The Highs and Lows of the Utterly Chaotic 78th Golden Globe Awards

Richard LeBeau
Mar 1 · 13 min read
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler co-host the Golden Globes from opposite coasts (Image copyright: NBC/HFPA)

This year’s Golden Globes were utter chaos from start to finish. We all knew that the telecast was going to be rocky due to the fact the show was being broadcast from separate venues for the first time, virtually all of the nominees attended remotely via videoconferencing, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) that hands out the awards had numerous recent controversies to address. I also suspected that the unprecedented challenges that the pandemic brought to the entertainment industry would make for one of the more unpredictable awards season in recent years.

But I certainly didn’t expect the ceremony we got.

As I have written at length about what the Globes are and the nuances of this year’s races in all 25 categories, I will dive right in to my recap. I start with discussing the winners (particularly their potential relevance for the upcoming Oscar and Emmy ceremonies) and then move on to reviewing the highs and lows of the telecast.

TAKEAWAYS FROM THE FILM WINNERS

Chloe Zhao is awarded Best Director for “Nomadland” (Image copyright: NBC/HFPA)
  1. Nomadland is the film to beat for the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars. Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland was one of only three films that won more than one Golden Globe this year as it picked up two trophies (as did Soul and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm). However, the two Globes that it did win were the top ones: Best Motion Picture — Drama and Best Director. Zhao was the frontrunner for the latter given her near-sweep of the category so far this season, but the quiet, meditative film’s triumph in the Best Picture category was far from assured. It looks like it is now the frontrunner to win Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars, which is exciting for two reasons. First, Zhao would be only the second woman to win Best Director (after Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker), as well as the second person of Asian heritage (after Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi). Second, the film is important and extraordinary. (Click here for my review of it.)
  2. Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress are completely and unprecedentedly up in the air. Before tonight, most pundits agreed that the Best Actress Oscar winner would go to one of the four women who have dominated the awards season so far — Carrie Mulligan (Promising Young Woman), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), or Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman). The Globes delivered a shocker by giving both Best Actress trophies to women who were barely in the conversation — Andra Day for The United States vs. Billie Holliday (Best Actress — Drama) and Rosamund Pike for I Care A Lot (Best Actress — Musical or Comedy). You may be thinking, “So what if the Globes went a different way?” Believe it or not, you would actually have to go back to 2002 to find a year when the eventual Best Actress Oscar winner didn’t win one of these two Globes and there has never been a time in the 78-year history of the Golden Globes that neither Best Actress winner at the Globes were nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. This is extraordinary news for Andra Day (as the Best Actress — Drama winner corresponds with the Best Actress Oscar much more often than Best Actress — Musical/Comedy). Before tonight, Best Supporting Actress was seen as a race between four women as well — Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Olivia Colman (The Father), and Amanda Seyfried (Mank). Shockingly, the award went to two-time prior winner Jodie Foster for the little seen Guantanamo Bay-set drama The Mauritanian. Foster was not nominated for either the Screen Actors Guild or Critics Choice Award for the performance, meaning we are in for a wildly unpredictable ride. You would have to go back 45 years to find a Best Supporting Actress winner at the Globes who didn’t make it into the final five at the Oscars. So this is good news indeed for Foster.
  3. Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor appear to be taking shape. In stark contrast to the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress races, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor went to frontrunners. Although some thought that the Globes might finally honor Sir Anthony Hopkins with a competitive Globe win in Best Actor — Drama, they honored the late, great Chadwick Boseman for his searing performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. And while some thought Sacha Baron Cohen might take home Best Supporting Actor for his performance as activist Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7, the Globes went for Daniel Kaluuya’s ferocious turn as Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah. They are officially the men to beat.
  4. It was a bad night for Mank, Promising Young Woman, The Father, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Despite all being nominated for the top award (Best Motion Picture — Drama) and having a total of 19 Golden Globe nominations among them, this quartet of acclaimed films took home only one Globe — Best Screenplay for Trial of the Chicago 7 scribe Aaron Sorkin (who also directed the film and has two prior Globe wins in this category). All four will still likely see a number of mentions when the Oscar nominations are announced on March 15th, but none can be considered frontrunners anymore. The lack of love shown to these films by the HFPA, throws the Oscar race into even further chaos.
  5. There could be an exceedingly rare “spreading of the wealth” at this year’s Oscar ceremony. For several decades, it was quite common for one film to dominate the Oscar ceremony sweeping numerous categories (and often making the ceremony a real bore in the process). But in the last 15 years, sweeps have been increasingly rare with 2011's The Artist being the last film to win five or more trophies. Although the Oscars have far more film categories than the Globes does, the fact that no film scored more than two wins here tonight suggests that we could be in for an Oscars ceremony where the awards are split among an atypically large number of films. (Click here for my pre-Golden Globes take on the State of the Oscar Race.)
Andra Day shockingly upset in Best Actress for her performance in “The United States vs. Billie Holliday” (Image copyright: Hulu)

[Note: Last year I predicted 10 of the 14 film categories correctly. This year, I only predicted 6. I would be disappointed in myself, but most of those wins no one saw coming. And, besides, me getting them wrong means the races are exciting and unpredictable, which is ultimately a win.]

TAKEAWAYS FROM THE TELEVISION WINNERS

Gillian Anderson, Josh O’Connor, and Emma Corrin accept their Globes for “The Crown” (Image copyright: NBC/HFPA)
  1. The Crown is the drama series to beat at the Emmys. The Golden Globe television awards are usually bizarre, as the HFPA frequently flocks toward brand new series, spread their few categories among multiple winners, and very rarely align with the Emmys. But this year, the Globes deviated from this pattern significantly. The wildly acclaimed fourth season of The Crown, the Netflix drama about the British royal family, won 4 out of the 5 categories that drama series can compete in. It picked up Best Drama Series and three acting wins for Emma Corrin, Josh O’Connor, and Gillian Anderson (for playing Princess Diana, Prince Charles, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, respectively). Only once in the past decade has a show scored a repeat win in this category (Homeland won a second trophy in 2012) and it is very rare for a show to win three acting Globes (the last time was in 2017 when Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, and Olivia Colman all won awards for the limited series The Night Manager). Although the Globes only occasionally align with the Emmys, it is hard to imagine that this is not indicative of The Crown sweeping this fall’s Emmys — especially when you consider how many high-profile drama series are out of the running due to COVID-19 production delays.
  2. Ted Lasso is a likely candidate to fill the hole left by Schitt’s Creek. It may not have made an unprecedented clean sweep at the Globes like it did at the Emmys last year, but the Canadian comedy Schitt’s Creek took two top awards at the Globes: Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy and Best Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy for Catherine O’Hara. Both were richly deserving wins and they mark a first for the Globes, which has never given its top television comedy award to a show in its final season. (Click here to check out my tribute to Schitt’s Creek). One of Creek’s major losses came in the Best Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy category, in which Jason Sudeikis triumphed for the AppleTV breakout Ted Lasso. Given that Lasso’s profile keeps rising and it doesn’t have to contend with Schitt’s Creek at this year’s Emmys, it may just be establishing itself as the comedy series to beat in September.
  3. The Queen’s Gambit wins could be an Emmy bellwether, but not necessarily. Two of the three major awards for Limited Series or Made-for-Television Movies went to Netflix’s recent breakout limited series The Queen’s Gambit, which combines chess, the Cold War, addiction, and feminism. This might lead one to think it is the frontrunner at this fall’s Emmys. It very well may be, but it’s important to remember that it didn’t have to compete at the Globes with several mighty contenders it will have to face at the Emmys including — HBOMax’s stunning AIDS drama It’s a Sin, Disney+’s wildly buzzy WandaVision, and the prestigious upcoming HBOMax crime drama Mare of Easttown starring Kate Winslet. But expect The Queen’s Gambit to be a formidable player at the Emmys regardless of whether it goes all the way.

[Note: Of the 11 television categories, I predicted 9 of the winners correctly. This is up from 7 last year and given how the Globes television awards are notoriously scattershot, this may be the best I ever do.]

REVIEWING THE TELECAST

The Hosts. The brilliant comic duo of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler returned for their fourth times as hosts, following an acclaimed three-year run from 2013 to 2015. This was certainly their weakest outing, but I still immensely preferred it over the increasingly sour and embittered rage of last year’s host Ricky Gervais (who returned for his fifth and reportedly final time). Few, if any, of their jokes truly bombed but none were home runs. It would be easy to blame the fact that they were thousands of miles apart in separate venues, but I actually think it was the writing. It was a bit too gentle and ordinary for two women who have made a career by being anything but.

Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo present as Barb and Star (Image copyright: NBC/HFPA)

The Presenters. Probably as a result of the pandemic severely limiting the number of stars willing to attend the ceremony in person, the presenters were a fairly bizarre collection. Some were big winners from last year’s ceremony (Renee Zellweger, Joaquin Phoenix, Laura Dern, and Awkwafina). Some were seemingly perennial presenters (Salma Hayek, Tracy Morgan, Tiffany Haddish, Sandra Oh, and a particularly funny Ben Stiller). Some had connections to nominated films and shows (Kate Hudson, Margot Robbie, Sara Paulson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Rosie Perez, and Jeanise Jones). Several were shameless cross-promotion for other NBC shows (Kenan Thompson, Sterling K. Brown, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Christopher Meloni). But others were just plain random (Justin Theroux, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christian Slater, and Bryce Dallas Howard). The show saved two of its best for last, though. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo came in character as Barb and Star (who they portray in their wildly funny new comedy film Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar) to present an award and the final one was presented by the legendary Oscar-winning husband-and-wife duo of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The Format and the Technical Difficulties. The show followed its typical format of an opening monologue, a completely nonsensical ordering of the awards, a middle portion slowed down by hit-and-miss skits and lifetime achievement awards, and a rushed ending. What was a bit new this year was massive technical difficulties that were far worse than what was experienced at the virtual Emmys last September. (Click here to read my review of the 2020 Emmy ceremony.) The first winner of the night (Daniel Kaluuya) was apparently on mute, Catherine O’Hara was one of many beset by audio interference, and there were several other embarrassing technological problems. There were also exceedingly awkward videoconferencing moments like the disastrous decision to have the nominees in an upcoming category make forced chit chat as the show went to commercial break and the people who gave their speeches while friends and family awkwardly looked on. As for the skits, they were mostly all misses this year with Maya Rudolph and Kenan Thompson committing too hard to an unfunny gag and a “celebrities talk to doctors via telehealth” gag that was well-intentioned but a bit tone deaf. The only one that honestly amused me was the interview with the small children who gave adorably strange answers to questions about what the Golden Globes are and who various nominees are.

The Winners’ Speeches. Very few of the speeches were particularly notable. Other than the Lifetime Achievement Award recipients (see below), only one acceptance speech truly moved me. Taylor Simone Ledward accepted the trophy for Best Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama for her late husband Chadwick Boseman in a moment of powerful raw emotion that was lacking from most of the rest of the ceremony. Although many other speeches were lackluster, the three surprise actress wins resulted in Andra Day, Rosamund Pike, and Jodie Foster being caught delightfully off guard, which was amusing and entertaining.

Jane Fonda accepts the Cecil B. DeMille Award (Image copyright: NBC/HFPA)

The Lifetime Achievement Awards. The Cecil B. DeMille Award for achievement in film was bestowed upon Jane Fonda. After an extraordinary clip package that highlighted her 61 years of acting as well as the activism she is both beloved and notorious for, the 83-year-old two-time Oscar winner appeared on stage and gave a powerful speech that called Hollywood to task to increase inclusivity. It wasn’t quite as powerful as the iconic ones given in recent years by Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey when they received this award, but it was close. The Carol Burnett Award for lifetime achievement in television went to the visionary Norman Lear. After a clip package that highlighted his groundbreaking 1970s sitcoms like All in the Family, Maude, and The Jeffersons, the 98-year-old gave a moving, heartfelt speech.

Norman Lear accepts the Carol Burnett Award (Image copyright: NBC/HFPA)

The Social Commentary. Discussions of inclusivity were inevitable and essential given the issues going on in the United States. They were made even more necessary by the recent expose that showed a longstanding lack of inclusivity among the organization putting on the show. Leaders from the organization from the show appeared and said they would do better, while the hosts, presenters, and winners made cutting remarks. Although it was necessary, it was all executed very awkwardly and frankly seemed to undermine the unprecedented diversity of the winners, which included four black acting winners, one Latina acting winner, and an Asian woman winning the white male-dominated Best Director award. It’s too bad the HFPA’s egregious history with inclusivity meant that they couldn’t just let their choice of winners speak for themselves. Also, several references were made to charitable causes, which made the show feel a bit like a telethon at times. But honestly given how much need much of our country in, I would prefer that to fiery calls to action that aren’t accompanied by tangible action.

Well that’s it for now. Stay tuned as I blog throughout the rest of this incredibly hectic, condensed awards season.

*** FULL LIST OF WINNERS ***

THE MOTION PICTURE CATEGORIES

Best Motion Picture — Drama: Nomadland

Best Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama: Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holliday

Best Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Best Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy: Rosamund Pike, I Care A Lot

Best Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy: Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture: Jodie Foster, The Mauritanian

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Director — Motion Picture: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Best Screenplay — Motion Picture: Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Original Score — Motion Picture: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and John Batiste, Soul

Best Original Song — Motion Picture: “Io Si (Seen)” The Life Ahead

Best Motion Picture — Animated: Soul

Best Motion Picture — Foreign Language: Minari

THE TELEVISION CATEGORIES

Best Television Series — Drama: The Crown (Netflix)

Best Actress in a Television Series — Drama: Emma Corrin, The Crown (Netflix)

Best Actor in a Television Series — Drama: Josh O’Connor, The Crown (Netflix)

Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy: Schitt’s Creek (PopTV)

Best Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy: Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek (PopTV)

Best Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy: Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso (AppleTV)

Best Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)

Best Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)

Best Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much is True (HBO)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television: Gillian Anderson, The Crown (Netflix)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television: John Boyega, Small Axe (Amazon)

Rants and Raves

Richard Reflects on Hollywood

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