Golden Globes Movie Analysis: Diversity In Short Supply Except For Women, Streamer Domination, Inexplicable Unexplainable Love For Sia’s ‘Music’

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Pete Hammond
·8 min read
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The Golden Globes last year was blasted for completely ignoring women in its Director category, and this year they made up for that with a record-breaking three of five nominees (Emerald Fennell, Chloé Zhao, Regina King), and on top of that it nominated Sia’s weird directorial debut Music for Best Picture – Musical/Comedy, but more on that curio below.

Still, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s track record towards diversity in other areas, like representation of the Black filmmaking community, did nothing to improve itself with both Best Picture -Drama and Best Picture – Comedy/Musical categories including not a single film from a Black filmmaker this year despite a more bountiful list of possibilities than ever. The prestigious AFI Top 10 Movies list for instance included four: Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, One Night In Miami and Judas and the Black Messiah. None of those made the cut in the two marquee Globes categories this morning, even after Lee’s Da 5 Bloods dominated the National Board of Review’s winners for Best Picture and Director. It was completely ignored by the HFPA, including Delroy Lindo and the late Chadwick Boseman in acting categories. All the Best Picture nominees in both categories came from white directors with the exception of Chinese-born Zhao’s Nomadland. King, for her behind-the-camera debut with One Night In Miami and better known as an award-winning actress, was the only Black filmmaker named individually in either directing or writing categories.

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It was a little better in the film acting categories with Viola Davis and Boseman named for Ma Rainey, Andra Day taking two nods for Actress (Drama) and Song for United States Vs Billie Holiday, and Daniel Kaluuya and Leslie Odom Jr. landing nods in Supporting Actor out of the overall 30 acting nominees. It was even worse on the television side with only Don Cheadle in TV Comedy Actor for Black Monday and John Boyega in Supporting Actor for Television for Small Axe landing any of the 40 TV Globes acting nods.

This being the Hollywood Foreign Press there was better international representation on the film side with the likes of Zhao, Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Tahar Rahim (The Mauritanian) , Bulgaria’s Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) and Dev Patel (The Personal History of David Copperfield) winning recognition, but this is an overwhelmingly white list in a year in which the movies presented ample opportunities for a diverse group to come to the “party of the year” as the NBC likes to advertise its Globes telecast.

For this 2021 edition airing on February 28 that party atmosphere is being deeply affected by the continuing coronavirus pandemic with NBC announcing the show will be split on both coasts with Amy Poehler hosting in L.A. and Tina Fey in New York. What it is going to look like is anyone’s guess because one of the key things the Globes has going for it is all that star power packed in the Beverly Hilton hotel ballroom. With potential nominees like George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Sophia Loren, Meryl Streep and the like snubbed this year, even that component seems problematic for the show. This is likely to be the weirdest Golden Globes since 2008 when the writers strike turned it into basically a press conference revealing winners in an empty Hilton ballroom.

As for what they did nominate, this year’s list has to be a first as the names of major studios Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount and Sony don’t rep any of the Best Picture nominees in Drama, and only Disney gets a mention in Comedy/Musical for its filmed Broadway play Hamilton. The latter, not eligible for Oscars and qualifying as a TV entry at other awards shows, needs a big asterisk since it was really a Disney+ streaming attraction, so you might as well chalk it also up for the overwhelming success of the streamers this year. The traditional major studios are really only represented in these much-desired Best Pic categories by their specialty divisions (Sony Pictures Classics for The Father, Searchlight for Nomadland, Focus Features for Promising Young Woman). Otherwise the glory today belongs to names like Amazon, Hulu, Apple and particularly Netflix, blowing away the rest of the field with 22 nominations on the film side, followed by Amazon’s seven. But you knew this was going to be a season that turned conventional thinking upside down, didn’t you?

Ever the case in the history of the Globes there can be a real head-scratcher among the nominees (remember The Tourist?), but with two key nominations for Sia’s about-to-be-unleashed directorial debut Music you have to wonder what they are smoking. This movie managed to get one of those coveted Best Picture nominations (Comedy/Musical) as well as for lead acting for Kate Hudson (who tries her best to lend credibility), her hair completely cut for the role. The film was privately shown to me in early December in hopes I would interview Sia and say nice things about her movie; I politely declined after seeing it, finding it lacking in just about every area. I did look it up online where it was being roundly blasted by the autism community and a petition was circulated to get the film’s release canceled, thus the concern from its handlers about its ultimate reception.

The title role is a character named Music, an autistic woman who endlessly listens to tunes on her headphones. She is played by Maddie Ziegler, an actress-dancer whose credits are almost all for Sia music videos. The film was actually made four years ago as a drama, but Warner Music offered Sia about $10 million more for her production budget if she would put new songs in it so they could get an album out of it; these musical sequences are dropped in like disconnected, if colorful, videos that look like they are out of Willy Wonka, completely stopping the film in its tracks. I have to hand it to the PR team for this movie in somehow getting this nominated over the likes of much much worthier contenders like Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks and for Hudson over Rocks star Rashida Jones or The Prom’s Meryl Streep. Lordy. It will play for one night on Imax screens next Wednesday and then goes VOD on February 12. Watch it at your own peril, but mysteriously they got Globes voters on their side. This movie wasn’t screened or pitched at all for Critics Choice Awards, whose nominations come on Monday, so it appears as far as I can see to be that odd-duck outlier strictly campaigned to the Hollywood Foreign Press.

As for Netflix, if ever it had a chance to dominate Oscar season this is it, and the Globes clearly and correctly warmed to David Fincher’s terrific Mank with six nominations (including a posthumous one for his dad Jack Fincher’s script) and Aaron Sorkin’s ever-relevant and sensational The Trial of the Chicago 7 which grabbed five. Critics groups favorites like First Cow and Never Rarely Sometimes Always were shut out. I was also happy to see the unfairly critically maligned Hillbilly Elegy still recognized for Glenn Close’s magnificent performance. Critics be damned on that one. Good going, Globes.

And also there is joy in Mudville for the across-the-board love for Sacha Baron Cohen in both Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and Trial of the Chicago 7, personally nabbing three nominations. Both these films had something important to say for these times and the Globe voters rightly heard it. Its love for the fantastic Promising Young Woman is also promising, as are noms for Bill Murray in On the Rocks and Jared Leto in The Little Things, two great performances I was hoping would not be overlooked, and for Michelle Pfeiffer, so good in French Exit, landing her a nom in the Best Actress Comedy/Musical category. And also for Leslie Odom Jr.’s brilliant Sam Cooke in One Night In Miami, which garnered him two nominations (he’s also regrettably in the Sia movie too). In the Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language category I was happy to see Edoardo Ponti’s The Life Ahead from Italy nominated (and for Diane Warren’s song “Seen” too) but sad that his mother, the great Sophia Loren, was overlooked. That Best Actress Drama category is a killer this year.

Whether this morning’s Globes nominations mean anything for Oscar this year remains to be seen, as without the usual buzzing awards party and screening circuit in action, it is hard to get a real beat on things. All five of the Best Picture Drama nominees look to be locks for corresponding Oscar Best Pic nominations with only Borat in the Globes Comedy category probably making it also with the Academy. That leaves up to four more films jockeying for those slots and likely giving a more diverse picture to Oscar. Tomorrow’s SAG Awards announcement will bring further clarity, or maybe confusion, into the contest as this most bizarre of awards seasons continues to heat up. Stay tuned.

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