Are There Legitimate Musical/Comedy Contenders for the Golden Globes?

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The 2014 Musical/Comedy races at the Golden Globes look bleak. After one of the best Musical/Comedy fields in memory in 2014, it looks like we’re back to a crop of questionable inclusions and non-Oscar contenders. Below, I analyze Musical/Comedy contenders and pretenders for the Best Picture – Musical/Comedy, along with Best Actor and Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy.

(The issue with these categories in the past is that they either have genuinely bad films or they are pumped with filler due to an absence of Oscar buzzy comedies. So when I say “bleak” I mean from a tealeaves standpoint, not necessarily in terms of quality.)

Last year, the Golden Globes gave birth to what many consider the best ever lineup for their Best Picture – Musical or Comedy. And it’s hard to argue with the claim. The 2013 nominees were American Hustle, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, and The Wolf of Wall Street. That’s four eventual Best Picture nominees and the winner of the National Society of Film Critics.

Contrast the 2013 lineup with more non-Oscary lineups of the last 10 years:

2012 had Les Miserables, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and Silver Linings Playbook.

2011 had The Artist, 50/50, Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, and My Week with Marilyn.

2010, and these are not typos, had The Kids Are All Right, Alice in Wonderland, Burlesque, Red, and The Tourist.

2009 had The Hangover, (500) Days of Summer, It’s Complicated, Julie & Julia, and Nine.

2008 had Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Burn After Reading, Happy-Go-Lucky, In Bruges, and Mamma Mia!

2007 had Sweeney Todd, Across the Universe, Charlie Wilson’s War, Hairspray, and Juno.

2006 had Dreamgirls, Borat, The Devil Wears Prada, Little Miss Sunshine, and Thank You for Smoking.

2005 had Walk the Line, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Pride & Prejudice, The Producers, and The Squid and the Whale.

And finally, 2004 had Sideways, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Incredibles, The Phantom of the Opera, and Ray.

This category usually gets a bad wrap for a lot of reasons. Firstly, it’s because the category rarely has an Oscar correlation. While many of these films were well-received critically, many received little more than zero to two Oscar nominations. Secondly, it’s because many “drama” films “flip” to Musical/Comedy despite having neither music nor laughs in order to compile a lot of Golden Globe nominations. Arguably, this occurred last year with Her and years prior with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, My Week with Marilyn, (500) Days of Summer, The Squid and the Whale, Pride & Prejudice, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And years like 2010 don’t exactly raise the critical admiration of this category. I mean…Alice in Wonderland, Burlesque, and The Tourist? Jesus.

But now that you know a little about the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical/Comedy, let me get to my point: I think we’re in for another bad year of this category.

Birdman and Inherent Vice?

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I won’t place either of these films in the “true comedy” or “zomg it’s a drama what are they doing” categories until they’re seen. But knowing the general tone of both and the source material for the latter, I think there are valid arguments that each of these films could end up in the Best Picture – Musical/Comedy race. But I’m not passing judgment just yet. And yet, on this week’s Power Hour podcast, Clayton says he’s “pretty sure” Birdman will go Musical/Comedy at the Globes.

Legitimate “Musical” or “Comedy” Contenders

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Take a quick look at Clayton’s Oscar predictions for Best Picture. Of his Top 40, only Into the Woods, Begin Again, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and St. Vincent seem appropriate inclusions in this category. Heck, I’m completely comfortable calling Into the Woods a lock for a nomination here.

One must look to Get On Up, which is of the type of musician biopic the HFPA plop into this category. Should we be looking to The Skeleton Twins? Tammy wouldn’t be a shocking inclusion for them, all things considered. What about Guardians of the Galaxy, if Marvel cares enough to campaign it? What about Magic in the Moonlight? If The Last Five Years ever happens, it will clearly land here, too. Muppets Most Wanted is the only other legitimate musical of 2014, so throw that into the mix. Also, if The Family Stone could do it, then we should have This Is Where I Leave You on our radars.

But look beyond that. What other legitimate musicals or comedies are worthy of this race? The Lego Movie is ineligible here. I’d love to see 22 Jump Street here, but the original barely registered with the HFPA.

So what does the HFPA and the studio campaigners do when the legitimate batch of yearly musicals and comedies don’t look strong? Outright lie and/or blur the line.

Blurring the Line

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I think it was in one of his podcasts back in 2012, but I remember The Film Experience’s Nathaniel Rogers saying the Best Picture – Musical/Comedy often includes “pleasant” films, such as Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, that are neither typical comedies nor typical dramas. So where are our pleasantries?

The first film to pop in my mind is Chef. Then we look to the Helen Mirren vehicle, The Hundred Foot Journey. Likewise, perhaps Love is Strange could make room here. A heartwarming father-son drama like The Judge could fit that bill, too.

“Are You Sure About This?”

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Now we turn to the dirty conversation…when studios ask for and the HFPA allow dramatic films to fall into this category, despite no music and no comedy. Where are those contenders?

When talking to Clayton on the phone about this issue, he brought up Boyhood. Ugh, could you imagine? Perhaps Big Eyes is more funny than we’re anticipating. I could see Paramount trying to get the latest Reitman flick, Men Women & Children, into this race. Likewise, Whiplash is about jazz music, so could it be campaigned as a Musical/Comedy? Indeed, The Cobbler could ride the Spike Jonzeian path to “weird equals comedy.” Maleficent? Finally, it would not shock me one bit to see The Fault in Our Stars land here.

Overall

So, we’re looking a bleak slate of both legitimate and dubious contenders, that consist of:

  • Into the Woods
  • Begin Again
  • Jersey Boys
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • St. Vincent
  • Whiplash
  • Get On Up
  • Tammy
  • Magic in the Moonlight
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Last Five Years
  • The Skeleton Twins
  • This Is Where I Leave You
  • Muppets Most Wanted
  • Annie
  • 22 Jump Street

Then, more questionable contenders:

  • Birdman*
  • Inherent Vice*
  • Boyhood*
  • Whiplash*
  • The Judge*
  • The Hundred Foot Journey*
  • Chef*
  • Love is Strange *
  • The Cobbler *
  • The Fault in Our Stars*
  • Maleficent*

While 27 films might seem like an awful lot to fill in a mere 5 slots, the drama race has no shortage of 40­–50 contenders.

The Acting Races?

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Everyone knows that half the reasons films are fraudulently thrown into Musical/Comedy is to secure actors “easier” Globe wins—see: Michelle Williams.

Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy looks to almost certainly begin (and maybe end) with Meryl Streep for Into the Woods. If the Globes pull a Zeta-Jones, Emily Blunt could end up here, too. And despite that fact that TIFF is honoring her St. Vincent co-star, Melissa McCarthy could easily land here for Tammy or St. Vincent. To bookend here possible supporting nomination for The Imitation Game, Keira Knightley could land her for Begin Again. Kristen Wiig for The Skeleton Twins seems possible if a campaign occurs. If The Hundred Foot Journey goes this route, I expect to see Helen Mirren. If The Fault in Our Stars goes Musical/Comedy, I think HFPA would love to see Shailene Woodley in the audience. God, Angelina Jolie for Maleficent?

Oh, and how easy does Golden Globe #9 look for Meryl?

So…

Meryl Streep – Into the Woods
Emily Blunt – Into the Woods
Melissa McCarthy – St. Vincent
Melissa McCarthy – Tammy
Keira Knightley – Begin Again
Kristen Wiig – The Skeleton Twins
Emma Stone – Magic in the Moonlight
Jane Fonda – This is Where I Leave You
Anna Kendrick – The Last Five Years
Quvenzhane Wallis – Annie

Helen Mirren – The Hundred Foot Journey *
Shailene Woodley – The Fault in Our Stars *
Angelina Jolie – Maleficent *

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Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy has the possibility to look much better. If Birdman and Inherent Vice are ran as comedies, this race will certainly begin with Michael Keaton and Joaquin Phoenix. If they’re not, then I think James Corden and Ralph Fiennes begin the race for Into the Woods and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Follow that with Mark Ruffalo for Begin Again. If Bill Murray is running a Lead Oscar campaign (and, frankly, even if he’s not), he’ll almost certainly show up for St. Vincent. Beyond that…we Chadwick Boseman for Get on Up and Bill Hader for The Skeleton Twins seem likely. If the HFPA allows some weirdness, John Lithgow and Alfred Molina for Love is Strange could happen. Ditto with Miles Teller for Whiplash. Adam Sandler for The Cobbler? Robert Downey Jr. for The Judge? I shutter, but, Ellar Coltrane for Boyhood?

So…

  • James Corden – Into the Woods
  • Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Bill Murray – St. Vincent
  • Chadwick Boseman – Get on Up
  • Chris Pratt – Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Bill Hader – The Skeleton Twins
  • Jason Bateman – This Is Where I Leave You
  • Jeremy Jordan – The Last Five Years
  • Mark Ruffalo – Begin Again
  • Jamie Foxx – Annie
  • Channing Tatum – 22 Jump Street
  • Jonah Hill – 22 Jump Street

Straddlers

  • Michael Keaton – Birdman *
  • Joaquin Phoenix – Inherent Vice *
  • John Lithgow – Love is Strange *
  • Alfred Molina – Love is Strange *
  • Miles Teller – Whiplash *
  • Adam Sandler – The Cobbler *
  • Robert Downey, Jr. – The Judge *
  • Ellar Coltrane – Boyhood *

The asterisks in all these lists indicate the maybe-maybe-not films, those that don’t appear to be a legitimate musical or comedy at this stage. Take away the films with asterisks…and it looks even more rough.

Why is no one talking about how terrible these races look?