surprise for fear of breaking the film’s review embargo, but let’s just say this is… a pretty out-there choice given the strength of the performance, and that of the film. Everyone who saw Beasts of the Southern Wild knows Wallis is a unique talent, but still, no one saw this coming. It is curious that the biggest “surprises” at the Globes, from Burlesque and The Tourist to Wallis for Annie, are almost always Sony films.

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SNUB: American Sniper

Clint Eastwood’s biopic of the late Chris Kyle, the deadliest SEAL sniper in U.S. history (played by an excellent Bradley Cooper) who suffered from crippling PTSD, was completely shut out of the Globes. This is the foreign press voting for these things, so perhaps they were reluctant to celebrate a movie championing an American soldier given our military reputation abroad.

SURPRISE: Jennifer Aniston, Cake

Aniston plays against type here as a troubled woman in a chronic pain support group who becomes fascinated by the suicide of a woman in it, and gradually enters into a relationship with her husband. While the film was met with mixed reviews out of the Toronto International Film Festival, Aniston’s performance has been the subject of numerous “notices”—items in the trades and tabloids that read like paid advertisements—championing her work in the film. And now, with SAG and Golden Globe nods under her belt, it seems entirely possible that the former Friends star could land her first Oscar nomination.

SNUB: Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s ambitious space odyssey only chalked up one nomination in a below-the-line category (Best Score for Hans Zimmer), overlooking Nolan for Best Director and the film’s several outstanding performances, including Matthew McConaughey’s work as a grieving father. Then again, Nolan’s last film, The Dark Knight Rises, was completely shut out of the Golden Globes.

SURPRISE: Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Gyllenhaal also managed to snag a SAG nomination for his gonzo turn as Leo Bloom, a rapacious sociopath who finds his place in this crazy world as a “nightcrawler”—a freelance videographer who captures accidents and other violent events and sells the tapes to his local news station. It’s surprising because the film’s only grossed upwards of $36 million, and despite his resume of fine turns (Zodiac, Prisoners, End of Watch, etc.), Gyllenhaal had only managed one other Globe nod, for the terrible 2010 flick Love and Other Drugs.

MAKING HISTORY: Ava DuVernay, Selma

It's about damn time! The immensely talented Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere) became the first black woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director of a feature film for her impressive Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma. Bravo.

MORE OF THE SAME: Into the Woods

This isn’t really surprising, but rather evidence that although the Globes is heading in a more serious direction, they’re still susceptible to mild manipulation. Disney’s star-studded adaptation of the Sondheim musical managed to notch three Globe nods in the Musical or Comedy section, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Emily Blunt), and Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep). Again, the film is under a strict review embargo so I can’t get into why I think it’s a mess here, but suffice it to say there most definitely was a very fancy junket in New York for the film where members of the foreign press were flown in for a few days in the Big Apple.