No love for Ex Machina and The Knick from Golden Globes voters

On Thursday, the nominees for the 73rd Golden Globe Awards were announced, voted by the Hollywood Foreign Press. These awards have become known for some unorthodox nominations and omissions, in contrast to other ceremonies like the Oscars. Although the majority of the nominated projects are fantastic, like Spotlight, or highly promising, like The Revenant and The Big Short, still there were the standard head scratchers.

The fact that the actors from Spotlight received no recognition is baffling and the omission of Steve Jobs is somewhat of a letdown as well. There’s also the confusing decision for The Martian to be nominated in the ‘Musical or Comedy’ category. This continues the tradition of the HFP lacking a clear definition of that category. That said, its nomination, regardless of category, is a stretch.

However, there were two particularly unfortunate omissions. The first is the near-masterpiece Ex Machina. Though I feel The Revenant might give it a run for its money, it’s the best movie of the year to date. The story revolves around a programmer who’s invited to the secluded house of his company’s CEO to administer the Turing test on an android to determine if its personality is indistinguishable from that of a human. As I expressed in my review, this is a cerebral, suspenseful and downright thrilling movie. It’s a pleasure watching the slowly paced story unfold as the motives of the mysterious characters are revealed. The special effects are seamless, newcomer Alex Garland knows how to amp up the tension and the incredibly engaging and eloquent dialogue covers topics ranging from robotics to mathematics to sexuality to what it means to be human. Oscar Isaac plays the CEO/mad scientist; he was also snubbed in the role as a ‘no BS’ genius, delivering some of the most natural line readings I’ve ever heard while showcasing perfect ambiguity. Alicia Vikander received a nomination for her portrayal of the android Ava, yes, but Isaac was the real scene stealer. This is one of the best movies in years.

Now, traditionally, award shows aren’t very kind to sci-fi and fantasy. This could account for the omission. However, Mad Max: Fury Road received a surprising nomination. Admittedly, the film is pretty entertaining and contains some impressive cinematography and practical effects, but lacks interesting dialogue and sympathetic characters. Even Tom Hardy, one of the great actors of our time, is wasted in the titular role. The apparent comedy, The Martian, also received a nomination. Though it was better than Mad Max and had fantastic acting and visuals, it still lacked the kind of tension a movie like that requires. Neither of these films comes close to genius of Ex Machina.

Another work of art that has been overlooked a few times is The Knick. The Cinemax show, which airs on HBO, follows the staff of New York’s Knickerbocker hospital in 1900, specifically chief surgeon Dr. John Thackery, played with exemplary restraint by movie star Clive Owen as a man both obsessed with medical discovery as well as cocaine. It might sound like standard fair until you realize that the great Steven Soderbergh directs every single episode, a rare occurence in television. It’s also set to a shockingly appropriate synth score by Drive’s Cliff Martinez. When you combine those elements with the wonderful cast and the show’s exquisite understanding of time and place, it makes for the best show on television right now.

Yet, despite critical acclaim, the show doesn’t seem to be attracting the attention of award voters or the common TV viewer; it has yet to penetrate pop culture. Even the jarringly realistic (admittedly gag-inducing) surgery scenes haven’t spread through word of mouth in a meaningful way. Owen received a Globe nomination at last year’s ceremony, but his performance and the show deserve so much more.

Of course, it’s only natural that voters overlook some candidates. In a perfect world, I’d have all my favourite shows and movies recognized for their greatness. There are a lot of hidden gems out there that deserve to be seen. And Ex Machina still has a chance to snag the big prize at the Oscars, an awards show that seems to ‘get it right’ more often than the Globes. With a maximum of ten possible nominees, as opposed to the five dramatic films nominated at the Globes, it just might get a nomination. Considering that more people may experience the movie following such an event, I sure hope it does.

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