What Might Have Been Nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Documentary of 2014?
Another year of Golden Globes nominations, another year of documentaries being excluded from this prominent awards event. Whatever your feelings about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, they still make a big splash every January with their star-studded televised ceremony, and such a widely watched show would still be a great platform for the recognition of nonfiction films that could use the attention. The Golden Globes did honor docs in their own category way back in the 1970s (specifically from 1973 to 1977), but since then it’s been very difficult for such films to be nominated. Unlike the Oscars, which could but never has, the Golden Globes can’t really recognize a doc in their best picture categories, which are specifically either for comedy or drama.
It’s not impossible for films to be nominated in other areas, however, as we saw Waltz with Bashir not only nominated for best foreign language film in 2009 but actually win the award. Of course, that isn’t a traditional doc, and it’s actually the only time the HFPA has honored a nonfiction film in any category since doing away with the doc award. And docs could qualify in a couple other categories. Chasing Ice and An Inconvenient Truth were both Oscar-nominated for best song, for instance (the latter also won), but neither was recognized for the equivalent Golden Globe. Outside of the HFPA’s retired, short-lived doc category, the only other doc to win a Golden Globe was in 1954 when A Queen is Crowned was given a special award for “Best Documentary of Historical Interest.”
In their lack, I like to imagine what docs might have been nominated for Golden Globes were there an award for these films. It’s always a bit of a joke, though, poking fun at the reputation the HFPA has for nominating movies and performers that will allow them to hobnob with stars at the ceremony and related events. So, most of the following 10 titles (I like to offer extra possibilities) have some sort of celebrity attached in some capacity, whether they be producers, directors or subjects.
1. Life Itself — This would have been an obvious pick, but not because Golden Globe nominee and winner and honoree Martin Scorsese and Golden Globe nominee and winner Steve Zaillian are executive producers on the film. Its subject, the late film critic Roger Ebert, is one of the HFPA members’ own, sort of. And we already know that the organization was happy to honor him, as they bestowed a grant to Ebertfest (aka the Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival) this past August at a big star-studded banquet in Beverly Hills.
2. The 50-Year-Argument — Scorsese also directed a documentary this year, with David Tedeschi, and it probably wouldn’t matter to the HFPA, if they had a doc category still, that this film wasn’t a theatrical release. I’m not sure if they’d be that into the highbrow subject matter of the New York Review of Books, however.
3. Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon — You have to figure a doc directed by Mike Myers would earn a nomination, never mind that the HFPA has never given him love for any of his on-screen work (yes, he’s also on-screen here, but I mean for his acting in his comedy movies). It’s got a lot of fans, and it has already been honored at a star-studded ceremony that also isn’t taken very seriously, having won this year’s Hollywood Film Award for Documentary of the Year. Besides Myers interviewing himself, other talking heads include Michael Douglas (eight-time Golden Globe nominee, two-time winner, plus Cecil B. DeMille Award recipient) and Sylvester Stallone (two-time Golden Globe nominee).
4. Bears — There aren’t too many studio-produced documentaries and there aren’t too many docs that gross as much as $18 million at the box office. While the stars of this Disneynature feature are all Alaskan bears, there is also three-time Golden Globe nominee John C. Reilly as the celebrity narrator for the red-carpet representation and such.
5. Citizenfour — The only big name involved with this film (besides subject Edward Snowden, who can’t make it out to Hollywood) is three-time Golden Globe nominee Steven Soderbergh (whose series The Knick just earned a nom for actor Clive Owen), but more than celebrity status this doc has a political interest and ongoing prestige that would make the HFPA look out of the loop were they to snub it. Citizenfour would probably win, too, as it’s winning almost every other award it’s up for.
6. Deepsea Challenge 3D — Two-time Golden Globe winner for best director (and one-time nominee for best screenplay) James Cameron is the star and producer of this doc, which follows him on his latest underwater expedition. If only there really were a doc category, members of the HFPA might have been invited to a junket held in a submarine.
7. The Battered Bastards of Baseball — Maybe the remake will be great enough to be recognized, but in our imagination we see this doc on the legendary independent baseball team the Portland Mavericks receiving a nod first. The team was owned by former actor Bing Russell, featured his son and Golden Globe-nominated actor Kurt Russell among the players and employed Todd Field as a batboy years before he became a Golden Globe-nominated filmmaker. The latter two are also among the talking heads in the film.
8. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me — The subject of this doc sadly passed away this year, and the HFPA will likely include her in their in-memoriam montage, but Stritch could have had more of a tribute were there a doc category. Especially when one of her 30 Rock co-stars, Tina Fey, is one of the hosts.
9. Teenage — This cleverly constructed archive compilation film about the history of teenagers in the first half of the 20th century is produced by Jason Schwartzman, who might be just big enough of a star for the HPFA to care. Especially when he’s got the doc’s young, up-and-coming celebrity vocal performers Jena Malone and Ben Whishaw with him.
10. NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage — This film about a touring production of Shakespeare’s Richard III isn’t the most well-known doc of the year, but it might have easily caught the attention of the HFPA since it stars and is produced by eight-time Golden Globe nominee Kevin Spacey and also features Golden Globe-winning director Sam Mendes.