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Category Circuit: Early Look At This Year’s Golden Globes – Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) Race

rocketman elton john film
Taron Egerton in Rocketman from Paramount Pictures.

A monkey throwing darts at a Globes ballot could probably do a better job predicting the outcome of those mercurial awards than most pundits – this one included. Predicting the nominations is an even more futile endeavor—especially since the Golden Globes Musical or Comedy and Drama categories result in some eyebrow-raising results. Just a few short years ago, Jordan Peele‘s debut “Get Out” landed a Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) nod at the Globes. So, let’s just say that trying to predict the nominations for the Golden Globes – Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) category nearly six months away from the telecast may seem an exercise in vapid futility.

But that’s why it’s so fun. Seeing how crazy wrong you can be six months later—or, better, how brilliant—has to be one of the most amusing features of awards predicting. With that, we review the first half of the movie year and the updated release calendar to see if we can read some tea leaves as to which five films could end up with a nod in this category.

The Known Contenders

Emma ThompsonTwo movies from 2019’s opening months stand out as potential Golden Globe Musical or Comedy nominees. Both are low-budget productions released at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim. Neither has done particularly well at the box office, though audiences that have seen them report high degrees of satisfaction. Both also feature memorable performances by—and stories about—women of color, much-needed developments in the calcified male whiteness of Hollywood comedy. Finally, while both movies have strong chances, their smaller-scale keeps both from being sure things.

The first is Mindy Kaling’s “Late Night,” the comedy about the comedy writer looking for a job in late-night TV. The film features a surprisingly effective comedic performance from Emma Thompson and tackles some of the topics that have appeared in conversations surrounding #MeToo, minority representation in Hollywood, and so on. Some critics have pointed out that the story is too similar to “The Devil Wears Prada,” but overall critics, and the small audiences that saw it respected the movie.

The Farewell

Meanwhile, Awkwafina’s touching performance in Lulu Wang’s The Farewell could similarly lead a Sundance hit to Globes glory. “The Farewell” defies reductive categorization into Drama or Musical/Comedy at the Globes. Nevertheless, A24 would be smart to leverage its perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes into a nod in a typically less crowded category.

Upcoming Films

Things get murkier quickly after this. Many of the trailers for the other aspirants to a Golden Globe – Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) have recently hit the screen. The two obvious standouts are Judy,” the Judy Garland biopic starring Renée Zellweger, and Cats,” the onscreen adaptation of the long-running Broadway musical. Both of these have obvious draws; both come from known quantities or stories, and both have star-studded casts. The headliner for the Garland picture is a Globes and Oscar winner herself. Meanwhile, “Cats” will star the likes of Taylor Swift and previous Golden Globe winners Idris Elba and Jennifer Hudson.

cats titlecard

Both films have obvious, built-in time bombs as well. An adaptation of a Broadway show has not down well with awards since “Les Misérables” a few years ago. Most tend to flop rather than stun. And while biopics of queens and kings may be popular, those of acting legends have similarly not been as well-received. We are in “wait and see” mode for both films—neither has been screened, after all—but they are obvious choices.

The field becomes crowded at this point. “Little Women,” by Greta Gerwig, could have a chance, but it is a remake, of a remake, of a remake. Still, you cannot deny the star power of Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Emma Watson, with a side of Meryl Streep to boot. Taika Waititi’s dark comedy Jojo Rabbit,” about two German boys who have an imaginary friend in…you know who, also has the pre-autumn name-recognition buzz. The same goes for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the fictionalized Mr. Rogers biopic starring Tom Hanks, directed by Marielle Heller (if it’s classified for the Comedy race).

The problem of predicting any of these is the unknown factor. It is too hard without seeing them, and you know there are titles lurking out there that no one has heard of, or at least thought of.

Category Wild Cards

new trailer for taron egertons musical fantasy elton john biopic rocketman socialAt least one other film from the first half of 2019 could make a splash in the Golden Globes – Musical or Comedy Best Picture race. The Elton John biopic, “Rocketman,” has the star power, the topical recognition, and the critical success to lift it. It is not clear, however, whether it will be labeled a Musical/Comedy. Before guffawing, just last year, “A Star Is Born,” a musical film with a heavy drama component, was submitted as a Drama. This perennially confounding split really defies rhyme and reason year in and year out. Awards strategists seem to (likely, correctly) think that getting a Golden Globe – Best Picture (Drama) nomination is more prestigious. The tradeoff is that it is much harder. “Rocketman,” with close to zero chances of a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, would do much better to go for the low-hanging fruit.

What Is Your Early Favorite to Win the Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) Globe? Tell us in the Comments!


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Written by J Don Birnam

J. Don Birnam is a New York-based film critic and journalist. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and an inaugural member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.


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