The Golden Globes are historically Hollywood’s most chaotic award show, a truism that remains in place for 2021—albeit for different reasons. On Wednesday morning, Sarah Jessica Parker and Taraji P. Henson Zoomed in from their respective living rooms to deliver the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual slate of nominees. It’s been a strange and difficult year for show business, a fact very much reflected in the Globes’ bright spots as well as its typical eccentricities. Here are the winners and losers of the 2021 Golden Globe nominations, a couple of months later than usual but as messy as ever.
The pandemic has forced award shows like last year’s Emmys to go through their proceedings virtually—credit to the Television Academy for a surprisingly smooth production in spite of juggling dozens of streams—and that extended to the Golden Globe nominations announcement on Wednesday morning. Rather than exchanging quippy back and forths in person, presenters Sarah Jessica Parker and Taraji P. Henson took turns reading off sheets of paper in their households. The effect was oddly surreal, a sharp contrast to the usually glitzy nature of the Golden Globes. But also, as someone who had to wake up and immediately blog about the nominees, I appreciated the actresses’ swiftness—they got through the first chunk of nominees in five minutes.
That doesn’t mean things didn’t get weird. The chaotic slate of nominees notwithstanding—seriously, are we sure the Kate Hudson movie Music even exists?—Parker and Henson struggled with basic pronunciations of the names of some of the actors. I will never get Henson calling Carey Mulligan “Cherry Mulligan” out of my head. We’ve all been there, albeit not while presenting major award nominees on the Today show. —Miles Surrey
In a year when we’ve all been stuck inside, TV has been a lifeline to the outside world. Movies, unfortunately, have been a major casualty of the pandemic’s economic devastation—to the point where major companies like WarnerMedia have rethought their release strategy altogether, while major tentpoles like No Time to Die have been pushed well past this year’s eligibility window. This was reflected in the Golden Globe nominees, as many of the biggest winners, including Nomadland and Minari, aren’t even available to a mass audience yet as they await belated streaming premieres. Even genuine hits like Hamilton—a filmed staging of a Broadway show, unlikely to crack the field in more typical years—feel unlikely to turn into interest drivers for an award show that’s been knocked off its typical schedule and feels even more superfluous than normal.
I’m not a professional film critic, but I’d like to think I do a good job of keeping up with popular culture. But the (hopefully temporary) end of theatrical release windows and a confusing scramble of delayed releases has made it all but impossible to know what’s even available to stream. Anthony Hopkins’s The Father sure sounds like a movie, and I believe Music exists (now available to stream wherever you get your podcasts!). But without a physical place to go take them in, a lot of this year’s Globe nominees will have gone over even ardent culture hounds’ heads. It’s not the fault of the films, whose distributors are trying to put them out into the world under impossible circumstances, nor the HFPA for giving them much-needed publicity. It’s just a tough look for an award show that typically thrives on celebrity and fame, even more than the average ones. If you need me between now and the ceremony, I’ll be frantically Googling The Mauritanian and I Care a Lot, because I do. —Alison Herman
Winner: Female Directors
It’s maybe a tad premature to declare a victory for female directors overall; the last time the HFPA even bothered to nominate one was Ava DuVernay for Selma in 2014, and the association snubbed Greta Gerwig for Little Women last year, and for Lady Bird before that. (Not to mention all the systemic barriers to female auteurs’ success outside of the HFPA’s little talent show.) Perhaps it’s more appropriate to call this year’s nominations a long-overdue leveling, and express the fervent hope the trend continues into less anomalous movie years.
Alright, caveats over—more women were nominated for Best Director in this year’s Golden Globes than men! That’s an unprecedented reversal, and a well-deserved acknowledgement for Emerald Fennell, Regina King, and Chloé Zhao’s work on Promising Young Woman, One Night in Miami, and Nomadland, respectively. (Never forget the Globes love an actress, even when she’s behind the camera.) That still doesn’t encompass all the great work done this year, from Autumn de Wilde’s Emma to Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always to Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow. Nevertheless, it’s a great start, and an important silver lining for what’s shaping up to be a very odd award season. —Herman
Loser: The HFPA
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association already got itself in hot water before this year’s Golden Globes nominees were announced, when the awards body determined that Minari would be eligible only for Best Motion Picture–Foreign Language despite being filmed in America and financed by American production companies. (I wonder where the members of the HFPA stand on the Great Parasite Subtitle Debate of 2020.) But the HFPA went one step further on Wednesday, largely omitting films made by and starring Black people, like One Night in Miami, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Judas and the Black Messiah—while completely snubbing Da 5 Bloods, one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2020. Usually the Oscars are being scrutinized for a lack of diverse nominees—obviously the Globes deserve to be put under the same microscope. —Surrey
The rise of global streaming services has meant that American audiences have gradually grown more exposed to content that’s not, well, American. Combine that with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association—emphasis on the “foreign”—as well as the monocultural ubiquity of Princess Diana and you have an unusually international slate of TV nominees. (Plus Emily in Paris, the biggest L for America of all. A clueless amateur influencer is truly the ambassador we deserve.)
The Crown is British. So is Small Axe, its unofficial companion. Schitt’s Creek is Canadian. Normal People is Irish. Ted Lasso is set in the U.K. The Undoing features the most unbelievable American accent put to film. And Unorthodox, a strong performer in the Limited Series category, is largely set in Germany, performed in languages other than English. The film categories, too, feature some of this cross-pollination: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm once again sees a Brit expose the dark underbelly of his adopted homeland, while Minari was bizarrely counted as a Foreign Language film and therefore ineligible for Best Picture. Maybe the takeaway is less America’s relative weakness than the increasingly blurry definition of what’s American and what’s not. —Herman
Winner: Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm’s Oscars Momentum
A sequel to a crass mockumentary that peaks every time Sacha Baron Cohen goes full frontal doesn’t sound like a traditional awards contender, but let’s not forget that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association loved the original Borat—Cohen won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture–Musical or Comedy in 2007. (Which led to an iconic speech where Cohen embarrassed Ken Davitian by emphasizing how uncomfortable it was shoving his face in his costar’s ass.) And on the second time of asking, the HFPA still finds Borat very nice!
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm has plenty of momentum in a wide open Oscars field, scoring three nominations on Wednesday—acting nods for Cohen and costar Maria Bakalova to go with a nod for Best Motion Picture–Musical or Comedy. Because the Globes split films into the drama and musical/comedy categories, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm could still lose some steam, the same way Cohen didn’t follow up his Globes win in 2007 with an acting nomination at the Oscars. Truthfully, it feels like the sequel’s best bet at Oscars glory lies with Bakalova, a genuinely hilarious and endearing revelation who’s key to making Subsequent Moviefilm seem like more than a retread. If this momentum keeps up, Rudy Giuliani should be renting out Four Seasons Total Landscaping for the rest of the year.
Winner: Anya Taylor-Joy
The New Mutants notwithstanding, Anya Taylor-Joy had a 2020 to remember with leading roles in Emma and The Queen’s Gambit, which turned the actress into a rising star across two mediums. The Globes took notice, nominating Taylor-Joy for both performances—a welcome bit of good news from a chaotic voting body that also recognized James Corden in The Prom. Time will tell whether the Emma or The Queen’s Gambit nominations mark the first of what could be many statuettes in the actress’ future. If not, starring roles in upcoming films like Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho and George Miller’s Furiosa prequel have undeniably enticing potential.
And if you need a Taylor-Joy fix until the night of the Globes, the actress discussing The Queen’s Gambit in Spanish is my own personal ASMR.
Anya Taylor-Joy is obviously the foremost example of the HFPA’s impulse to buy stock in stars on the rise, so much so she got her own blurb here. But there are other examples, too—fellow contenders for the unofficial “we knew her when” award that’s previously gone to the likes of Rachel Bloom, Lena Dunham, Issa Rae, and Gina Rodriguez. How else do you explain the triumph of Emily in Paris, a show the HFPA would presumably hate for its crimes against humanity in general and French culture specifically?
There’s also Jane Levy, the big-eyed breakout of NBC musical Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and Elle Fanning, who had a star turn in The Great. You can also fold in Maria Bakalova’s foul-mouthed, fertility-dancing performance in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Emma Corrin’s uncanny Princess Di impression in The Crown, and even Jodie Comer’s continued presence for a pretty subpar season of Killing Eve. Basically, the HFPA loves a young actress on the rise, a tendency amplified by a year with such a thinned-out field. When Hollywood suffers, it’s Emily’s time to shine. —Herman
With the HFPA composed of fewer than 100 members, voting at the Golden Globes always has an air of pandemonium. For every worthwhile film considered (i.e., Nomadland and Promising Young Woman), the Globes remind us that they DGAF about award season narratives—and that certainly rang true with this year’s unpredictable slate of nominees. If you expected Jared Leto to receive a nomination for The Little Things playing a serial killer suspect in a film where Rami Malek is objectively creepier as a married-with-children detective, or know that The Mauritanian is actually a movie and not a Mandalorian autocorrect mishap, then you might actually be a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
This extends to the TV nominees, in which multihyphenate Michaela Coel—the star, writer, and director of HBO’s terrific I May Destroy You—was left out of a slate that prioritized star-studded but undeniably flawed series like The Undoing. (Meanwhile, the TV Drama category is inexplicable and we repeat: Emily in Paris was nominated for Best Television Series–Musical or Comedy.) The HFPA going against consensus is a microcosm—of both the Golden Globes’ appeal as an unpredictable bellwether, and one that can frustratingly miss the mark. —Surrey