The HFPA doesn’t honor nonfiction anymore, but if they did…
The Golden Globes have now gone 40 years without an award for best documentary, the last winner being 1976’s Altars of the World. Since then, nonfiction films have become a much bigger deal, and with all the celebrities involved in their production or narration it’s surprising the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hasn’t used that as an excuse to bring in more famous people to their ceremony.
Every year, I like to imagine what sort of docs would have been honored if the category came back, and so here’s my shortlist for the most star-studded docs of 2016, in order of their likelihood of recogntion:
Before the Flood — Three-time Golden Globe winner Leonardo DiCaprio produced and not only narrated but stars in this very personal pet project on climate change and his own involvement in fighting it. The doc is also directed by Fisher Stevens and other producers include Brett Ratner.
The Ivory Game — Dicaprio is also an executive producer of this Netflix doc about ivory poaching. It’s less significant in terms of star involvement but it has a better awards push than Before the Flood.
Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey — Golden Globe winner Brad Pitt produced this doc by Golden Globe nominee Terence Malick and narrates the shorter IMAX version (which is the version released so far), while three-time winner Cate Blanchett voices the feature-length cut that
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — Ron Howard’s chronicle of The Beatles’ touring years is not that exception yet has been getting a lot of attention seemingly because it’s by Howard, a Golden Globe winner for acting and multiple nominee for directing. And a fun cameo from Sigourney Weaver.
The Eagle Huntress — Daisy Ridley is still fresh and likable but also a big name already just from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She is an executive producer and narrator for this crowd-pleasing doc.
Time to Choose — Ridley’s Star Wars co-star Oscar Isaac, who won a Golden Globe earlier this year, narrates this doc on climate change from Oscar winner Charles Ferguson.
I Am Not Your Negro — Following up his voice work on Disneynature’s African Cats (and the doc parody Farce of the Penguins), three-time Golden Globe nominee Samuel L. Jackson narrates this film based on the writing of James Baldwin.
A Beautiful Planet — This is a short IMAX-only documentary, but three-time Golden Globe winner Jennifer Lawrence is the narrator, and it might be the only way to get the actress to the show.
Fastball — This baseball doc is narrated by two-time Golden Globe winner Kevin Costner, who is also a part of this year’s nominated film Hidden Figures.
Life, Animated — Although there are no celebrities involved in the making of this doc, the subject matter is something movie-loving press would appreciate: an autistic boy who could only be reached through Disney animated features.
De Palma — Not only is this a movie about movies with focus on a great Hollywood filmmaker, Brian De Palma, who has never been nominated for a Golden Globe, but it’s also made by famous directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow, neither of which has been honored by the HFPA before, either.
Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You — Norman Lear is a TV legend and was never personally nominated for a Golden Globe, though his shows have won many. Honoring this star-studded doc by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady would serve as an honor for the subject himself.
The Bandit — Smokey and the Bandit is a Golden Globe nominee, and Burt Reynolds is a multiple nominee, two-time winner for other TV and movie credits. This doc on his collaboration and friendship with Hal Needham with focus on the making of the first Bandit is something the HFPA could really appreciate.
Mifune: The Last Samurai — Another movie about the movies, one giving due attention to Toshiro Mifune. Four-time winner (including an honorary award) Martin Scorsese and three-time winner (including an honorary award) Steven Spielberg are among the talking heads, while never-nominated star Keanu Reeves is the narrator.
Gimme Danger — Does the HFPA like Jim Jarmusch? He’s never been nominated by them, but they’d be able to make up for that with this music doc on Iggy Pop.