Golden Globes 2022: Belfast leads the nominations for controversial awards

Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast gets seven nods. Ruth Negga is also nominated for Passing

Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, an acclaimed reverie on his home city in the early years of the Troubles, has received seven nominations for the upcoming Golden Globe Awards.

Ruth Negga, one of Ireland's most celebrated performers, is nominated as best supporting actress for her role in Rebecca Hall's Passing.

Jane Campion’s Power of the Dog, which also got seven nods, joins Belfast at the top of the nomination chart.

Following a year of controversy surrounding the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the body that gives out the awards, the early-morning announcement was a muted affair that attracted less media attention than usual.

With powerful bodies such as Netflix and Amazon Studios distancing themselves from the HFPA and Tom Cruise returning his Golden Globes, it never seemed likely there would be the usual clutter of big wigs to read out the names.

Sure enough, Helen Hoehne, elected HFPA president in September, began with a mildly address apologetic address before ceding the floor to, of all people, the middle-aged rapper Snoop Dogg. No other presenters were in attendance — this despite Variety reporting that a letter had been “sent last week inviting celebrities to participate in the announcement”.

Hoehne chose her words carefully. “This has been a year of change and reflection for the HFPA,” she said. “For the past eight months we have worked tirelessly as an organisation to be better. We changed our rules, bylaws, added a new code of conduct and restructured our governance. We also have 21 new members. The largest and most diverse in our 79-year-old history.”

The HFPA, a small group of overseas journalists in the US, has long been dogged by controversy, but criticism reached a head earlier this year when, just a few days before the 2021 ceremony, the Los Angeles Times published an exposé revealing that, among other embarrassments, the body, a nonprofit, was paying its members to be on committees and that it had not a single black member.

The rush to disassociate was rapid. Netflix announced it would be “stopping any activities” with the organisation. The online 2021 event, littered with cracks at the HFPA from snarky presenters, was a chaotic affair. A few months later, it emerged that Cruise, the biggest star of his generation, had returned his three Golden Globes.

The worst news of all for the Globes came when NBC announced it would not be televising the 2022 event. “Change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” a spokesperson for NBC said at the time.

The HFPA decided it would not sit out the awards season and would present its statuettes on January 9th. The body also made some moves towards addressing the industry’s concerns. Bylaws banning the acceptance of gifts or free travel have been passed. “The danger is expecting there to be a sort of immediate fix,” Neil Phillips, the HFPA’s new chief diversity officer, told Variety. “If the HFPA is seen giving a certain number of awards to talent of colour, creatives of colour, then the HFPA is fixed. It just doesn’t work that way.”

It has been reported that the ceremony on January 9th, which will not be televised, is to focus on the organisation’s philanthropic efforts. It will be interesting to see if any of the nominated talent participates. One talent representative was sceptical. “I don’t think anyone would use that kind of nomination in an outward-facing way to promote clients,” the rep, who is “heading an Oscar bid for a noted actress,” told Entertainment Weekly. “It could have a negative effect.”

At any rate, today’s nominations, though greeted with less hoopla than any Globes list in decades, will still be fed into the Oscar chatter.

Belfast, currently favourite for best picture at the awards that matter, could become the first Irish film ever to take that prize. Ciarán Hinds and Jamie Dornan, both nominated as best supporting actor at the Globes, remain in the conversation. Their co-star Caitríona Balfe, Monaghan’s finest, stands an excellent chance in best supporting actress at both ceremonies (if the Globes event can still be so described).

Van Morrison, the veteran Irish performer, receives a Globes nomination in the best original song category for Down to Joy, which joins some of his older tunes on the soundtrack for Belfast.

Ruth Negga is a deserved nominee for her role as an African-American woman “passing” for white in Hall’s touching film.

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