Adaptations Rule the 2016 Golden Globe Nominations

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in ‘Carol’/Image © 2015 The Weinstein Co.

This morning the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced the nominees list for the 2016 Golden Globes. Scheduled to air on January 10, 2016, the Globes are generally seen as an early litmus test for the Academy Awards – although if last year is any indication that’s not necessarily the case. The 2016 nominations showcase a particularly strong year for adaptations with three of the five films in the best drama category (four if you include “Spotlight”) and two of the films in the best comedy or musical category featuring book-based films. Let’s run through it all.

The best drama category highlights a wide swath of films covering a wider array of topics. “Spotlight,” which is based on a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles from the Boston Globe that uncovered a pattern of sexual abuse and cover-ups by the Boston Archdioceses, is possibly the early favorite. However, there is strong competition on the adaptation front with “Carol,” “The Revenant,” and “Room” as contenders for the prize. “Carol” is based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. “The Revenant” is inspired by true events and adapted from the novel of the same name by Michael Punke – although despite its quality, the film may prove too brutal for anything other than a nod. “Room” is based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue. The nominees this year have really upped the game – and it could be anyone’s win at this point.

On the best comedy or musical front, two adaptations lead the pack. “The Big Short” and “The Martian” both seem likely candidates to take home the statue, but with a list of nominees that includes David O. Russell’s “Joy” and Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck,” the competition is no laughing matter. “The Big Short” chronicles the creation of the credit default swap market during the 2007-2010 financial crisis and is based on the book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis. “The Martian” is a science-heavy sci-fi adventure about an astronaut marooned on Mars and is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Andy Weir.

Both best actress and best actor in the drama categories are dominated by performances in adaptations: Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo,” based on Dalton Trumbo by Bruce Cook; Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”; Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs,” based on Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson; Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl,” based on The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff; Will Smith, “Concussion,” based on Game Brain by Jeanne Marie Laskas; Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, “Carol”; Brie Larson, “Room”; Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn,” based on Brooklyn by Colm Toibin; and Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl.”

In the category of best actor in a comedy or musical, adaptations made another strong showing with Matt Damon pulling a nod for his work in “The Martian” and both Steve Carell and Christian Bale with nominations for “The Big Short.”

There were no real surprises in the television categories beyond the overall lack of nominees from broadcast television; in both the drama and musical or comedy categories only two series from a regular broadcast network (“Empire” for Fox, and “Mr. Robot” for USA) made the cut. Whether that says more about the quality of programming on premium channels and streaming services or the lack thereof on regular broadcast networks is a matter of opinion.

“Game of Thrones,” based on the Song of Ice and Fire series from George R. R. Martin, and “Outlander,” based on the books by Diana Gabaldon, are certainly in the running in the best dramatic television series. However, the cases for the Netflix series “Narcos” and USA’s “Mr. Robot” can be made as well.

In terms of best comedy or musical TV series, broadcast television networks were completely shut out as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime dominated the proceedings. Last year’s winner, “Transparent,” remains the likely favorite. However, “Mozart in the Jungle” is certainly a dark horse contender for the statue. The show is based on the memoir Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music by Blair Tindall. Gael Garcia Bernal also nabbed a nomination in the best actor category for his performance in the Amazon Studios production. And, of course, we should never count out fan favorite “Orange Is the New Black,” adapted from the memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman.

There was one notable adaptation snub this year: “Black Mass” was shut out of the Golden Globes, completely failing to secure a best actor nomination for Johnny Depp’s critically acclaimed performance as notorious criminal James “Whitey” Bulger.

It was another solid year literary adaptations across the board – not that we’re surprised. Care to join us in speculating on the winners? Let us know your thoughts.