Globe Voters Give Ricky Gervais a Wealth of Great Material

Analysis: Four Clooney noms, a serious Angelina Jolie, a Kristen Wiig but no Vanessa Redgrave — yeah, that’s the HFPA for ya!

ANALYSIS

So, how much ammunition did Golden Globe voters give Ricky Gervais with their nominations on Thursday morning?

When he hosted the Globes last January, you might recall, the biting comic directed some of his most pointed barbs at "The Tourist," which the 80-odd members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had embarrassingly gifted with three nominations, including Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical.

Ricky GervaisAnd to their credit, there's nothing on this year's slate of nominees that cries out for a Gervais punchline quite as clearly as those nominations did.

Read also: The Full List of Globes Nominees

Still, one can imagine the British actor mulling the possibilities. Three individual nominations for George Clooney, plus a fourth for the movie he directed, "The Ides of March?" There's certainly a joke in there about the HFPA's penchant for chasing star power above all else.

Also read: The Nominees React: How Many Ways Can You Say 'I'm Happy?'

Angelina Jolie, a year after being nominated for "The Tourist," returning as the director of a Best Foreign-Language Film nominee, "In the Land of Blood and Honey?" A serious movie, but that doesn’t mean Gervais can't find a way to poke at Angie muscling into this category.

Read also: Golden Globes Nominations Make It Clear: Clooney Is King

An acting slate that includes Jonah Hill and Kristen Wiig but overlooks Gary Oldman, Woody Harrelson, Max von Sydow, Vanessa Redgrave and Nick Nolte? Sure, that's ripe for the mocking.

And how about that Best Song lineup, where a parade of big names (Elton John, Madonna, Glenn Close, Mary J. Blige and Soundgarden's Chris Cornell) took away slots that really ought to have gone to the witty and beautifully integrated songs from "The Muppets?"

If Gervais doesn’t give the HFPA a hard time for that, I will.

Still, that's the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for you. They're a full-service organization: Not only do they hire a host, they also give him a head start on his monologue.

To be fair, this year's Globe nominations also contained their fair share of pleasant surprises. It's unlikely that many people expected to find Viggo Mortensen in the Supporting Actor category for his subtle performance as Sigmund Freud in "A Dangerous Method," but the actor is eminently worthy of the nom.

Read also: 10 Burning Questions — and Answers — About This Year's Oscars

Michael Fassbender ("Shame") and Tilda Swinton ("We Need to Talk About Kevin") are also richly deserving nominees from films that may not have been the HFPA's cup of tea. Brendan Gleeson is a bigger surprise in a friendlier film, "The Guard" — though as an alum of the "Harry Potter" saga, he also serves as a reminder that the final film in that series came and went without a mention.

And despite the happy surprises, it's hard not to be annoyed by the people and the films that weren't mentioned on Thursday morning. No Gary Oldman, no "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." No Kirsten Dunst or Elizabeth Olsen for their brave and beautiful performances in "Melancholia" and "Martha Marcy May Marlene," respectively.

Not a mention of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," in many ways the most gloriously daring film of the year. 

And no Woody Harrelson, who was funny but also accurate when he suggested onstage that maybe he and his film "Rampart" might have deserved a nod or two.

On the other hand, look at the bright side: given the chance to continue their long-running and often irrational love affair with Johnny Depp, the HFPA mercifully passed up the chance to nominate him for either "Pirates of the Caribbean" or "The Rum Diary."

In these parts, that's what you call progress.

In the movie categories, the Globes voters leaned toward studios over indies, and steered clear of any of the real fiascos that have often plagued their nominations. In television, meanwhile, they continued their push to be first to recognize new shows, wholeheartedly embracing newcomers like "Homeland," "The Hour, "Boss" and "American Horror Story."

Of course, the top TV nominee, Masterpiece Theater's "Downton Abbey," is a slice of old-fashioned storytelling — even if it's not quite as old-fashioned as the storytelling in the top film nominee, "The Artist."

Typically, HBO dominated the TV categories, with more than twice as many nominations as the second-place finisher, Showtime, three times as many as PBS and four times as many as the most-nominated broadcast network, ABC.

The network that will broadcast the Globes, NBC, picked up a grand total of three nominations.

But if the ratings are good, NBC will get over the snub — because the whole point of the Globes is not to establish a benchmark of excellence, but to attract celebrities and get a TV audience to tune in. 

That's why in the overall awards picture, the Globes are essentially irrelevant. No Oscar voters are going to study these nominations to figure out what they ought to move to the top of their screener piles. No Emmy voters are going to look up this year's results when they get their ballots next summer.

The Globe nominations mean that "The Artist" still looks like an uneasy frontrunner.  And perhaps they help clarify that Glenn Close is regaining solid footing, and that Jessica Chastain is going to survive being good in too many different movies because voters are beginning to focus on her supporting role in "The Help."

But the HFPA didn't knock Melissa McCarthy out of the Oscar race. They didn't drag Kristen Wiig into it. They didn't kill Oldman or Dunst's chances with the Academy, as slim as those chances might be. 

On the other hand, they did raise a few eyebrows in Hollywood, where one veteran campaigner looked at the haul that went to films whose studios are known to be generous in wining, dining and ferrying the HFPA to scenic locales.

"I give up," the consultant said. "I'm gonna start planning a trip with them to some exotic location next year."