Golden Globes 2021 Film Predictions: Why ‘Borat’ Could Score

Our best picks in every category include "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and "Nomadland," but the Globes are always full of surprises.
Maria Bakalova and Sacha Baron Cohen play daughter and father in "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" Borat 2
Maria Bakalova and Sacha Baron Cohen play daughter and father in "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm"
Amazon Studios

During this elongated, home-bound award season, it’s tougher to check in with voters. The 90 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who vote for the Golden Globes, have had to cope, along with everyone else, with the challenges of the pandemic. Several couldn’t return to the U.S., some fell ill, or lost family. They also had to deal with the loss of longtime member Lorenzo Soria to lung cancer, as well as a lawsuit accusing the HFPA of using their clout to monopolize overseas entertainment coverage, which was eventually thrown out by a federal judge.

Meanwhile, they soldiered on with their Hollywood coverage, checking out a slew of movies, television shows, and Zoom panels. Will these sober times color the HFPA voting? Even in a normal year, their idiosyncratic, Eurocentric tastes were hard to call.

Here’s what we do know: Netflix, with its blizzard of film and series content, will dominate nominations on February 3, especially with so many big-budget studio movies pushed back due to theater closings. And the Globes always lean more mainstream than other tonier critics’ groups. Don’t expect “First Cow” or “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” to make an appearance on Golden Globes morning. “Promising Young Woman” is more likely. The HFPA tends to favor their favorite celebrities — George Clooney? Meryl Streep? Tom Hanks? — but the usual hobnobbing at the Beverly Hilton isn’t going to happen this go-round.

And the Globes also provide extra slots to play with in the Comedy or Musical categories. That offers wriggle room for the distributors, who can seek drama consideration for films like “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” while leaving room in the comedy/musical categories for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “Prom Night,” and “Hamilton.”

The Globes are more influential than predictive, but they can add momentum to an Oscar frontrunner like “Nomadland.” Last year, Sam Mendes and his war drama “1917” took home Globes for Best Motion Picture Drama and Director, which did not repeat on Oscar night, while Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”) and Awkwafina (“The Farewell”) won Comedy/Musical Actor and Actress, respectively, without landing Oscar nominations. On the other hand, Quentin Tarantino’s elegiac “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” took home wins for Comedy/Musical and Supporting Actor Brad Pitt, which repeated at the Oscars, along with Best Drama Actor Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”), Best Drama Actress Renée Zellweger (“Judy”), and Supporting Actress Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”).

And like the Independent Spirit Awards, the Globes have different rules for foreign-language submissions than the Oscar’s Best International Feature Film category, which is why eventual Best Picture Oscar winner Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” wasn’t eligible for Best Drama, and had to settle for the foreign-language category instead. That also goes for American writer/director Lee Isaac Chung’s Korean-language “Minari” (A24), which like last year’s arguably American “The Farewell,” will only be eligible for foreign-language film, although actors like last year’s Comedy Actress winner Awkwafina can still vie for consideration.

Viola Davis in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
Viola Davis in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”Netflix

Unlike the SAG awards, the HFPA doesn’t always follow the wished-for categories of strategic awards campaigners. For example, the Globes moved Focus’ “Promising Young Woman,” which won Best Actress for Carey Mulligan from LAFCA, into the drama category. It looks like despite its musical elements, George C. Wolfe’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” will compete in the drama category; Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) moved from Supporting into the Best Actress category for comedy; and the four-man “One Night in Miami” cast may all wind up in the same category, whatever that turns out to be.

While Disney+ release “Hamilton” is not eligible for the Oscars because it is a filmed stage play, the Globes have accepted it for consideration as a musical. Which means that “One Night in Miami” star Leslie Odom, Jr. could also compete for Best Actor with his “Hamilton” costar Lin-Manuel Miranda, with Phillipa Soo and others in the cast in supporting, not to mention a possible third entry for co-writing the song “Speak Now” for “One Night in Miami.”

Check out our film predictions below; come back Wednesday for our post-nominations analysis.

“Nomadland”Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Best Motion Picture – Drama

“Nomadland” (Searchlight)
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
“News of the World” (Universal)

Spoiler: “Mank” (Netflix”)

As always, Netflix has showered Globe voters all season with swag and yummy consumables. August Wilson adaptation “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” are starry crowd-pleasers with a serious message, while David Fincher’s “Mank” and Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” could also make an appearance. These voters do not share the resistance to Netflix felt by many in the Academy. But the HFPA can’t go all in for Netflix. Movies with some uplift could go a long way, which is why I’m predicting Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland,” Paul Greengrass’ “News of the World,” and past Globe acting winner Regina King’s “One Night in Miami” over David Fincher’s heady cinephile wank-job “Mank.”

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon)
“The Prom” (Netflix)
“On the Rocks” (AppleTV+/A24)
“Hamilton” (Disney+)
“Emma” (Focus)

Spoiler: “Palm Springs” (Hulu)

Oscar-winning animator Phil Lord (“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”) regards “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” as far more than a raunchy comedy, and he is not alone. “The more I think about it ‘Borat 2’ should be really high on all the Best Picture leaderboards. It’s got it all — heart daring comedy relevance surprise plus a huge degree of difficulty and sticks the landing,” he tweeted.

Which is why, in this crazy time, Sacha Baron Cohen’s brave agit-prop comedy is poised to dominate the Comedy categories. Other candidates include popular Netflix showrunner Ryan Murphy’s entertaining escapist musical “The Prom,” starring Streep and Nicole Kidman, Autumn de Wilde’s visually witty Jane Austen adaptation “Emma,” Sofia Coppola’s father-daughter New York Valentine “On the Rocks,” and “Palm Springs,” a hip update of “Groundhog Day” starring Andy Samberg.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”Netflix

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”)
Gary Oldman (“Mank”)
Delroy Lindo (“Da 5 Bloods”)
Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”)

Spoiler: Tom Hanks (“News of the World”)

At the height of the fall film festivals, Hopkins was the frontrunner for his dementia-ridden old man fighting against the dying of the light. But he’s been overtaken by Boseman’s explosive last role as ambitious trumpeter Levee in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The posthumous awards narrative is tough to beat. Oldman will get in the mix, even though he’s won lately (“Darkest Hour”), while first-timers Lindo and Ahmed should make the cut. While he’s popular, Hanks is often overlooked for his more naturalistic, subtle roles, and voters may want to make room for other deserving actors.

Zendaya in "Malcolm & Marie"
“Malcolm & Marie”Netflix

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”)
Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”)
Sophia Loren (“The Life Ahead”)
Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”)

Spoiler: Zendaya (“Malcolm & Marie”)

With tremendous support from critics, Searchlight’s “Nomadland” is steady as they go. The race here is between two drama heavyweights, McDormand, with seven Globe acting nominations, including one special award (“Short Cuts”) and one win (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), and Davis, with five nominations and one win (“Fences”). The HFPA likes glamorous movie stars, though, so expect old favorite Loren (three Globe noms, four Henrietta Awards for World Film Favorite, and the Cecil B. DeMille Award) to return, along with two British actresses who give bravura turns: Venice actress winner Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) and Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”).

“Malcolm & Marie” might have screened too late, but if enough Globe voters saw Sam Levinson’s Cassavetes-style night-long fight between a rising director (John David Washington) and his wife and muse (Zendaya), 24-year-old “Euphoria” star Zendaya could sneak in.

"Borat 2"
“Borat 2”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”)
Andy Samberg (“Palm Springs”)
Dev Patel (“Personal History of David Copperfield”)
Pete Davidson (“The King of Staten Island”)

Spoiler: Leslie Odom, Jr. (“Hamilton”)

The two “Hamilton” actors could knock each other out, leaving Baron Cohen in the lead for this award. Again, outrageous as it is, “Borat” is the timely heavyweight, with more current gravitas than the other comedic performances in the category.

Anya Taylor-Joy stars as "Emma Woodhouse" in director Autumn de Wilde's EMMA., a Focus Features release. Credit : Focus Features
Anya Taylor-Joy stars as “Emma Woodhouse” in director Autumn de Wilde’s EMMA., a Focus Features release. Credit : Focus FeaturesCourtesy of Box Hill Films

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)
Meryl Streep (“The Prom”)
Anya Taylor-Joy (“Emma”)
Michelle Pfeiffer (“French Exit”)
Rashida Jones (“On the Rocks”)

Spoiler: Cristin Milioti (“Palm Springs”)

It’s always about who has the best story. This year, the unknown Bulgarian actress who wins the audition to play Borat’s daughter — and survives a hotel-room encounter with Rudy Giuliani — boasts the best narrative. Like Hanks, Streep has won many times. Anya Taylor-Joy is hot off Netflix hit series “Queen’s Gambit” and could score here, along with long overdue Michelle Pfeiffer in the kind of outsized role the Globes adore.

Aldis Hodge, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Leslie Odom, Jr. and Eli Goree in “One Night in Miami.”Amazon Studios

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Leslie Odom, Jr. (“One Night in Miami”)
Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”)
Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
Bill Murray (“On the Rocks”)

Spoiler: Mark Rylance (“The Trial of the Chicago 7″)

Two big ensemble casts face off in this category, with Odom, Jr. and Baron Cohen the likeliest to knock out their worthy costars. Veteran character actor Paul Raci, the hearing child of deaf parents who learned English as his second language, is coming on strong for his role as a compassionate deaf counselor in “Sound of Metal.” Kaluuya grabbed a Globes nomination for his role in “Get Out” and could repeat for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” although that film was screened late. And the HFPA adore Bill Murray, like everyone else.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”)
Olivia Colman (“The Father”)
Ellen Burstyn (“Pieces of a Woman”)
Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”)
Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari)

Spoiler: Helena Zengel (“News of the World”)

It will be hard for HFPA voters to resist a rising young movie star who suddenly shows what she’s capable of. Seyfried and Oldman conjured magic together as Marion Davies, the movie star mistress of William Randolph Hearst, and the alcoholic screenwriter of “Citizen Kane.” Colman won recently for “The Favourite.” Burstyn is an old favorite of the HFPA, with seven TV and film nominations and one win (“Same Time, Next Year”) along with Close, who has accrued 14 nominations across TV and film, and collected a big win for “The Wife.” Yuh-Jung Youn, a major Korean movie star, should be rewarded for her entertaining turn as the grandmother in “Minari.”

Best Director – Motion Picture Nominees

Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”)
Regina King (“One Night in Miami”)
David Fincher (“Mank”)
Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Spike Lee (“Da 5 Bloods”)

Spoiler: Paul Greengrass (“News of the World”)

I’m betting this group of foreign scribes will not be able to resist giving their award to Chinese multi-tasker Zhao, who wrote, directed, and edited “Nomadland,” which captures the zeitgeist. In recent years, the HFPA awarded Best Director to three Mexican directors, the three amigos A.G. Iñárritu, Guillermo del Toro, and Alfonso Cuarón.

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”)
Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton (“The Father”)
Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”)
Jack Fincher (“Mank”)

Spoiler: Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)

This is the battle of the auteurs among writer/directors Sorkin, Zhao, and playwright turned filmmaker Florian Zeller. Powers also adapted his own play, as well as contributing to “Soul.” And the HFPA will likely reward director Fincher by honoring his late father’s screenplay. Advantage: Sorkin, partly due to Zhao’s cinema vérité approach to blending fiction with the real world.

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

James Newton Howard (“News of the World”)
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste (“Soul”)
Ludwig Göransson (“Tenet”)
Alexandre Desplat (“The Midnight Sky”)
Terence Blanchard (“Da 5 Bloods”)

Spoiler: Emile Mosseri (“Minari”)

Newton’s soaring score should take this one.

Best Original Song – Motion Picture Nominees

“Speak Now” (“One Night in Miami”)
“Is Si (Seen)” (“The Life Ahead”)
“Wuhan Flu” (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)
“Just Sing” (“Trolls: World Tour”)
“Wear Your Crown” (“The Prom”)

“Husavik”: “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”)

“Speak Now” has this one in the bag (as it will at the Oscars), partly because it offers Odom, Jr. (who cowrote the song with Sam Ashworth) the chance to be nominated in three categories. But awards-perennial Diane Warren is never to be discounted for “The Life Ahead,” especially with Netflix behind her. If the Golden Globes don’t give a prize to “Eurovision Song Contest,” who will?

Best Animated Feature Film Nominees

“Over the Moon”
“The Croods: A New Age”

Spoiler: “Trolls: World Tour”

Pete Docter and his Pixar team should take this one handily. Netflix could build on strong word of mouth for the legendary Disney animator Glen Keane’s China-set “Over the Moon,” but Irish “Wolfwalkers” is pulling ahead with critics groups.

“Another Round”Goldwyn

Best Foreign-Language Film Nominees

“Another Round” (Denmark)
“Minari” (U.S.)
“Dear Comrades!” (Russia)
“I’m No Longer Here” (Mexico)
“The Life Ahead” (Italy)

Spoiler: “I Carry You With Me” (Mexico)

This contest is between popular “Minari” (A24) and the combo of Thomas Vinterberg and Mads Mikkelsen, which makes “Another Round” tough to beat. Besides, Mikkelsen dances!

The online version of the Golden Globes ceremony will be held on February 28, the original date of the Oscars.

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