By Stephanie Merry
The Washington Post
When the Golden Globe nominees were announced Monday morning, the work of two iconic filmmakers was conspicuously overlooked.
Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” was entirely shut out from all categories, while the only nomination Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply” got was for actress Lily Collins. That’s especially notable because both Oscar-winning directors spent decades working on their passion projects only to lose out to former Hollywood pariah Mel Gibson, among other best director contenders.
“Silence” actually shares some DNA with Gibson’s war movie. Both dramas are about tests of religious faith set against a violent backdrop. Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” follows real-life conscientious objector Desmond Doss, who was a medic during World War II and managed to save dozens of people without ever picking up a gun. “Silence” is about a couple of Jesuit priests who travel to Japan during the 17th century in search of their missing mentor, only to find a country that tortures and kills Christians.
The difference is that “Hacksaw” is a kinetic war movie — in fact, it won the Critics’ Choice Award for best action movie – while “Silence” is a methodically paced, 2½-hour meditation on faith and suffering. Coincidentally, both films star Andrew Garfield, who got a Globe nomination for “Hacksaw.”
Scorsese started thinking about making “Silence” in 1989 when he first read the novel it’s based on, by Shusaku Endo. The director lost a lot of money over the years hanging onto the rights without making the movie, and over the years stars have come and go. At various points, Daniel Day-Lewis, Benicio Del Toro and Gael Garcia Bernal were all in talks to star in the movie. Instead, Garfield and “Girls” star Adam Driver ended up in the lead roles, and they suffered for their art. Driver, who lost about 50 pounds to play the priest, is startlingly thin in the movie.
Was it worth it? Perhaps the Academy or the box office returns will be a kinder judge than the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The movie comes out Dec. 23, although it was already screened for the pope at the Vatican.
That late release may have something to do with the snub. “Silence” was only very recently screened for critics, so perhaps not enough of the approximately 90 journalists responsible for the Globes noms saw it. Or maybe they thought the director behind a punishing but beautifully shot religious epic didn’t quite live up to Tom Ford, for example, the fashion designer-turned-director who was nominated for his moody noir thriller “Nocturnal Animals.”
“Rules Don’t Apply” doesn’t have the convenient excuse of a late release to fall back on. The movie came out last month but didn’t make many waves. Since its lackluster opening weekend, it’s brought in about $3.6 million, which doesn’t make a dent in the reported $25 million production budget.
Beatty, a famous perfectionist, had been working on his Howard Hughes movie for many decades. It was also the first film he had directed since 1998’s “Bulworth,” not to mention his first acting role since 2001’s “Town and Country.” That’s a lot of buildup, but not even a major media blitz could generate interest. The movie was a strange mash-up of romantic comedy and historical farce, with Beatty playing Hughes as a pleasantly loony control freak. Most critics weren’t kind, so to say the movie was robbed would be an overstatement. Although it’s pretty shocking “Rules” didn’t even get a nod for its catchy original song.
The Hollywood Foreign Press has a pretty confusing methodology. You never quite know what they’re going to single out, and this year, as always, had some curveballs. Clearly, they don’t nominate based on a prestigious name alone, which is a good thing.
More than anything, the lack of nominations for these two films doesn’t make a movie fan question the Golden Globes so much as question passion projects. Beatty and Scorsese clearly spent a lot of time meditating on these stories, but that may not have necessarily made the movies better.