Golden Globes Open Awards Season Doors to Overlooked Genres

Rob Owen and Bob Verini

Among the unique attributes of the Golden Globes — guests seated at round tables, eating and drinking throughout the show — its category for comedy/musical best picture stands out and offers recognition for films that often don’t make the cut when Oscar nominations are released.

Last year, “Spy” and “Trainwreck” received Globe nominations in the category, but were not nominated for best picture at the Oscars. This year, “Deadpool,” “Bad Moms,” “Love & Friendship,” “Edge of Seventeen,” “Sing Street,” “Florence Foster Jenkins,” “Everybody Wants Some!!,” “Queen of Katwe,” and “The Meddler” are among the films with a shot at Golden Globes attention in the comedy/musical category.

Kate Beckinsale, star of Whit Stillman’s “Love & Friendship,” says in these tumultuous times, there’s more need than ever for a good comedy.

“There’s a relief and lightness and connection and laughing at ourselves as a human race that particularly right now, when we’re all on our back foot and worried and don’t know where we’re going, anything to connect us to each other is incredibly valuable,” she says. “That’s one of the things I loved about our movie: When people are laughing, they’re being kind of lifted and that’s such an amazing pleasure.”

Simon Helberg could find Globe love for his role as long-suffering pianist to a terrible singer in “Florence Foster Jenkins,” which seems ripe to score nominations for best comedy/musical as well as for stars Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.

“By dividing the category in two — dramas and comedies — it opens the competition to a wider array of films,” Helberg says. “‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ seems to fit right in there. And because of the genius of [director] Stephen Frears, as soon as you’re laughing at slapstick, something dramatic happens
or there’s a dark moment or magical realism.”

“The Meddler” writer-director Lorene Scafaria says Globes nominations for her film would be meaningful.

“Certainly for smaller movies and certainly for comedies, it kind of ends up being the only [major awards competition] that celebrates comedies and actually makes room for movies like that,” she says. “For any small movie, unless it was a smash at the box office, awards, whether it’s the Independent Spirits or the Golden Globes, are kind of the only way the little movies get attention. It ends up being the only other way to quantify the value of a movie. People ask, ‘Who cares about awards?,’ and they say it’s only Hollywood congratulating itself, but there’s another reason for it: So movies like this continue to be made or seen or talked about.”

“Queen of Katwe” director Mira Nair says her film, at heart, is about the human aspiration that unites all people as it tells the story of a Ugandan chess prodigy.
“There’s a real place for frothiness and comedy in the world and especially when it’s done as artfully as filmmakers do that,” she says. “I don’t think the Academy is blind to that. Take a film like ‘The Artist.’ It was a very unusual film to be heralded. It was full of art and comedy.”

Beckinsale, who could be in the running for an individual achievement Globe for her role in “Love & Friendship,” says it may be that drama work simply attracts more attention.

“It’s easier to see where the acting is if someone is playing something very dark,” she says. “My father [British comic actor Richard Beckinsale] found it very frustrating that people thought in comedy it was him being himself. If you do a very good job with comedy, it should feel so easy and natural and off-the-cuff and effortless. Perhaps sometimes people are more inclined to see there’s some acting if it’s less effortless.”

“Bad Moms” director Jon Lucas says he sort of understands why the Oscars sometimes overlook comedies.

“Comedy is supposed to be a little rebellious and iconoclastic, so part of you doesn’t really want comedy at the Oscars,” he says. “Comedy should be out in the parking lot, smoking cigarettes, poking fun at really, really beautiful people making really, really important speeches and crying an alarming amount. But at the same time, all my favorite movies are comedies. The movies I watch over and over again, and I suspect most people watch over and over again, are all comedies. I think people respect serious dramas but I think people actually love comedies, so it’s a little weird that the Academy tends to overlook them.”

Lucas questions whether his own “Bad Moms” is a “smart comedy.”

“We have a drunk mom riding a tricycle off a porch — this is not ‘The Revenant,’” he jokes. “That said, there are a few not totally stupid ideas in our movie, particularly concerning the insane amount of pressure placed on moms today, so, yes, comedies need to have something more to say than just jokes, but not that much more. Like 3% more.”  good news for our troubled times: music and laughter are making a comeback.

Variety looks at potential contenders in the musical or comedy film category, and actor and actress in musical or comedy.

“Cafe Society”
Amazon Studios
Woody Allen’s take on 1930s love and excess boasts at least three elements pleasing to the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.: inside-Hollywood canoodling, Kristen Stewart, and Vittorio Storaro’s ravishing imagery. The maestro is himself esteemed, having won the organization’s DeMille Award in 2014 after “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” was named 2008’s best musical or comedy.

20th Century Fox
This intense, lavish, rock ’em sock ’em comics adaptation merits a place in this category through an unending stream of outrageous quips and wink-wink nods to other Marvel product. (“Let’s go see the professor.” “McAvoy or Stewart?”) An exasperated supervillain deems his red-Spandexed nemesis “relentlessly annoying.” Not to us, he isn’t.

“The Edge of Seventeen”
STX Entertainment
Kelly Fremon Craig’s coming of age comedy-drama has been earning terrific reviews since its debut at the Toronto festival, with kudos given to the filmmaker and her cast for freshening up the genre. Chance of following in the footsteps of “Juno” during awards season.

“Florence Foster Jenkins”
Paramount Pictures
1940s audiences and music critics called her the worst singer ever, but through Nicholas Martin’s astute script and Stephen Frears’ sensitive direction, the daffy diva displays some of humanity’s best features: generosity, inclusiveness, and a passion for art. Sparkling moviemaking, never condescending or tacky.

“The Founder”
The Weinstein Co.
The trailer for the Ray “McDonald’s” Kroc story boasts a jolly comic-entrepreneur, underdog vs. The Man vibe, not unlike last year’s “Joy,” which took a nomination in this category. If John Lee Hancock’s film delights critics, it could easily find its way onto the roster.

“Hail, Caesar!”
Since the category has found room for four previous Coen bothers’ efforts, it might also choose to welcome the their love letter to Old Hollywood, with its all-star cast of Globe favorites (George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, and Tilda Swinton) and splashy production design.

“La La Land”
Romance and the movies are two of HFPA’s favorite things. (Why, they even have “Hollywood” in their →
name!) This original musical valentine to both, from Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”), became the instant presumptive favorite after its triumphant Venice debut. More cinematic buoyancy than anything since 2011’s Globe-copping “The Artist.”

“The Lobster”
If nominated, Yorgos Lanthimos’s dizzying dystopian farce might be the weirdest pic ever to get a Golden Globes thumbs-up. A society in which the unmarried must get hitched or transform into a wild animal is Bunuelian in its audacity, but the strongest element is the sweet love story at the core.

“Love & Friendship”
Roadside Attractions
Whit Stillman applies his exquisite eye for the mores of courtship and aspiration to Jane Austen’s early novella “Lady Susan.” The result is every bit as elegant as past Globe nominee “Pride & Prejudice” and Globe winner (for drama) “Sense & Sensibility,” but if anything, it’s wittier and more wicked.

Amazon Studios
Jim Jarmusch’s Zen-contemplative, leisurely paced, shaggy-dog dream movies have yet to find their way onto the HFPA’s radar. This Cannes Fest critical hit — so sweetly interested in a Paterson, N.J., bus driver turned poet named Paterson — could at last do the trick.

“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”
Universal Pictures
The organization that nominated “Still Crazy” (1998) and “Best in Show” (2000) might very well cast a passel of votes for this droll, laugh-out-loud mockumentary about boy bands and showbiz narcissism, especially given their fondness for Globe-winning star and co-writer Andy Samberg (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”).

“Rules Don’t Apply”
20th Century Fox
Rules rarely, if ever, apply to Warren Beatty, and the HFPA adores him, bestowing on him numerous nominations and three wins plus the DeMille Award. His fairy tale (he directed and scripted) about young love abetted and obstructed by a gaga Howard Hughes should easily find a berth among the nominees.

“Sing Street”
The Weinstein Co.
John Carney’s gentle musical romances “Once” and “Begin Again” won no Golden Globes love in 2007 and 2013, respectively. But this follow-up effort, a coming-of-age, Irish garage band tuner set in the music video’s earliest days, is an unabashed crowd-rouser and as such could grab voter attention.

“20th Century Women”
The musical or comedy category has a soft spot for films with strong female roles — think “Joy,” “Spy,” and “Trainwreck” last year, not to mention such recent winners as “The Kids Are All Right” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Mike Mills’ semiautobiographical coming-of-age dramedy fits decidedly within that tradition.

ALSO: Don’t forget box office hit “Bad Moms,” more than a summer laffer; “The Nice Guys,” which premiered at Cannes this year to upbeat reviews; “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” now upping its visibility on DVD and other digital platforms and starring Globes fave Tina Fey; “Ghostbusters,” which stars a whole bunch of funny women, which the HFPA digs; and “Keanu,” the cat-centric comedy from Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.

Actor, musical or comedy

Warren Beatty
“Rules Don’t Apply”
Some argue his role really qualifies as supporting, but if the role is secondary, the actor playing it earns top billing for 50-plus years of movie star charisma.

Josh Brolin
“Hail, Caesar!”
He’d be a first-time Globe nominee for his central role as 1950s Capitol Studios scandal fixer Eddie Mannix. As Capitol’s stars go progressively off the rails, Brolin pulls inside the man’s religious faith and staunch integrity without a whiff of camp, becoming the farce’s serious moral center.

Don Cheadle
“Miles Ahead”
In his passion project (Cheadle co-produced, directed, co-wrote, and stars), Cheadle channels the raging talent, and equally raging personal life, of jazz giant Miles Davis in extremis. As the film jumps forward and backward in time, Cheadle remains believable and riveting.

Russell Crowe
“The Nice Guys”
Crowe is a perfectly gravel-voiced, exasperated Abbott to Ryan Gosling’s feckless Costello, solving a mystery set in L.A.’s porn world circa 1977. This’d be Crowe’s sixth nom, albeit his first in the comedy category, and he’s a hoot.

Robert De Niro
“The Comedian”
Acclaimed as he is for his dramatic chops, four of the legend’s eight Globe nominations have come from the comedy or musical division. His take on an aging comic coming to grips with a wayward life should get a close first look from HFPA voters.

Adam Driver
Driver is well-known to the HFPA from TV’s Globe-winning “Girls” and his villainous Kylo Ren in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” That familiarity could translate into a nod for this very different performance as a bus driver forging an artistic life in quiet routine.

Alden Ehrenreich
“Rules Don’t Apply”
He leapt out of “Hail, Caesar!” earlier this year with the pic’s best reviews, and he’ll be playing the young Han Solo in 2018’s “Star Wars” installment. Quite the career sandwich, in the middle of which comes this moving depiction of a Hollywood naif under Warren Beatty’s direction. →

Colin Farrell
“The Lobster”
A past winner in this category for “In Bruges,” Farrell is one action movie star who can wax deadpan when a comedy so requires. As a woebegone, love-seeking pawn in the hands of a heartless dystopian society, Farrell wears his gut and silly mustache as badges of humanity. Film’s debut charged up Cannes last year.

Ryan Gosling
“La La Land”
The Globe voters clearly esteem his range, having nominated him twice in drama and twice for musical or comedy. His heartfelt, suave jazz pianist, aching for a club and a girl of his own, is tailor-made to his talents and virtually sure to be acknowledged here.

Hugh Grant
“Florence Foster Jenkins”
A past winner (for “Four Weddings and a Funeral”) with two additional nominations under his belt (“Notting Hill,” “About a Boy”), the debonair Brit is popular with the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. His role as Florence’s faithful consort — seedy, yet always valiant — earned his best reviews in years and should propel him handily into this race.

Ethan Hawke
“Born to Be Blue”
Robert Budreau’s cinema essay on jazz great Chet Baker plays fast and loose with the conventions of a biopic, which is part of its interest. But there are no corners cut in Hawke’s evocation of the trumpeter’s vulnerability and charisma. Baker played “Let’s Get Lost,” yet Hawke finds him. Hawke was nominated last year for “Boyhood.”

Michael Keaton
“The Founder”
A winner in this category two years ago for “Birdman,” Keaton commands audience attention with a high-intensity comic edge whenever he plays a no-luck underdog striving for the brass ring. That’s a pretty good description of McDonald’s mogul Ray Kroc, so this perf should grab voters.

Ryan Reynolds
The actor vaults effortlessly into a superhero role to die for: a cancer-ridden Special Forces op whose tormentor both cures and disfigures him, setting him on a path to revenge. A cool fighter, he never loses his penchant for wisecracks, delivered with Rickles-like brio.

Actress, musical or comedy

Kate Beckinsale
“Love & Friendship”
The scheming, imperturbable Lady Susan Vernon offers Beckinsale her best role to date and she devours it, carrying herself like a mighty frigate delivering quips Oscar Wilde would have envied: “What a mistake you made, marrying Mr. Johnson. Too old to be manageable and too young to die.” The Whit Stillman adaptation of a Jane Austen novel is the perfect vehicle for voters to reaquaint themselves with Beckinsale’s comic timing.

Annette Bening
“20th Century Women”
As a proletarian Auntie Mame/earth mother circa 1979, Bening hasn’t had a role this meaty since she won Golden Globes for “The Kids Are All Right” and “Being Julia.” With five additional nominations — starting with her star-making turn in 1990’s “The Grifters” — she’s clearly beloved by the HFPA and should easily make the cut in this Mike Mills film, which is getting a lot of critical love.

Lily Collins
“Rules Don’t Apply”
The daughter of rocker Phil Collins is a fresh new face even after roles in box office hit “The Blind Side” (for which onscreen mom Sandra Bullock won an actress Globe) and “Mirror Mirror.” The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. loves to propel fresh faces into this category, and Collins pulls off a caterpillar-turned-butterfly act impossible to dislike or ignore in the Warren Beatty film.

Tina Fey
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”
The satirical teeth always bared on “Saturday Night Live” are replaced by strong dramatic choppers in this lightly fictionalized portrait of an ambitious Afghanistan-embedded foreign correspondent. Fey maintains the trademarked skeptical, mildly amused persona she wielded on “30 Rock.” Fey is a two-time Globe winner in the TV category (“30 Rock”) and maybe, more famously, three-time host with comrade-in-arms Amy Poehler.

Sally Field
“Hello, My Name Is Doris”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences isn’t the only group that really, really likes Field, as two Globes and nine additional nominations attest — she was nominated most recently in 2013 for “Lincoln.” Her quirky, irrepressible Doris, who transcends wacky headbands and the delusional pursuit of a younger co-worker to find true self-empowerment, should make a strong run for nod No. 12.

Susan Sarandon
“The Meddler”
Transplanted (Jersey-to-California) widow Marnie Minervini is the Woman Who Knows Too Much, interfering in everyone’s lives. Most years, the HFPA reserves at least one slot in this category for an actress of a Certain Age portraying something of a nutcase. Sarandon would fit the bill perfectly and gain nomination No. 9.

Hailee Steinfeld
“The Edge of Seventeen”
The young actress, who’s already been nominated for an Oscar for her performance in “True Grit,” has been getting glowing reviews as an awkward teen in the coming of age dramedy from first-timer Kelly Fremon Craig.

Kristen Stewart
“Cafe Society”
Wanting both true romance and life’s finer things, Stewart’s Vonnie careens between our poor-but-honest hero and his wealthy Hollywood player uncle. Stewart renders the character’s ambivalence believable and touching, and (rare in an Allen film) often wordlessly. This would be a fitting first Globe nod for an actress that has been tackling a wide variety of roles.

Emma Stone
“La La Land”
After two previous Globe noms — for her savvy comedic chops in “Easy A” and exposing her character’s anguish in “Birdman” — Stone nabs an ethereal role that pulls all of her talents together and adds two we weren’t previously aware of: song and dance. Transcendent work that has impressed every critic and fest to date. Damien Chazelle’s modern take on the old-fashioned musical has enchanted since its debut at the Venice fest.

Meryl Streep
“Florence Foster Jenkins”
Streep’s 30th Globe nom could come for her impersonation of the wackiest diva of them all, the opera singer who never met a clinker she didn’t like. Invested with the actress’s customary compassion, this performance could be the surest contender of anything on these lists.

Renee Zellweger
“Bridget Jones’s Baby”
Hapless but plucky Bridget brought the actress two previous Globe nominations, including one for the dismally received second installment. With notices almost as strong as those for the first film, the HFPA may give Zellweger a nod.

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