Of all the years that the Golden Globes might have reinstated their award for Best Documentary, this would have been a good one. It’s the year of the documentary, after all! Certain nonfiction features have done very well at the box office, sure, but the Hollywood Foreign Press Association isn’t interested in the success of movies. They have a reputation for recognizing celebrity over merit on many occasion because they like photo ops with the stars.
Well, some documentaries are about stars, and others are even made by them. So, every year, I look at what docs had the most appeal for HFPA voters in terms of how a nomination might get certain famous people to attend their ceremony and maybe permit selfies with the journalists in attendance. Below is the imagined 12-title shortlist for the Golden Globe for Best Documentary Film, a category that in reality was killed more than 40 years ago.
The five titles in bold are the most likely to have been nominated by the HFPA:
Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers — His narration may be unnecessary to nonsensical, but Mickey Rourke’s name being attached to this documentary would be notable to the HFPA, who gave him a Golden Globe for his performance in The Wrestler.
Dominion — Even if all 93 members of the HFPA were anti-vegan, they’d go hog wild for this free documentary if it meant all its many narrators, including Joaquin Phoenix (five-time Golden Globe nominee, one-time winner), Rooney Mara (two-time Golden Globe nominee), Sia (two-time Golden Globe nominee), and Sadie Sink (co-star of four-time Golden Globe-nominated Stranger Things), were to show up in its support.
Eating Animals — Two-time Golden Globe winner (and four-time nominee) Natalie Portman wasn’t honored this year for her deserving performances in Annihilation or Vox Lux, but she could have seen some more HFPA love if they had a doc award, since she produced and narrated this film, which also celebrates veganism.
The Great Buster — Did the HFPA have any appreciation for Buster Keaton? Who knows, as they started their awards after the actor/filmmaker was out of his prime, but they have favored this doc’s director, Peter Bogdanovich, who was previously nominated for two Golden Globes.
Hale County This Morning, This Evening — Danny Glover produces a lot of documentaries, including a few in 2018. This is the best of them, and just including it among the nominees would earn the HFPA some needed respect. Still, somehow they’ve never nominated Glover for anything before.
Jane Fonda in Five Acts — Here’s how much the HFPA loves Jane Fonda: 12 nominations worth. She won on her first try in 1963 and then won three more competitively through the 1970s and also received their old Henrietta Award for World Film Favorite three times. Certainly, they’d love to recognize her again via this doc about her.
Liyana — This very creative documentary is awards-worthy for many reasons, but for the Golden Globes it’d be a contender simply because two-time nominee Thandie Newton is a producer.
Quincy — Not only is Quincy Jones, the subject of this decent Netflix music documentary, a four-time Golden Globe nominee (twice for song, twice for score), but it’s co-directed by his daughter, comedic actress Rashida Jones, who is a celebrity in her own right.
Survivor’s Guide to Prison — Every year could be Susan Sarandon’s year at the Golden Globes given she regularly produces docs in addition to the acting gig (for which she’s received nine nominations and no wins). This is one of those she had a hand in, alongside never-nominated actors Adrian Grenier and David Arquette.
Tea with the Dames — You can’t go wrong with documentaries about actresses, even if they’re not the most famous names in the business. Between the four subjects — Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Maggie Smith — they’ve received 27 Golden Globe nominations and seven wins, and all of them are represented in that total.
They Shall Not Grow Old — I’m not sure if this late release with bare theatrical distribution would qualify, or what the HFPA’s eligibility rules would be at all, but the World War I doc was made by Peter Jackson, whom they love so much (with so much recognition of his Lord of the Rings trilogy) they even nominated him as Best Director for King Kong.
The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling — Would the Golden Globes allow for a two-part documentary? Would they need a separate category for documentary miniseries? Surely they wouldn’t overlook this work directed by previous nominee Judd Apatow and focused on a late celebrity who was nominated twice.