The Golden Globes are stupid, and what else is new

Yep, it's time to pretend to take the Hollywood Foreign Press Association seriously again


Every year, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announces its nominations for the Golden Globes, and every year entertainment journalists get a little closer to confronting the fundamental truth that all awards shows are dumb, but the Golden Globes are possibly the dumbest of all.

I mean, seriously: name another awards body that’s so consistently inconsistent about its rules, and so spectacularly foolish in its choices. For decades, the HFPA were a joke because its members could be swayed with gifts or personal time with someone who wanted an award; just Google “Golden Globes Pia Zadora.”

And then the association announced it had rethought its policies on graft, and would be proceeding in a more professional vein… only to continue contorting itself over the definitions of drama and comedy, limited series versus continuing series, lead and supporting roles, and so on down the line.

But the 78th Golden Globes nominations came down this morning, and it’s my job to write about them, so here we go again. The HFPA showered some movies and television series with glory, ignored a few others, and generally reminded us that – however unprecedented this year has been – some things never change. The rules are made up, the points don’t matter and the Golden Globes just likes shiny things.

Tell them something is prestigious and they’ll believe you, like David Fincher’s mannered Mank or Aaron Sorkin’s pompous The Trial Of The Chicago 7, which landed nominations for best motion picture (drama) alongside The Father, Nomadland and Promising Young Woman. I admit to being surprised that Promising Young Woman scored a best picture nomination over the more obvious awards-bait of News Of The World, but its precisely calculated aesthetic and hot-button subject matter gives the HFPA a chance to seem edgy. Hell, it might even win.

Courtesy of Disney+

Hamilton: a movie?

There’s usually some argument over whether all five films nominated for best motion picture (comedy or musical) truly qualify as comedies or musicals, but not this year: Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, Hamilton, Music, Palm Springs and The Prom are all either comedies or musicals. The fun question this time around is whether Hamilton is a motion picture, being a filmed version of a theatrical performance. I would argue that it is not, but this gets Lin-Manuel Miranda to show up for the ceremony – where he’s also nominated for best actor (comedy) – and that’s what matters.

Look, I could go on pointing out questionable calls all day – like, say, Jared Leto getting a supporting actor nomination for not washing his hair in The Little Things while Denzel Washington’s complex and haggard leading turn goes unrecognized, or the choice to nominate both Olivia Colman and Emma Corrin as best actress (TV drama) for The Crown when Corrin’s Princess Diana is clearly a supporting role, or the nominations for Emily In Paris as best TV comedy and Ratched as best TV drama. This is an association that thinks James Corden was good in The Prom. Nothing I can say will shame them.

And no offense intended to Schitt’s Creek, but does anyone honestly believe the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had heard of Eugene and Dan Levy’s small-town comedy before it swept the Emmys last fall? If they had, surely they’d have nominated it for something over the last five years, rather than just play catch-up with nominations for best TV comedy, best actor, best actress, best supporting actor and best supporting actress after the show’s ended its run.

The biggest snubs

Of course, chasing industry buzz doesn’t explain why the HFPA slept on Michaela Coel’s brilliant, unrelenting HBO series I May Destroy You, which it left out of every single eligible category. NOW culture editor Radheyan Simonpillai tweeted his disappointment that Coel’s series was ignored while Promising Young Woman pulled four major film nominations, noting that there’s “a discussion to be had about what kind of survivors stories an awards body is willing to embrace.”

This is not to suggest that the HFPA is actively racist: the acting categories, at least for film, are encouragingly diverse. Riz Ahmed, Chadwick Boseman and Tamar Rahim are all up for best actor (drama) for Sound Of Metal, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The Mauritanian, respectively, alongside The Father’s Anthony Hopkins and Mank’s Gary Oldman, and Viola Davis and Andra Day are nominated for best actress (drama) for Ma Rainey’s and The United States Vs. Billie Holliday, alongside Promising Young Woman’s Carey Mulligan, Pieces Of A Woman’s Vanessa Kirby and Nomadland’s Frances McDormand.

And McDormand’s Nomadland director Chloé Zhao is nominated in that category, alongside Regina King for One Night In Miami … and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman. (Fincher and Sorkin are the other two nominees.) So that’s good, I guess.

But there’s an unsettling disregard in what the Globes are choosing not to recognize. Okay, so they couldn’t find room in the best limited series category for I May Destroy You – which, once again, felt like the most powerful television series of 2020. But they did nominate another HBO show, The Undoing, a murder mystery that boasts famous people like Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland in its cast. (All three actors scored nominations for their work.) You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who actually thinks it’s great television, but it was expensive and pretty and I’m sure it was an easy watch. I wonder how many HFPA members got all the way through I May Destroy You. I wonder how many of them even started it.

Elevation Pictures

A language barrier

And then there’s Minari, a critically acclaimed drama from Lee Isaac Chung that’s one of the best movies I saw last year – a story of a Korean family making a life for themselves in Oklahoma in the 80s, simply told and movingly acted by the entire cast. (It arrives in Toronto February 26.)

About 80 per cent of the film is performed in Korean, which meant Minari had to be nominated for the best foreign-language award rather than the best picture prize. But the HFPA then failed to recognize it in any other category, snubbing Chung’s screenplay and direction and the wonderful work of lead actors Steven Yeun and Yeri Han and supporting players Alan S. Kim, Youn Yuh-jung and Will Patton. And sure, you could argue that these categories are always overstuffed. But, again, Jared Leto got a supporting actor nomination this year for walking with a limp in The Little Things. He lifts right out.

This is always the problem with writing about the Golden Globes. I’m ultimately a theorist, and my inclination is to find a way to reconcile the random and frankly bizarre choices of an unknowable awards body with the way I feel these things are supposed to work. I guess that’s why everyone loves arguing about the nominations when they come out; this stuff is all subjective anyway, and we want our favourites to win.

It’s nice to see the Schitt’s clan continue to be recognized for their weird, charming little show. It’s very nice to see Riz Ahmed, who was absolutely mesmerizing in Sound Of Metal, nominated for his work. But let’s not pretend these awards matter at all. It’s the Golden Globes. The whole thing’s ridiculous. If you don’t believe me, go watch I May Destroy You.

@normwilner

Comments (1)

  • Buck February 3, 2021 05:45 PM

    I didn’t know in 2021 if you’re allowed to say this, but after reading Norman Wilner’s diatribe on the Golden Globes, my opinion is that I always felt like the HFPA were a bunch of Borats running around saying “Niiiiice”.

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