Golden Globes 2019: it’s Dick Cheney v Lady Gaga in a surreal title fight; Peter Bradshaw

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney, left, and Sam Rockwell as George W Bush in Vice. Photograph: Matt Kennedy/AP

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney, left, and Sam Rockwell as George W Bush in Vice. Photograph: Matt Kennedy/AP

Vice is a surprise frontrunner – perhaps due to liberal nostalgia for when Republicans were intelligible – while A Star Is Born squares up to it, a little over-solemnly, in the best drama category

|AIWA! NO!|While the critical consensus has been building around A Star Is Born, Roma and The Favourite, the Golden Globes nomination list has launched a surprise new frontrunner. Leading the field with six nods, including actor and director, is Adam McKay’s enjoyable, if flashily self-aware political comedy Vice, with its glowering portrayal of former vice-president, big oil nabob and war-on-terror enthusiast Dick Cheney, who the film shows effectively leading America throughout the presidency of George W Bush.

Christian Bale has put on considerable amounts of weight and latex for the role and the result is undoubtedly entertaining, although I wonder if the surge of enthusiasm for this movie represents a guilty rush of liberal nostalgia for the good old days when the Republican bad guys, however horrible, were smart and rational people who had the good taste to keep a relatively low profile, and you kind of knew where you stood with them. The movie actually finishes with a post-credits sting which makes the director’s attitude to the new Trumpian zeitgeist and its standard of political debate pretty clear. Amy Adams is also up for best supporting actress for her performance as Cheney’s formidable wife Lynne, and Sam Rockwell for his amiable, undemanding and more subtly latexed turn as Dubya himself.

A thing of joy … Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in The Favourite.
 A thing of joy … best actress nominee Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in The Favourite. Photograph: Allstar/FILM4

Behind the six nominations for Vice is four apiece for Yorgos Lanthimos’s exhilaratingly mad post-Restoration romp The Favourite with its outstanding performance from Olivia Colman; Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen as a classical pianist and his driver; and Bradley Cooper’s brilliant and extravagant sugar-rush remake of A Star Is Born. Of these, the most prominent is obviously A Star Is Born, with its wonderful lead performance from Lady Gaga. Warner Bros has – perhaps a little over-solemnly – entered A Star Is Born in the Globes’ “drama” section rather than “musical or comedy”. Obviously, it isn’t funny and it is dramatic, but I would have liked to see this film honoured for its all-important musical content. Surely its song Shallow is going to walk off with best song, and as for the rest, who can tell? I love it, but A Star Is Born could yet find itself pipped at a number of posts, and in the best picture (drama) category, Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk might have the edge.

The Favourite is a jagged, sharp-clawed picture which has snagged the attention of everyone who has seen it, since it opened on the festival circuit at the end of the summer and praising it has become de rigueur among opinion-makers. It’s based on real-life figures from the English court – which could have been given a very square bonnets-and-ruffles period-drama treatment, but which Lanthimos’s unique style elevates to a quite different kind of absurdist spectacle. Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne is a thing of joy.

Green Book is based on a true story: the relationship between classical pianist Don Shirley (Ali) and his Italian-American driver and bodyguard Tony Vallelonga (Mortensen) in the 60s. It’s a heart-in-the-right-place movie which could find itself doing well, but I think it will be crowded out in the end.

Elsewhere, it is impossible not to see a couple of outrageous snubs. Ari Aster’s superlative scary movie Hereditary didn’t get into the best film (drama) category; well, all right, but surely Toni Collette deserved a shot at best actress for her superb performance? Well, at all events, it is great to see Glenn Close in that category for her subversively enigmatic literary spouse in The Wife. That surely has to be favourite. Also, it’s great that John C Reilly has been nominated for his (excellent) performance as Oliver Hardy in Jon S Baird’s Stan & Ollie – though not nominating Steve Coogan, who played Stan Laurel, is just silly.

On now to the subject of the film which most believe to be the very best of the year: Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma: this has screenplay, director and best foreign language film – although its status as a foreign-language film appears to have ruled it out of the best film categories. I think Cuarón deserves best director, although I wonder if he might get beaten out of the best foreign-language spot by the more obviously heart-tugging Capernaum, by Nadine Labaki, though I have to admit to not sharing the dewy-eyed praise for that film.

Screenplay, director and best foreign language film … Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.
 Screenplay, director and best foreign language film … Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. Photograph: AP

Elsewhere, Bohemian Rhapsody has done very well with a best actor (drama) nod for Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury and even a best drama nomination. Those are nominations which are interestingly in tune with a current of popular opinion which really likes this film, and which is impatient with critical voices who found it bland or straightwashed.

And ever since Ryan Coogler’s highly entertaining superhero movie Black Panther, the debate has been whether the awards establishment can find a way to honour its overwhelming success. The Globes, with their unstuffy tradition of recognising movies which are not solemn awards-bait, would be the place, but Black Panther has not in fact dominated the field.

Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman has been coolly picking up praise and enthusiasm since it emerged at Cannes back in May. Now its nominations include best director for Lee himself, best drama and best actor for John David Washington. I was agnostic about it, but this is a movie whose awards momentum could yet pick up.

For me, this years Globes “silly” vote goes to Mary Poppins Returns with a very respectable set of nods for best musical or comedy, actress (for Emily Blunt) and actor (Lin-Manuel Miranda). Hmmm. MPR isn’t bad, and it has some lovely showstoppers at the very beginning. But the confectionery really isn’t that nutritious or appetising by the end.

So a reasonable Globes list, with the surreal prospect of Dick Cheneysquaring off with Lady Gaga for the big prizes.

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