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The Winners and Losers of the 2021 Golden Globes

The most bizarre award ceremony in Hollywood actually made some good calls on Sunday night, while David Fincher did shots and everyone else did their best on Zoom

Getty Images/NBC/Ringer illustration

We had to wait a little longer than usual, but the 2021 Golden Globes finally arrived on Sunday night, and with it the unofficial start of a pandemic-affected award season. Between the lack of a glitzy red carpet, being deprived of nominees getting sauced at an open bar, questionable nominees to begin with, and the highly problematic members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Golden Globes came without its usual fanfare. Nevertheless, the virtual festivities shed a light on which films and performances could be recognized at the Oscars in two months’ time—and for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and Nomadland, things are looking very nice! Below, we dish out some winners and losers from Sunday night.


Loser: The HFPA

Typically a source of contention for its bizarre nominee selections, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association came under fire in the past week after an investigation from the Los Angeles Times shed light on the organization’s ethical shortcomings. The Times report revealed that, in addition to the HFPA having no Black voters among its 87-person membership, more than 30 of the organization’s members were treated to five-star hotel accommodations while visiting the set of Netflix’s Emily in Paris—a comedy with middling reviews (at best) that earned two Golden Globe nominations. (The HFPA love was shocking enough that a writer for Emily in Paris penned an op-ed expressing that HBO’s excellent I May Destroy You deserved a nomination.) The latest round of HFPA controversy has brought renewed interest to the question of why we put the Golden Globes on such a pedestal to begin with, especially when its meager membership lacks diversity and has no overlap with the 8,000-plus voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The controversy of the HFPA’s members notwithstanding, the Globes mostly skewed toward sensible picks—with the occasional, “Wait, The Mauritanian isn’t a Mandalorian autocorrect mishap?!” sprinkled in—and even made some history, making Chloé Zhao only the second female filmmaker to win Best Director with an award for Nomadland. (Barbra Streisand won for Yentl in 1984.) But there have been plenty of worthy female directors, from Kathryn Bigelow to Greta Gerwig, who deserved to win in the intervening years. The HFPA’s many issues as an organization remain the main story here, regardless of how many good calls were made on Sunday. To quote a 2019 Golden Globe nominee: Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die.

Winner: Chloé Zhao

Zhao is shaping up to have a 2021 to remember. She beat out the likes of David Fincher and Regina King to win Best Director at the Golden Globes—a significant achievement in any respect, but especially impressive considering it was for her third feature film, Nomadland. (The win also makes her the first woman of color in Globes history to earn the prize.) Nomadland is now a legit Best Picture front-runner after winning Best Motion Picture–Drama. A meditative neo-Western about nomads might not be a traditional front-runner, but after a pandemic-impacted award season, nothing is off the table. We’ll see Zhao and Nomadland down the road at the Oscars come April. And, oh yeah, she’s also directing a Marvel movie coming out this fall starring a terrifyingly yoked Kumail Nanjiani.

Loser: Netflix

Netflix did not have a great time at the Golden Globes last year. Despite garnering 34 total nominations, the only film award it walked away with was a Supporting Actress win for Laura Dern in Marriage Story. (She also won that category at the Oscars.) But this time around, with major studios mostly ceding the floor to streaming releases and indie titles thanks to the ongoing pandemic, it was set up to be Netflix’s year—the streaming service entered the 2021 Golden Globes with a whopping 42 nominations.

But while Netflix didn’t come away totally empty-handed—The Crown ate up the television drama categories—none of its major Oscar front-runners made significant headway. While Aaron Sorkin won for his The Trial of the Chicago 7 screenplay, both he and David Fincher (Mank) were shut out in the Best Director and Best Motion Picture–Drama categories by Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland. Technically, since Nomadland is coming from Searchlight—formerly Fox Searchlight—the art-house-inclined wing of 20th Century Studios, this was a win for … Disney, Netflix’s biggest threat in the streaming wars. Things can always change between now and April, but the early signs suggest that Netflix’s wait for a Best Picture winner could last at least another year.

Winner: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’s Great Success!

The HFPA loves Sacha Baron Cohen, as evidenced by the actor winning a Golden Globe the first time he played a fictional reporter from Kazakhstan. And while Cohen couldn’t carry that buzz toward an Oscar nomination for himself in 2007—though the film did end up getting a Best Original Screenplay nod—his Subsequent Moviefilm was a great success on Sunday night, winning two awards, including Best Motion Picture–Musical or Comedy. The Oscars prognosticators still don’t give the sequel much of a chance to sneak into the Best Picture race, but Cohen could potentially pull double duty in the acting categories between Subsequent Moviefilm and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Either way, if this means we’re going to get another dose of Cohen and his terrific costar Maria Bakalova at the Oscars in April, that would be very nice!


Winner and Loser: Zoom Reaction Shots

This year, the Globes might not have been able to pan to celebrities bunched together at tables and making the most of an open bar, but the ceremony’s messiness did permit another chaos agent: Zoom reactions. Whether it’s being on the receiving end of a roast from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler—they cut to Lily Collins after Fey said she did “the French Exit” after watching the first episode of Emily in Paris—or in the case of Best Supporting Actor winner Daniel Kaluuya, getting muted while trying to give an acceptance speech, the Globes may have gone remote, but thank god it could still be its typically messy self.

Loser: Catherine O’Hara’s Husband’s Bit

Here’s the thing about accepting awards via Zoom: The process can get redundant pretty quickly. (When the winners aren’t muted or the stream is glitching, that is.) Catherine O’Hara and her husband Bo Welch tried spicing things up when she won her Best Supporting Actress award by doing their own version of the time-honored tradition of playing someone off when an acceptance speech goes too long. But in pulling out his phone and playing some music while O’Hara was talking—over Zoom, during a broadcast that’s being simulcast on totally different ends of the country—Welch only made things even more unintelligible for viewers at home. (I briefly thought the telecast accidentally unmuted a fellow nominee.) Welch and O’Hara had their hearts in the right place, but it’s tough to execute a bit via Zoom.

Thankfully, they made up for their misstep by checking their phones before a commercial break. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a bit.

Winner: David Fincher Losing

I would do the same thing if I lost to Aaron Sorkin.

Winner: Remembering Chadwick Boseman

Taylor Simone Ledward accepted her late husband’s award for his lead performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and delivered a moving speech to commemorate Chadwick Boseman—not just as an actor, but as an exceptional human being who touched the lives of everyone he met. “He would say something beautiful, something inspiring,” she said, “something that would amplify that little voice that tells you you can, that tells you to keep going.” Chadwick Boseman is, and forever will be, deeply missed.

Winner: The Crown

The Crown winning top television drama honors at the Golden Globes felt like a foregone conclusion, and that was before its actors (Emma Corrin, Josh O’Connor, Gillian Anderson) won in their respective categories. The HFPA pit the series against nominees with serious blemishes—seriously, it should be a crime to nominate Lovecraft Country and Ratched, while, at the same time, snubbing the penultimate season of Better Call Saul. With its sumptuous period details, star-studded cast, and focus on literal royalty, The Crown is glitzy Globes catnip that just so happens to be one of the best shows of the past year. Perhaps the most surprising thing about The Crown’s Globes win is that it’s the first time the show has won Best Drama since its first season.

Winner: Jason Sudeikis Weathering Greenwich Mean Time

It was past 2 a.m. in the U.K. when Jason Sudeikis accepted his (MUCH DESERVED) award for his lead performance in Ted Lasso, which might explain why his eyes looked so bloodshot, why the speech ran on so much that his fellow nominees were asking him to wrap it up, and why he was wearing a cozy hoodie. (He’s currently in England filming the second season of the series.)

He came out of a stacked category—lest we forget Daniel Levy’s Schitt’s Creek swept all comedy categories at the 2020 Emmys—with a win about as delightfully unexpected as an American football coach managing a Premier League club. (Strangely enough, there is a chairman of a real-life Premier League club whose name is also … Daniel Levy.) Unfortunately, Ted Lasso wasn’t able to top Schitt’s Creek for Best Television—Musical or Comedy. But as its namesake character would say: Success isn’t about wins or losses.