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What Golden Globes 2021 Tells Us About the Oscars, from Spike Lee to Emerald Fennell

Netflix dominates the awards field, but Spike Lee's "Da 5 Bloods" was shut out. Don't underestimate "Nomadland" and "One Night in Miami."

Gary Oldman stars in “Mank.”


The crazy side of the 90-member Hollywood Foreign Press is back in force. You can always count on the Musical/Comedy category to deliver Golden Globes nomination surprises, but don’t expect Sia’s directing debut “Music” (February 12; 29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) to turn up on Oscar nominations morning March 15. Ditto Oscar longshots Dev Patel (“The  Personal History of David Copperfield”), Anya Taylor-Joy (“Emma”), Rosamund Pike (“I Care a Lot”), James Corden (“The Prom”), Andy Samberg (“Palm Springs”), Jared Leto (“The Little Things”), and Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton” isn’t Oscar eligible).

The Golden Globes will be broadcast live February 28 with comediennes Amy Poehler and Tina Fey hosting on two coasts, from the usual Globes hub at the Beverly Hilton and New York’s Rainbow room, respectively. Oscar Best Picture eligibility ends February 28 (the original, pre-pandemic Oscar date, which is now moved to April 25). That means this year’s Globe winners have a tiny window to influence Oscar voting.

Here’s how today’s nominations could impact the Oscar race. (Full nominations list is here.)

1. Netflix continues to be a major force in the industry.

Between television (20) and motion picture (22) nods, Netflix commanded an impressive 42 nominations. The streamer and its sprawling awards team racked up even more nominations than last year, when Netflix movies landed 17 nominations (Sony had 10) and four awards contenders in the Best Motion Picture categories. Amazon Studios followed with seven nominations, while theatrical distributors Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics and Focus Features all totaled up five.

This time David Fincher’s “Mank” and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” led the field with six and five nominations, respectively, showing strength heading into the SAG awards. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” had to settle for acting nods for Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman, along with Glenn Close in “Hillbilly Elegy” and Vanessa Kirby in “Pieces of a Woman.”

“Ma Rainey” could be vulnerable in the Oscar race; while the well-mounted period musical may grab some acting and craft nods, adapted screenplay and directing kudos are unlikely.

Shockingly, Spike Lee’s June release “Da 5 Bloods” was shut out. (Awkwardly, this year’s Golden Globe Ambassadors are Lee’s kids, Jackson and Satchel Lee.) But the movie could surge forward when the SAG Awards nominations are revealed February 4; Lee is popular with Academy voters. And while Globes voters delivered for Rosamund Pike in “I Care a Lot” (Metascore: 67), they did not come through for Zendaya for late-breaking “Malcolm & Marie” (Metascore: 56).

Netflix also landed nods for Alexandre Desplat’s score for “The Midnight Sky,” Glen Keane’s animated feature “Over the Moon,” and a Comedy/Musical slot for Ryan Murphy’s “The Prom.” Sophia Loren, who has notched many wins from the HFPA over the years, got a consolation prize as her son’s Italian drama “A Life Ahead” scored a foreign-language nomination.

Composers Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor landed two nominations, for their Bernard Herrmann-homage “Mank” and, with Jon Batiste, for Pixar’s jazz-infused “Soul.” The latter is the more likely Oscar nod.

Frances McDormand stars in “Nomadland”


2. Never underestimate Frances McDormand.

The powerhouse two-time Best Actress Oscar-winner reached out to “The Rider” director Chloé Zhao (so did Marvel, but that’s another story) to adapt Jessica Bruder’s 2017 book, and with four key Globe nominations “Nomadland” continues as the Oscar Best Picture and director frontrunner. Nothing is going to stop it, even if McDormand barely shows up for interviews.

3. “Promising Young Woman” is popular. 

But with whom? Yes, the HFPA gave the Sundance 2020 breakout four key nominations, including actress Carey Mulligan and writer-director Emerald Fennell. The SAG nominations will measure its mainstream appeal, as they did for “Parasite” last year. While an Original Screenplay Oscar slot is within the range of possibility, the small-scale Focus Features release would need deep support to wind up as a Best Picture contender.

“One Night in Miami”

Amazon Studios

4. Two, not three, women directors, could make it to the Oscar race. 

The Globes broke their record for women director nominees, adding Fennell to the expected nods for Zhao and the feature directing debut of beloved actress Regina King (“One Night in Miami”). That is unlikely to repeat with the Academy’s notoriously myopic directors branch. Two would be a significant victory.

While the Globe voters unaccountably favored “Promising Young Woman” over “One Night in Miami” for Best Motion Picture Drama and Screenplay, King’s four-hander is steady as they go for the Oscars, as the upcoming SAG nominations should confirm. “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom, Jr. landed two “One Night in Miami” nominations, for Supporting Actor and Song (“Speak Now”), which could both win Globes — and Oscars.

5. Sacha Baron Cohen is a powerhouse. 

Three Globe nominations for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” will help Baron Cohen score his expected Supporting Actor slot at SAG and the Oscars for his role as Yippie Abbie Hoffman in “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” And Bulgarian newcomer Maria Bakalova should land Supporting Actress with both groups as well.

6. Andra Day has heat.

The “United States vs. Billie Holiday” (Paramount/Hulu) narrative is strong — singer-turned-actress nails jazz legend — but the late-breaking Lee Daniels film will need supportive reviews to move forward in the awards race.

7. “The Mauritanian” needed this boost.

The HFPA put a spotlight on another late entry, Kevin Macdonald’s moving Guantanamo Bay drama “The Mauritanian” (STX Films), which could make it a must-see for other awards voters. Tahar Rahim in the title role as an uncharged prisoner trapped behind bars for 14 years, and Jodie Foster as the lawyer trying to free him, both landed acting slots.

The Father

“The Father”

Sony Pictures Classics

8. “The Father” is a strong Oscar play. 

With four nominations, the Globes voters underscore that writer-director Florian Zeller’s play-to-film “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics) is playing well across the board. Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, and writing and directing slots could repeat at the Oscars.

9. “Sound of Metal” will go far. 

Amazon mounted an early and loud campaign for critical favorite Riz Ahmed in “Sound of Metal;” while Paul Raci did not make the supporting cut with the Globes, he could still show up at SAG and the Oscars.

10. Watch out for “News of the World,” “Minari,” and “Judas and the Black Messiah”

The Eurocentric HFPA don’t go for westerns. (They didn’t nominate “True Grit” either.) As an old-fashioned studio movie with scale and scope, Paul Greengrass’ “News of the World” (Universal) could still pop up at the Oscars. While Tom Hanks gives one of his more subtle performances, German discovery Helena Zengel did land a Globe nod, which could repeat at the SAG Awards and Oscars.

The Globes slotted “Minari” (A24) as a foreign-language entry, but it should still have a shot at some SAG and Oscar attention for its superb cast, led by Steven Yeun.

Daniel Kaluuya squeaked into the Globes as Fred Hampton in Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.); the late-breaking movie is building momentum.

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