This year saw a dramatic increase in the number of fantastic films that introduced viewers to perspectives they likely hadn’t seen in American cinemas before. Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, and Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain & Glory were genre-bending films that danced on the line between comedy and drama, and, like Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, broadened audience experiences for the better.
These films all earned plenty of critical buzz on the festival circuit, including fervent anticipation from us at Paste for Portrait of a Lady on Fire, The Farewell and stellar reviews for Parasite. The snubs of this year’s bright, diverse offerings made for dull Golden Globe nominations released this morning, which weren’t helped by rules curtailing the nominee landscape (per THR).
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which is responsible for organizing the Golden Globes, has specific directives that dictate what types of films can be nominated for “Best Drama or Comedy/Musical.” The rules state that films in these categories must feature at least 50 percent English dialogue.
Parasite is entirely in Korean, and the same goes for Pain & Glory in Spanish and Portrait of a Lady on Fire in French. The Farewell features some English, but the bulk of the dialogue is in Mandarin. All four of the flicks were nominated in the Foreign Language category along with French film Les Misérables, but were shut out of the top nomination—which reviews suggested is where they belonged.
There were some well-deserved and diverse nods elsewhere, such as Best Director and Best Screenplay for Parasite, as well as a Best Actress: Musical or Comedy nom for Awkwafina in The Farewell. It’s simply a pity to see Todd Phillips and Joker taking up space in the Best Director and Best Picture categories for the overhyped, overrated villain-origin story, especially when it’s a spot that could have been inhabited by Wang or Lorene Scafaria’s sharp, savvy Hustlers to break up the (predominantly white) boys club. From Melina Matsoukas Queen & Slim to Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, female directors unleashed a breadth of visionary and creative cinema month after month this year, and not one of them was recognized in the director division.
The awards circuit doesn’t stop at the Golden Globes, and the language debate likely won’t either. All films are eligible for the Oscars international film category and for the Best Picture category. The Academy Awards already received criticism this year when Nigeria’s entry for the international feature film category, Lionheart, was disqualified for having only 11 minutes of non-English dialogue. The film’s director Genevieve Nnaji, was one of many who protested the decision given Nigeria’s official language is English.
This year’s awards season snubs aren’t just Hollywood politics or about the shiny trophies. They open up a larger conversation about why the institution is so determined to consolidate language into a box. The idea that English is what makes a film have merit or be “American” is proof that the Globes has a long way to go in understanding what the U.S. and the rest of the world looks like, sounds like, and wants to see onscreen. In an interview with Paste back in July, The Farewell director Lulu Wang said she wanted her film to make people “walk away with a sense of grace, how short our lives are and how valuable love and family is.” Like Wang, each of this year’s snubbed directors and films gave a specific, resounding message that resonated with those who heard it, no matter what language it came in. In a year where films broke borders and rules, it’s pathetic that the Globes couldn’t do the same.