The 2021 COVID-delayed, virtual Golden Globes show was a weird one. Popular four-time hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, anchoring Los Angeles and New York, struck a dystopian chord: They compared the show to “The Hunger Games” as they played to dark, socially distanced rooms of “smoking hot” first responders in black masks. No wonder the event seemed muted.
The two comediennes, like everyone else participating in the evening, knew that the 87 fractious members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association were reeling from a series of Los Angeles Times articles that allege the wealthy organization continues to be influenced by those in Hollywood hoping to score awards, while paying many of their members handsomely. “It’s all a scam invented by a big red carpet to sell more carpets,” said Fey.
Several presenters and winners made reference to the diversity issue — “it’s great to be Black at the Golden Globes,” said presenter Sterling K. Brown — and the HFPA sent three members onstage to make a pledge to do better.
“They handled the question well,” said “The Mauritanian” surprise Supporting Actress winner Jodie Foster backstage. “They listened. The world is growing and changing. There is a real awakening. We’re all getting a little better, not worse. It sounds like the HFPA is open to change.”
What hasn’t changed is that the Globes gave Foster the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2013 because they really like her. And they still do. Winning a Globe is no guarantee that she will move on to Oscar glory. Every year there are several examples of actors like Taron Egerton, who won for “Rocketman,” but did not muster an Oscar nod.
Several 2021 categories were glaringly white, including Comedy/Musical Actress, Supporting Actress, and Best Motion Picture Drama. The HFPA wound up giving three top awards to Black film actors. The late Chadwick Boseman took Best Actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”; his wife Taylor Simone Ledward tearfully accepted the award, causing many viewers to cry, including his costar Viola Davis and presenter Renée Zellweger. “He would thank God, thank his parents,” said Ledward. “He would thank his ancestors for their guidance and their sacrifice.”
British “Get Out” star Daniel Kaluuya took Supporting Actor for February release “Judas and the Black Messiah,” beating favorite Leslie Odom Jr., who also was overlooked for his second possible award for “One Night in Miami” song “Speak Now,” and whose other movie, stage-to-film musical “Hamilton,” lost Comedy/Musical, as predicted, to Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Kaluuya is heading toward likely wins at all the upcoming awards shows.
“The pandemic got into the wifi,” he said in the press room about momentarily losing audio on the glitch-ridden show. “I really wanted to speak, to give recognition where it’s supposed to be. We did this to continue [Chairman Fred Hampton’s] legacy…It’s so hard for films like this to be made. That’s the win, that it took this form, this perspective. Tip your hat to Ryan Coogler. When he made a billion he pitched this.”
The surprise Best Actress Drama winner was Andra Day, whose film, Lee Daniels’ “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” was also a recent release. “The last person who won this award was Whoopi Goldberg for ‘The Color Purple,'” she said backstage after her emotional acceptance speech. “A lot of amazing stories need to be told. Who else has meatier stories than Black women?” Day told the press room she was heading down to supper to eat cake. “I’ve been on a diet for three years. I’m going to eat so much food! I’m very hungry.” Day could land the open fifth Best Actress slot.
Heading into the Oscar nomination voting March 5-10, several movies and their stars have a strong wind in their sails. (Oscar nominations will be announced on March 15.)
Mostly, the HFPA shared the wealth among a swath of Oscar contenders. “Nomadland” took its expected win for Best Director, which Chloé Zhao could repeat at the Oscars, as well as Best Motion Picture – Drama, beating popular favorite “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” Her feat of writing, editing, producing, and directing a cast of mostly non-pros along with stars Frances McDormand and David Strathairn is hard to deny. Zhao is the first Asian woman to win Director, as well as the first Asian woman to win Best Motion Picture — Drama. She’s the second woman to win a directing Globe, following Barbra Streisand, for “Yentl” in 1984.
“Sometimes a first feels like a long time coming,” Zhao said in the press room. “You feel like it’s about time. I love what I do, and if this means more people get to live their dream and do what I do, I’m happy.”
Predictably, Aaron Sorkin’s entertaining ’60s recreation “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) took Screenplay. His 10-year odyssey through several directors on the way to taking the helm was well-documented during awards season. The political courtroom drama couldn’t be more timely. Sorkin beat Zhao’s “Nomadland” as well as his Netflix rival, David Fincher’s slice of old Hollywood “Mank,” which led the field with six nominations but went home empty-handed. Glam Supporting Actress nominee Amanda Seyfried, snubbed at the SAG Awards, could have used some momentum for her Oscar bid.
Netflix went in with 22 motion picture nominations, and wound up with four gold statues, for Boseman and Sorkin as well as two shocking wins, for Rosamund Pike for Best Actress — Comedy/Musical (“I Care a Lot”) and for Diane Warren for Original Song for “The Life Ahead.” (There’s a large voting bloc of Italians at the HFPA.) “It’s about a serious subject, but telling it in a deliciously unsavory way,” said Pike, who backstage agreed with the movie being relegated to Comedy. “It’s like a double punch.”
The expected winner here was Bulgarian discovery Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”), who may have fallen into the lucky-to-be-nominated category. She might have been better off in Supporting. Pike was also helped by “I Care a Lot” being seen most recently during this long award season on Netflix. Drama Actress winners at the Globes tend to repeat more at the Oscars than Musical/Comedy winners.
Boseman is still the Oscar frontrunner for Best Actor. The dramatic narrative of Boseman giving his career-best performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” while knowing he was dying of cancer, could still carry the day. But time is passing, and Anthony Hopkins, 83, is coming on strong in recently released “The Father,” and could build momentum at SAG and BAFTA.
Emerald Fennell’s dark crowdpleaser “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) missed its expected win for Best Actress Carey Mulligan. The respected British stage and screen performer could make up ground at the BAFTAs, en route to the Oscars. Mulligan and her main competitors, lauded veterans Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”), will duke it out again at the SAG and Critics Choice awards. They’re locks for Oscar nods, along with Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”).
No surprise on the two wins for Best Motion Picture and Best Actor Musical or Comedy for political agitprop British writer/actor Sacha Baron Cohen (winning his second Globe for playing the same character, 14 years later) and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon). This boosts his subsequent prospects, but his likeliest Oscar nod is for Adapted Screenplay as well as Supporting Actor for “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” Baron Cohen said he risks putting himself in danger because “we all believed the danger of lies and hate and conspiracies, and the pursuit of truth, empathy, and democracy.”
He added, “Donald Trump is contesting the results; he’s saying a lot of dead people voted, which is a nasty thing to say about the HFPA.”
Another movie winning two Globes tonight was Pete Docter and Kemp Powers’ “Soul” (Disney+), Pixar’s first animated feature with a Black lead (Jamie Foxx), which handily won Animated Feature as well as Score, which could easily repeat at the Oscars. Dual nominees Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross accepted with jazz musician Jon Batiste. “Little did we know, making a film about jazz, that it would teach us something about life,” said Docter.
Best Foreign Language Film, as expected, went to “Minari” (A24, and directed by Lee Isaac Chung). Last year’s win for Bong Joon Ho’s Korean-language “Parasite” was followed by the American Korean-language film partly because the HFPA wanted to counter recent criticism of their rules, which prohibit non-English language films from competing in the Best Motion Picture slots.
Striking a familiar theme repeated throughout the evening, Chung said, “It’s about a family learning to speak a language of its own, the language of the heart, this language of love to each other. I hope we all learn this, especially this year.”
Backstage, the winners described a relatively relaxed and informal experience, and enjoyed celebrating with their loved ones. “It feels like a pajama party,” said Jodie Foster, who cuddled with her wife and cat. But no after-parties.
“It’s extraordinary to be all dressed up in the hotel room on your own with nowhere to go,” said Pike, sprawled on the floor in a pouffy red gown. “I’ve given up drinking for Lent. No champagne until April 4. Which is a shame. We would have torn up the town in LA afterwards.”