Stephen Arnell

The Golden Globes: 8 of the best nominated films to watch

The Golden Globes: 8 of the best nominated films to watch
Mank: Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz (Photo: Netflix)
Text settings
‘When it comes down to it, I'd rather have an action figure than a Golden Globe.' - Chadwick Boseman

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the annual Hollywood Press Association Awards by two months; for the first time the show will be a bi-coastal affair, broadcast from the usual venue of The Beverly Hills Hilton on the West Coast and from The Rainbow Room in New York City.

In their fourth crack at the gig,  the Golden Globe hosts will be Tina Fey (East Coast) and Amy Poehler (West), taking over from Ricky Gervais, who took his fifth turn at presenting the awards last year, where his trademark snark was felt by some to be fast approaching its sell-by-date.

This year’s Golden Globes will be unique in a number of ways; with nominations for three female directors, a record number of nods for Netflix and the appearance of the late Chadwick Boseman up for Best Actor in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Sacha Baron Cohen up for Best Actor in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and as Supporting Actor in The Trial of the Chicago 7.

As in 2020 (when The Irishman, Marriage Story, Dolemite Is My Name and The Two Popes were all up for awards) subscribers to Netflix and Amazon have the advantage of being able to already watch a fair few of the movies nominated, a consequence in 2021 of both the pandemic and the streamers' hunger for prestige pictures.

In no particular order of preference, here are eight titles from the movie nominees:

Mank – Netflix; 6 nominations, including Best Motion Picture: Drama

David (Seven) Fincher’s long-gestating love letter (of sorts) to the Golden Age of Hollywood was written by his late father Jack.

Whilst I appreciate the loving care that went into the picture, I found myself increasingly non-plussed by the slow pace, repetition, and intrusive score (courtesy of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross).

Erik Messerschmidt’s gorgeous black and white cinematography can’t disguise the emptiness at the heart of Mank; for a different take on the writer I would recommend Benjamin Ross’s RKO 281 (1999) with John Malkovich as Mankiewicz, who was played to great acclaim by Gary Oldman in Fincher’s picture, currently free to watch on YouTube.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Netflix, 5 nominations including Best Motion Picture: Drama

Aaron Sorkin’s picture about the infamous 1968 trial of anti-Vietnam War radicals is a pleasingly old fashioned and well-made linear drama, which may have annoyed some critics in its rather traditional approach, but I for one found very satisfying. Sorkin’s knack for smart dialogue and the work of superb ensemble cast (including Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, Redmayne, Mark Rylance, and Jeremy Strong) chock-full of strong performances make Chicago 7 a movie well worth revisiting.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm - Amazon Prime; 3 nominations, including Best Motion Picture: Musical or Comedy

After the dismal Grimsby (2016) and the mixed reception given to the 2018 series Who is America? (Showtime), expectations may have been on the low side for Sacha Baron Cohen’s sequel to Borat (2006).

How wrong they were, as Baron Cohen made lightning strike twice with this Covid-19 inflected tale of Borat’s quest to trade his fifteen-year-old daughter Tutar (the fabulous Golden Globe nominated newcomer Maria Bakalova) to then Vice President Mike Pence in return for the US casting a more favourable eye on his impoverished home country of Kazakhstan.

The movie achieved notoriety over the scene where Rudy Giuliani (former President Trump’s creepy personal attorney) gets into a pickle ‘adjusting’ his underwear in a hotel room whilst being interviewed by Tutar in the guise of an admiring young TV journalist. 'Very nice,' as Borat is wont to say – and which is now Kazakhstan’s official tourism slogan.

One Night in Miami, Netflix – 3 nominations, including Best Director

Actress Regina King’s (Watchmen) feature film directorial debut depicts a heavily fictionalised version of the real-life meeting of Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Jim in a motel after Ali's victory over his hotly tipped opponent Sonny Liston.

Scripted by Kemp Powers (Soul) from his play of the same name, One Night in Miami has won critical plaudits for both cast (Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr.) and direction, although some nay-sayers drew attention to the inherent limitations of its one-set stage origins, but despite this praised King’s fluid use of the camera.

Coming to the UK soon...

Judas & The Black Messiah, HBO Max - 2 nominations, including Best Supporting Actor

Based on a true story, Judas & The Black Messiah depicts how petty criminal William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) worms his way into the confidences and then betrays Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) in 1968, the same year as The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Pitched by identical twin triple threat writers/actors/comedians The Lucas Brothers as "The Conformist meets The Departed.", the picture earned high praise from critics and Best Supporting Actor recognition for Britain’s own Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther).

Martin Sheen plays against type as FBI Director and thoroughly nasty piece of work J Edgar Hoover. Stanfield’s turn as O’Neal could be seen as the evil flipside to John David Washington’s Detective Ron Stallworth in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman (2018).

Some of the themes also are mirrored in Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (2020, Netflix), which unfortunately was passed over by the Hollywood Press Association for any nominations.

Another Round, Prime Video – nominated for Best Foreign Language Film

Shades of Marco Ferreri’s La Grande Bouffe (1973), as Thomas Vinterberg’s (Dogme 95) black comedy sees a group of bored Danish academics decide to test (actual) psychiatrist Finn Skårderud’s theory that having an elevated blood alcohol level of 0.05 makes one both more creative and laidback.

Let the day drinking begin, and, as the gambit seems to work, the pals decide to ramp their BAC limit to 0.10 and binge-drink, all (of course) part of the experiment. I wouldn’t be letting the cat out of the bag to say that things don’t according to plan.

Incidentally, the picture’s star, the great Mads Mikkelsen, is also generating a lot of buzz for his role in the unhinged Riders of Justice (2020) which beat Another Round to record the best-selling opening weekend for a movie in Denmark in 2020.

Promising Young Woman, Amazon Prime (preorder), 4 nominations, including Best Motion Picture: Drama

Sold as a dark revenge thriller with comedic undertones, Promising Young Woman could be seen as required viewing at certain US all-male college fraternities.

The rape and subsequent suicide of her friend and fellow student Nina leads Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) to drop out of medical school and pursue a path of vengeance against the rapist and similar types.

She achieves this through a reckless path of entrapment, blackmail, and some very questionable schemes, all admittedly in a righteous cause.

Promising Young Woman is one of those pictures that really needs the ending to be kept a secret, so I won’t reveal any more.

Mulligan made the news recently scrapping in print with a Variety critic who seemed to imply (in her words) that she ‘wasn’t hot enough’ for the role, which he suggested may have been better played by the film’s producer, actress Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad).

The Father – 4 nominations, including Best Motion Picture: Drama

A movie with the conscious aroma of awards bait, The Father is the first directorial effort from acclaimed French playwright Florian Zeller, based on his 2012 play Le Père.

Coming off the back of his Best Supporting Actor nomination last year for The Two Popes Anthony Hopkins earns a nod in 2021 for his convincing portrayal of Anthony, an elderly gent suffering from increasing memory loss.

Olivia Coleman provides strong support as his daughter Anne and is up for the Best Supporting Actress gong (she previously won the Best Actress for The Crown last year). Coleman of course also earned an Academy Award for playing another Anne – the queen of that name in The Favourite (2018).

Speaking at the Telluride Film Festival, Hopkins said that working on the movie 'might've been the highlight of my life.'