Despite the acute awareness that Hollywood award shows are barely relevant anymore, I have stayed embarrassingly up to date with any nominations, EGOT or not, for years now. So naturally, this year's “maybe-the-weirdest-yet” Golden Globes nominations piqued my interest. From the painfully unironic nominations for 'Emily in Paris', to the overwhelming whiteness of nominees, there seems to be little to look forward to. My deepest-rooted, most personal issue lies coincidentally in my guilty-pleasure favourite: the categories concerning comedies and musicals. This year, I’m focusing on the category of 'Best Motion Picture: Musical or Comedy', which managed to come off as embarrassingly irrelevant and yet surprisingly offensive.
The five nominees are gracelessly led by Sia’s infamous new production, 'Music', which created a backlash so loud the Globes can hardly pretend they missed it. Other titles include the new 'Borat', which is as hard to enjoy for anyone over the age of 14 as the 2006 original, this time with a disturbing paedophilic spin. There’s 'Prom' - Netflix musical-comedy about queer people which came some twenty years too late, and 'Hamilton', a recording of a 2015 Broadway sensation, and respectively not, in any way, shape, or form a 2020 movie. And then there’s this time-loop romcom with Andy Samberg.
So I watched all of the 'Best Motion Picture: Musical or Comedy' nominees, so you don’t have to, and I’m giving my less than asked for opinions.
1. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon Studios; Four by Two Films)
Borat’s trailer itself doesn’t leave much doubt about its general quality, but the extent of the film’s badness still managed to throw me off. Borat, a Kazahki journalist, goes to the US to discover the internet, women’s rights, and conspiracy theories. His main objective is to sell his 15-year-old daughter to the US 'ruling class' pedophiles to gain some sort of vague political advantage for his country’s leader, and avoid death penalty (since January 2021, abolished in only one of the aforemntioned countries). My note on everything that bothered me (from the ridiculous portrayal of Kazakhstan to bizarre directing choices) has 48 bullet points, and I still can’t figure out why exactly was this thing made in the first place. Was it to comment on how the Americans like to look down on other countries despite being kind of stupid themselves? Was it a satire on the political condition of the US? Whatever sophisticated message the producers think they are sending (“Republicans stupid?”;“Trump bad?”), could have been said in hundreds of less disturbing ways.
One good thing: The only scene that made me chuckle - Borat’s daughter whining “Why do American men hate me?” Big same.
One bad thing: Borat uses issues like sex trafficking, incest, sects, fascism, paedophilia, anti-Semitism, racism, gendered violence, immigration and human rights law violations for cheap laughs in a way that’s just painful to watch. It plays into stereotypes about Eastern Europeans that really make our lives so much harder. Call me an uptight leftie, but this humour is not where I would want the popular culture to go.
2. Hamilton (Disney +; 5000 Broadway Productions)
What is there to say about Hamilton that hasn’t been said twelve times over already? It’s a good musical. You know how it goes: there’s the Original Broadway Cast Recording on Spotify, the entire first act told in animation on YouTube, the documentary, tens of thousands of behind-the-scenes clips, that one time they sang for Obamas, the Jefferson-Miku-Binder collective fever dream…yeah. The production’s approach to American history is somewhat problematic, but the message it sends is heartfelt, and we’ve been down this rabbit hole enough times since its premiere in 2015, so let’s leave it at that. Along with probably half of the people who watched the new motion picture, I already saw the original stage production more times that I care to admit, courtesy of some nameless working class hero who recorded the whole thing on his phone from his eleventh row seat on Broadway. It’s Hamilton: Yes, Again, But This Time You Can See Their Faces.
One good thing: No one in good conscience can say it’s a bad production. It’s a brilliant production. The music, the lights, the already iconic costumes, the acting, the directing. It’s all objectively good.
One bad thing: It’s a 2015 Broadway Production, and the new motion picture does literally nothing that hasn’t already been done, over and over, in theatres all around the globe, for the last 6 years.
3. Palm Springs (Limelight/Lonely Island Classics; Hulu)
Palm Springs is a new romantic comedy, in which a reluctant maid of honour accidentally gets herself stuck in a time-loop, doomed to relive the day of her sister’s wedding over and over again. She shares this fate with one Andy Samberg, and, you guessed it, they fall in love. We get to see them experiencing a nihilistic spiral (to their credit - in their specific scenario, nothing really matters), ruin the wedding more times to count, and commit a suicide or two. The story is somewhat tired, with it’s boy-meets-girl-meets-Groundhog Day flare, but it manages to make its own spin on the known and loved romcom structure. Honestly, it’s better than it has the right to be. Two main characters, Nyles and Sarah, are both sufficiently complex, and their relationship is engaging enough to make you think - about loneliness, companionship, and the point of it all, in only a slightly cliche way.
One good thing: This one line where Sarah looks Nyles in the eye and says “I can survive just fine without you” during their love declaration, is a neat break from the co-dependency romcoms tend to preach.
One bad thing: The “the woman saving the man from himself” trope. Sarah does it in a very badass way, but it’s still the same, overused dynamic.