There are years when it’s fine for Golden Globes voters to play it loose, to celebrate curious favorites, to not worry about what message their nominations are sending. This was not one of those years, and the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association clearly knew it.
Or did they?
After a year in which they couldn’t do their usual partying, schmoozing and junketing, a year in which thousands of people died, cities locked down and then rioted and American democracy splintered, the 90-odd voters of the HFPA got down to business and came up with a slate of nominees earmarked by diversity and seriousness.
But only to a degree.
For the first time in its 78-year history, the Globes nominated three women for Best Director in the same year; one of them, Regina King, received only the sixth Globes nomination ever for a Black director, and another, Chloé Zhao, only the seventh for an Asian. (Four of those seven went to Ang Lee.)
They saluted a slate of films about social turmoil (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”), economic hardship (“Nomadland”), dementia (“The Father”), sexual abuse (“Promising Young Woman”), race (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and fake news (“Mank,” a political film in the guise of a Hollywood story). Even in the musical or comedy category, they embraced the defiant multiculturalism of “Hamilton” and the barbed political comedy of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” over the lighter fare that often surfaces there.
Most of the surprises in the film nominations brought increasing diversity into the slate of nominees: Tahir Rahim for best actor in “The Mauritanian,” Emerald Fennell landing a directing nod for “Promising Young Woman” over Paul Greengrass for “News of the World.” (She also scored a screenplay nomination.)
And yet the Globes will be the Globes, which means there had to be some jaw-dropping choices. “Music,” a film co-written and directed by pop star Sia that is getting a one-day IMAX premiere and then a VOD release next week, unexpectedly showed up in the Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy category in place of “French Exit” or “The Personal History of David Copperfield” or “Emma.” And the film’s star, Kate Hudson, landed a surprise nomination over Meryl Streep, Rashida Jones or Emily Blunt.
The well-received “Minari,” meanwhile, received an expected nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category, where it had been unceremoniously deposited by Globe rules, but it couldn’t break into any of the acting categories, not even for everybody’s favorite grandmother, Yuh-Jung Youn; ditto for “The Life Ahead,” who landed noms for foreign film and for Diane Warren’s song “Io Si (Seen),” but not for legendary leading lady Sophia Loren.
And if Black nominees did well in most of the film acting categories, the list of the most-nominated films is a very white one: David Fincher’s “Mank” on top with six, followed by Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” with five and Florian Zeller’s “The Father,” Zhao’s “Nomadland” and Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” with four each. Regina King got a directing nomination for “One Night in Miami,” which was also recognized for Leslie Odom Jr.’s performance and for the song he co-wrote and sings, but the film was left out of the Best Motion Picture – Drama category.
“Hamilton” was the most diverse of the 10 Best Motion Picture nominees, which were conspicuously missing “One Night in Miami” or “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” or “Judas and the Black Messiah” — and while Netflix dominated the nominations, as expected, the streamer couldn’t land a single nomination for Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” or the John David Washington/Zendaya vehicle “Malcolm and Marie.”
So the Globe voters tried to reflect a strange and tumultuous year, managed to be a little bold, and then whiffed completely on honoring Black filmmakers in a year in which they had plenty of deserving candidates to choose from. They answered last year’s complaints about overlooking female directors, but then pulled away from making any other advances to fall back on their usual idiosyncrasies and blind spots. Even in a year as weird as this past one, some things never change.
On the television side, meanwhile, the nominations were a mixture of old favorites (they’ll never abandon “The Crown” and they want in on that “Schitt’s Creek” love they saw at the Emmys) and the new shows they so love to salute before other awards shows can get to them: “The Queen’s Gambit,” “Ted Lasso,” “Small Axe,” “The Undoing,” “The Flight Attendant,” “The Comey Rule” and a pair of shows that got lukewarm receptions from the critics but not from the HFPA, “Ratched” and “Emily in Paris.”
But there was another big miss on the TV side when it came to artists of color: Of the eight television acting categories, only two contained actors of color: Ramy Youssef and Don Cheadle in lead actor in a comedy series, John Boyega in supporting actor. (The most recent Emmys, by contrast, didn’t have a single all-white acting category.)
If the TV categories are where much of the attention will go on Globes night, since we’ve all spent the last year getting all of our entertainment at home, they are perhaps less indicative of the turmoil of the past 12 months than the film categories are. But then, the HFPA always wants to make its awards show a big party — why get so serious, even in 2021?