The last time the Golden Globes gave out an award for best documentary was in 1977, when Lew Ayres’s Altars of the World won. The category has been retired for longer than I’ve been alive (I was born almost two months after the ceremony), so maybe they’ll finally resurrect it when I’m dead.
This would have been a good year to bring the category back, because two of the big film nominees in 1977 were Rocky — which was named best film — drama — and All the President’s Men. For 2015, the nominees include the official sequel to the former, Creed, and the unofficial sequel to the latter, Spotlight (John Slattery plays the son of Jason Robards’s character).
Also, two of last year’s acting nominees, Ethan Hawke and Colin Hanks, directed documentaries that came out this year. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has a reputation for nominating big stars, presumably those they’d like to meet at one of their functions. So, even though they never historically focused on major Hollywood players with their documentary awards back in the 1970s (except their 1977 nomination of the Hollywood-celebrating That’s Entertainment, Part II, I guess), I like to poke fun at the organization and imagine what they would nominate now based on that reputation.
The following is a list of 15 possibilities (like a shortlist) in order of how star-studded their production is.
1. Seymour: An Introduction — Ethan Hawke, who in the past lent his voice to Alex Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, made his documentary directorial debut with this film on pianist Seymour Bernstein.
2. All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records — Colin Hanks, who lent his voice to Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D, made his feature directorial debut with this film about the former retail giant.
3. Where to Invade Next — Another doc with a celebrity director, albeit one who became a celebrity by directing docs: Michael Moore.
4. Deep Web — Director Alex Winter may not be a huge name, but his Bill and Ted co-star and friend Keanu Reeves narrates this doc on the hidden side of the internet.
5. Living in the Age of Airplanes — Few people have heard of this doc about how airplanes changed the world, but it’s narrated by Harrison Ford, so the HFPA would be interested in it.
6. Unity — Another more obscure pick, this doc on the problem of humans killing each other or eons features a ton of celebrity narrators, including Jennifer Aniston (Golden Globe winner), Angelina Jolie (three-time winner), Ellen Burstyn (winner), Jessica Chastain (winner), Common (winner), Marion Cotillard (winner), Rutger Hauer (winner), Anjelica Huston (winner), Ben Kingsley (two-time winner), Helen Mirren (two-time winner), Geoffrey Rush (two-time winner), Martin Sheen (winner), Kevin Spacey (winner), Cloris Leachman (winner), Edward James Olmos (two-time winner), Joaquin Phoenix (winner), Casey Affleck (nominee), Rose Byrne (two-time nominee), Ellen DeGeneres (three-time nominee), Minnie Driver (nominee), Michael Gambon (nominee), Mariel Hemingway (two-time nominee), January Jones (two-time nominee), Aaron Paul (nominee), Kristen Wiig (nominee), Susan Sarandon (eight-time nominee), Liev Schreiber (four-time nominee), Matthew Modine (two-time nominee) and Ryan O’Neal (two-time nominee).
7. Listen to Me Marlon — The film is about a movie star, Marlon Brando, who won five Golden Globes out of ten nominations.
8. Hitchock/Truffaut — Not only is this one about the famous filmmakers in its title, but it features a ton of modern directors, including Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Richard Linklater and Martin Scorsese.
9. Best of Enemies — Two-time Golden Globe winner (and four-time nominee) John Lithgow and three-time Golden Globe winner (and nine-time nominee) Kelsey Grammar are supporting players in this doc chronicling the 1968 televised debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley. The actors portray the intellectuals vocally through readings.
10. The Look of Silence — Is Werner Herzog a big enough name for the HFPA? Just like with Joshua Oppenheimer’s previous feature, The Act of Killing, this is one of the few titles that might have received a Golden Globe nod without celebrity attachment.
11. Cobain: Montage of Heck — Considering the HFPA recognized Courtney Love’s performance in The People vs. Larry Flynt with a nomination, maybe they’d be interested in seeing her back, with daughter Frances Bean Cobain, who produced this film on the late Nirvana frontman.
12. Monkey Kingdom — They didn’t nominate Tina Fey for Sisters or that movie at all, but perhaps they’d like their former co-host and two-time winner (from six nominations) to attend the ceremony with this Disneynature doc she narrated.
13. Cartel Land — One of the executive producers of this Mexican drug war doc is Kathryn Bigelow, who has been nominated for two Golden Globes for Best Director in the past.
14. Hot Girls Wanted — While its reviews haven’t been the best, the HFPA doesn’t care about that. The film, about young porn stars, was produced by actress Rashida Jones.
15. The Wolfpack — Never mind that celebrity actor/comedian David Cross is one of its executive producers. The HFPA might just have liked this one because it’s partly a celebration of popular movies.