Stephen Arnell

The best films of the Golden Globes – and where to watch them

The best films of the Golden Globes – and where to watch them
Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth (Apple TV, Alison Rosa)
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The 79th Golden Globe Awards take place on Sunday 9th January at The Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills, California. The awards this year are not without controversy.

The Golden Globes usual U.S. broadcaster NBC, together with various media outlets, actors, and other creative types say that they will shun the ceremony over the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s failure to increase the diversity of the organisation’s membership.

Most notably Tom Cruise handed back the Golden Globes he achieved for Magnolia, Jerry Maguire and Born on the Fourth of July.

In response to this and other criticisms, in early May 2021, the HFPA announced a plan to increase membership with a 'specific focus on recruiting Black members' and resolving assorted 'ethical lapses'. Sounds a tall order, but although the plan was generally welcomed as a first step, the boycott currently continues.

2021’s ceremony was hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, but this year’s bash will go ahead without any celebrity presenters.

That is unless Ricky Gervais can be persuaded to return as host for the 6th time and combine his passion for slamming Hollywood, ‘wokeism’ and cancel culture with a plug for season three of his Netflix dramedy After Life, which launched on 4th January 2022.

Likewise (at the time of writing) it’s uncertain whether the event will be televised, although presumably the HFPA will at the very least attempt to stream the proceedings. This year’s awards are also possibly unusual in that some nominated movies and performances have received distinctly lukewarm critical receptions.

These include Adam McKay’s apocalyptic attempted satire Don’t Look Up, and the performances of Lady Gaga and Andrew Garfield in House of Gucci and Tick, Tick... Boom! respectively.

Here are ten nominated pictures, some of which you can already watch on various streamers, at the cinema, or via pay per view.

Belfast (Best Picture - Drama) UK release date 21st January 2022

Ken Branagh’s autobiographical picture set in Belfast during the beginning of The Troubles has won critical acclaim for both performances and his direction. Some have compared the movie to Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (2018), about a family living in Mexico City in the 1970s, which was also filmed in Black & White.

But saying that, one must remember that Branagh shot the comedy In the Bleak Midwinter in the format way back in 1995.

Ken of course lost his Belfast brogue when his family moved to Reading when he was nine years of age, adopting Received Pronunciation to avoid anti-Irish bullying.

Paolo Sorrentino’s similarly autobiographical Hand of God (about his boyhood in the Naples of the 1980s) has also been nominated for a Golden Globe (Best Picture – Non-English Language).

Licorice Pizza (Best Picture - Musical/Comedy) currently playing in UK cinemas

The term ‘Licorice Pizza’ refers to a vinyl 12" 'long playing' or 'LP' record – not a particularly unappetising kind of cheese-topped starch disc.

Pau Thomas Anderson’s (There Will Be Blood) picture deliberately evokes teen coming of age movies such as American Graffiti (1973) and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), with shades of Robert Altman, Bob Rafelson, Dazed & Confused (1993) and even (to my eyes) The Nice Guys (2016).

Based in part on the exploits of producer Gary Goetzman, Licorice Pizza follows teen actor/waterbed salesman Gary Valentine (Philip Seymour Hoffman’s son Cooper) and his love/friendship for 25-year-old photographer’s assistant Alana Kane (a confident debut from Alana Haim). Think Harold & Maude without the incipient necrophilia.

The pair encounter a host of oddballs and real-life still living characters including gay politician Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie) and producer/former hairdresser Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper)

Both gave their permission to be depicted in the movie, all the more surprising in the case of Peters, who’s not shown in a flattering light. Peters' sole condition was that Cooper uses his patented pick-up line: 'Would you like a peanut butter sandwich?' Which supposedly worked almost every time for Peters.

Cyrano (Best Picture - Musical/Comedy) UK release date 14th January 2022

British director Joe Wright (The Darkest Hour) has experienced much more success with his take on the musical version of Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac than his near-exact contemporary (both were born in 1972, within a few months of each other) Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) had with Cats (2019).

Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) has picked up rave reviews in his role as Cyrano de Bergerac, where he uses his undeniable charisma and mellifluous voice to great effect.

As for the score (by Erica Schmidt and The National’s Dessner brothers); for what it’s worth, all I’ll say is that it’s better than Cats.

The Power of the Dog (Best Picture Drama) Netflix

I thought that Benedict Cumberbatch essentially possessed too much native common sense to buy into the bunkum of method acting, but in Power of the Dog he appears to have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the technique.

That’s not to traduce his excellent performance, only to evidence pity for his co-stars who had to endure weeks of his apparently smelly, unwashed, permanently in-character surly monkey shines.

In Jane Campion’s picture Cumberbatch plays disagreeable rancher Phil Burbank, who exhibits enough not-so-hidden neuroses and disturbing behavioural symptoms to occupy a weekend psychiatrists’ symposium.

When his easy-going brother George (Jesse Plemons) takes a fancy to bar owner Rose (Kirsten Dunst) he soon irks Phil by marrying the lady and taking in her son, the sensitive Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee).

The pair give Phil the opportunity to demonstrate the full range of his appetite for bullying and displays of repressed sexuality.

Don't Look Up (Musical/Comedy) Netflix

Despite the poor reviews, I admit that I was looking forward to watching Adam McKay’s End of the World comedy Don’t Look Up.

A starry cast (including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, and Cate Blanchett) struggle with a turgid storyline, lame gags that fall embarrassingly flat and a tone of overwhelmingly smug worthiness from McKay, who wrote, directed, and produced the picture.

In the words of Woody Allen’s alien visitors in Stardust Memories (1980), I prefer McKay’s 'earlier, funny' movies. In his case, Stepbrothers (2008) and The Other Guys (2010).

Others will probably disagree, but the only actor who came out of Don’t Look Up well in my eyes was Mark Rylance, who played tech billionaire Peter Isherwell, a creepy whispery-voiced amalgam of Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama) Apple TV+ from 14th January

Joel Coen’s first picture without his producer/co-writer/co-editor brother Ethan has earned high praise from reviewers, especially for the performance of Denzel Washington as the titular character and the Black & White cinematography of Bruno Delbonnel.

Those expecting a lengthy bum-numbing onscreen helping of the Bard may be pleased to discover that the film’s running time is a sprightly 105 minutes, perfectly in keeping with Shakespeare's most compact tragedy.

Also coming in for approval is British actress Kathryn Hunter, who plays all three witches. A unique talent, I remember Hunter first from HBO’s Rome (2005-07), where she played Cleopatra’s little helpmeet Charmian.

There have been many film versions of the Scottish Play; along with Coen’s latest picture I would also recommend those by Orson Welles (1948), Roman Polanski (1971) and Justin Kurzel (2015, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard).

Spencer (Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama) Amazon Rent Only

Pablo Larraín’s (Jackie) Spencer has been hailed as easily the best cinematic depiction of Princess Diana – although in an admittedly poor field.

Diana’s (Kristen Stewart) final Sandringham Christmas with the Windsors in 1991 proves a hallucinatory affair; unsurprising as writer Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders) treated us to Ebenezer Scrooge’s similarly tortured Yuletide in his bleak BBC mini-series A Christmas Carol (2019).

Stewart’s portrayal of the princess has apparently alienated the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are said to be cutting the actor whenever they attend the many Hollywood events in their social diary. No great loss to Stewart, some might say.

The Lost Daughter (Best Director Motion Picture) Netflix

Although she’s almost never off our screens nowadays, Olivia Colman has earned her success due to a range that encompasses recent roles in Sky’s Landscapers (2021), The Father (2020), The Favourite and now The Lost Daughter.

Maggie Gyllenhaal's debut feature has picked up rave reviews, for this story of a middle-aged college professor and self-confessed ‘unnatural mother’ (Colman) who sees echoes of her former self when she meets a young mother (Dakota Johnson) when holidaying in Greece.

As Colman’s name is Leda, there are call backs to the Greek myth of Leda & The Swan, concerning as it does the difficult relationship between a mother and her offspring.

Drive My Car (Best Picture – Non-English Language (formerly Foreign Language) Currently playing in UK cinemas

Another film that draws inspiration from literary sources, more blatantly in the case of Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s (Asako I & II) Drive My Car.

A middle-aged actor’s (Yūsuke Kafuku, played by Hidetoshi Nishijima) younger wife Oto (Reika Kirishima) dies suddenly of a brain haemorrhage.

When asked to direct a stage production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya he casts as Vanya the man he suspects was Oto’s lover, the unstable young thespian Kōji (Masaki Okada).

An initially unwilling Yūsuke is assigned female driver Misaki (Tōko Miura) by the festival producers (concerned over his poor sight in one eye) – the movie explores the deepening relationship the actor has both with her and the troubled Kōji.

When the younger actor is arrested for the suspected murder of a paparazzo, the director takes the role of Vanya to great acclaim.

The French Dispatch (Best Score Motion Picture) – Amazon Buy Only

Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch may suffer from an overdose of his usual whimsy, but is great fun, if you’re in the mood for a high strength helping of his trademark eccentricity.

The picture ostensibly concerns the activities of a group of American journalists working for Bill Murray’s cultural magazine of the title in the Gallic town of ‘Ennui’ (a little too on the nose there; actually picturesque Angoulême in southwestern France) in an unspecified period during the late Twentieth Century.

Regular Anderson collaborator Alexandre Desplat’s (Fantastic Mr Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Isle of Dogs) score is a delight and a perfect accompaniment to the movie, memorably pastiching classical music, Erik Satie, baroque pop, and Parisian jazz.

My only fear is that some bright spark in the advertising world will fillet the film's score to use as backing music on commercials for baked goods, children’s early learning toys, artisanal gin, hipster moustache trimmers and other products of a similar ilk.

Prior to Desplat, Anderson’s go-to composer was Mark Mothersbaugh, the Devo singer/multi-instrumentalist scoring Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.