Shock and “nah”: The A.V. Club’s biggest Golden Globes snubs and surprises

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Danette Chavez and Katie Rife
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Clockwise from left: The cast of What We Do In The Shadows (Photo: Russ Martin/FX), John Magaro in First Cow (Photo: A24), Delroy Lindo in Da 5 Bloods, Geraldine Viswanathan in Bad Education (Photo: HBO), Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You (Photo: Natalie Seery/HBO)
Clockwise from left: The cast of What We Do In The Shadows (Photo: Russ Martin/FX), John Magaro in First Cow (Photo: A24), Delroy Lindo in Da 5 Bloods, Geraldine Viswanathan in Bad Education (Photo: HBO), Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You (Photo: Natalie Seery/HBO)

Despite some shutdown-related schedule shuffling, the nominations for the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards were announced Wednesday morning with the help of virtual presenters Taraji P. Henson and Sarah Jessica Parker. Netflix is far out in front in both the TV and film races, collecting 42 nominations across all categories, including nods for everything from (shudder) Ratched to The Trial Of The Chicago 7.

This is the second time in as many years that the streamer has made such a strong showing in the Globes nominations, proving that it’s not ready to be edged out just yet by newcomers Peacock and Disney+, let alone longtime rivals like Hulu and HBO. But while HBO nabbed seven nominations (including four for The Undoing), premium cable and broadcast networks were mostly left out in the cold. Jane Levy scored a Best Actress, TV Musical or Comedy nod for Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, which makes up the entirety of nominations for broadcast networks. Netflix even trounced most film studios and distributors, garnering a total of 20 nominations across the film categories, including Best Director nods for David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin.

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That’s not wholly surprising, given the switch to SVOD platforms following theater shutdowns. But the 2021 nominations did afford us with genuine moments of shock and “nah.” Before the virtual ceremony begins—hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler on opposite coasts—on February 28, we asked TV editor Danette Chavez and senior writer Katie Rife for their thoughts on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s biggest oversights, as well as some of the group’s more head-scratching choices.

Danette Chavez

It’s February 3, but today feels like Groundhog Day, thanks to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association once more overlooking one of the most vital TV shows, limited series or otherwise, of the past year. In 2020, it was When They See Us, Ava DuVernay’s masterful rendering of the story of the Exonerated Five. More than a year later, the HFPA has snubbed Michaela Coel’s exceptionally moving (and ribald) I May Destroy You, an unflinching, yet ultimately affirming look at sexual assault survivors. Coel executed the show’s vision from top to bottom, writing scripts and giving a most powerful performance as Arabella, a social media star turned author who works a similar alchemy on her trauma. But there was nary a nomination for her performance or those of her castmates Paapa Essiedu and Weruche Opia. Coel even co-directed the majority of the 12 episodes with Sam Miller, exploring the fraught nightlife in Italy and London alike.

Instead, the recognition was directed, perplexingly enough, toward the lesser of HBO’s limited series, The Undoing, which, while featuring an unnerving turn by Hugh Grant, didn’t yield much more than a lovely walking tour of Manhattan. The Undoing accounts for four of HBO’s seven nominations, with nods for Grant, Nicole Kidman, and Donald Sutherland in the acting categories, as well as a spot in best limited series or TV movie. As disgruntled as I am by the picks, though, this is a twist that was about as telegraphed as the ending of the David E. Kelley-Susanne Bier series: The combined star power of The Undoing’s leads isn’t something the HFPA was likely to ignore. And yet, you always hope that the voters will break from tradition and highlight exciting new contenders, beyond the requisite nomination for a rising star in a freshman series. Even that wasn’t to be this year, as COVID-19 shutdowns and stalls in production meant pilot season was virtually nonexistent.

Netflix had more than twice the number of nominations that HBO scored, and also handily beat Amazon and Hulu in early recognition. Of course, the pandemic-related delays on new seasons of Succession and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel almost certainly contributed to the field being so wide open, which almost certainly accounts for Emily In Paris scoring two nominations. Whether as a hate-watch or a binge (or for a few minutes or the entire season), the Lily Collins-led dramedy was consumed by Netflix subscribers in droves, and is just the kind of candy-coated offering the HFPA likes to sprinkle into the competition. This one’s more of a “surprised it didn’t nab even more nominations” pick.

On balance, this year’s crop of Golden Globes nominees is fairly predictable—The Queen’s Gambit and Normal People were shoo-ins for limited series, though it is heartening to see the inclusion of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology and Unorthodox. The Crown leads all series with six nominations, with Ozark not far behind with four nominations. The Mandalorian picks up its first Golden Globe nomination just months after garnering one of the first Emmy nominations for Disney+, and also one of the most talked-about season finales of the last year. Jodie Comer continues to impress as Villanelle on Killing Eve, and Schitt’s Creek is poised for another big night. But the latter will have to compete with the most popular of comfort watches, Ted Lasso, for Best Comedy.

In the midst of all this business as usual, there are still some genuinely baffling choices. If anyone from a Ryan Murphy-Netflix limited series should have been nominated, it should have been Jeremy Pope for Hollywood. But Pope was snubbed, and it’s Jim Parsons’ scenery-chewing turn that will compete against the likes of John Boyega, Daniel Levy, Donald Sutherland, and Brendan Gleeson for best supporting actor in a series, limited series, or TV movie. Gleeson’s nomination is also a bit surprising, as you’d think the HFPA would also be done giving any air to Donald Trump, but there’s no denying his approximation of the former president and current defendant in an impeachment trial. Ratched’s three nominations, including one for best drama, seem to exist purely for wild card’s sake.

Another snubbing tradition that was upheld this year? Shutting out people of color in the vast majority of acting categories. The only performers of color nominated are Don Cheadle (for Black Monday), John Boyega (for Small Axe: Red, White And Blue), and Ramy Youssef (for Ramy). No nominations for Uzo Aduba, whose Shirley Chisholm was a powerful antidote to Cate Blanchett’s Phyllis Schlafly in Mrs. America, or for Issa Rae or Yvonne Orji or Natasha Rothwell for Insecure. Lovecraft Country is in the running for best TV drama, but Misha Green’s reimagining of Matt Ruff’s book of the same name was most impressive for its performances, including series leads Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors. Wunmi Mosaku, Aunjanue Ellis, Courtney B. Vance, Michael K. WilliamsLovecraft Country may have ultimately been a bumpy ride, but its cast was an embarrassment of riches.

I’ll keep banging the drum for Better Call Saul, which was shut out everywhere but in the Best Actor in a Drama category, as well as Better Things and Pamela Adlon. Two of the best shows on TV were at the height of their storytelling powers in their fifth and fourth seasons, respectively. And it’s not as if the HFPA won’t recognize longer-running series—just look at the ongoing love for Ozark. The lack of nominations for Insecure, which remained heartfelt and riveting in its now-penultimate season, is disheartening, if not exactly shocking, given the Globes’ history. What We Do In The Shadows is one of the best shows on TV, yet Matt Berry and his alter ego Jackie Daytona, as well as the rest of the series’ fantastic cast, are left to watch women’s volleyball on the day of the ceremony. Bad Education was blanked, too—but then again, so were all TV movies, with every nomination in those categories going to limited series.

How did our best films of 2020 fare in the film categories, Katie?

Katie Rife

When The A.V. Club’s film staff set out to rank the best films of 2020, we weren’t sure what that list was going to look like. That’s because—as we’re all surely sick of hearing about by now—it was an unprecedented year for the movie business. But with the exception of nominating three women in the Best Director category—a Globes first!—the 2021 Golden Globes film nominations look a lot like they would any other year: Breakout indies were passed over in favor of awards bait from major studios. (Netflix counts as a major studio in 2021, right?) The marginalization of films in languages other than English—a strange impulse for an awards body made up of international correspondents—continued, as did the narrow-minded ideas about what types of films are “awards worthy.” Sure, Promising Young Woman got four nominations. But let’s be honest: That’s about as glossy and Hollywood of a take on the revenge genre as you’re going to get.

It’s of course disappointing that our No. 1 film of 2020, First Cow, was shut out of the nominations entirely. But I rather expected that: In fact, Nomadland is the only fiction film on our top 10 to receive a film nomination at this year’s Globes, meaning that the wonderful screenplays and performances of The Assistant, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, and I’m Thinking Of Ending Things will remain unsung by the HFPA. (Small Axe was nominated in the TV movie category, but let’s not get into that debate again.) For me and many others, the biggest shock of the morning was that Delroy Lindo, widely tipped as a serious awards contender since Da 5 Bloods release last summer, was passed over for his performance in Spike Lee’s Vietnam War drama.

In the Best Supporting Actor category generally, I was pleased to see Daniel Kaluuya and Leslie Odom Jr. nominated for their work in Judas And The Black Messiah and One Night In Miami..., but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed not to see their co-stars LaKeith Stanfield and Kingsley Ben-Adir on the list as well. The same holds true for Riz Ahmed and Sound Of Metal: Ahmed, for my money, gave the best male performance of last year. But what about supporting actor Paul Raci? That being said, it’s likely that Best Supporting Actor will go to Chadwick Boseman, who probably would have been nominated for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom regardless—he was very good in that film—but whose tragic death last August gives his awards push additional urgency.

It was also frustrating to see Minari, an American film shot in the United States that happens to be mostly in Korean, relegated to the Best Picture, Foreign Language category. I can’t help but wonder if that had something to do with Steven Yeun being snubbed for his performance. The culprit in the erasure of Elisabeth Moss in the film acting categories, meanwhile, is clear: Moss had an exceptional year last year, but both of her starring roles, The Invisible Man and Shirley, were a little too spooky for the HFPA, which seems to have backed off of honoring horror performances after Kaluuya’s nomination for Get Out in 2018. (That being said, both streaming service Shudder and the country of Guatemala received their first-ever Golden Globes nods this year with La Llorona, which is pretty cool.) No such convoluted genre logic can be applied to the exclusion of Nicole Beharie and Miss Juneteenth from the nominations, however; it was a small independent film, for sure, but both the Gotham Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards honored it, which should have put it on HFPA voters’ radar.

As for what was nominated, I’ll be honest with all of you. I did not see Sia’s Music, nor did I see The Prom. So maybe James Corden was good? I wouldn’t know. Two films I did see, however, were Mank and The Trial Of The Chicago 7—the latter of which is, by far, the least interesting film about police violence set in the late 1960s-early ’70s released in the past year. (The other two, of course, are Mangrove and Judas And The Black Messiah.) But awards bodies love Aaron Sorkin, so I’m already steeling myself for him walking and talking down the virtual aisle when the Globes telecast airs on February 28. Or maybe the awards will be dominated by the Fincher family, who—intentionally or not—produced catnip for awards voters by mythologizing Old Hollywood and the craft of screenwriting in Mank.

In my heart, I’ll be rooting for Regina King—whose nomination for Best Director was the most pleasant surprise of the day—along with Chloé Zhao and Nomadland, my personal No. 1 of last year. I’ll also be cheering on the enchanting Wolfwalkers for Best Motion Picture-Animated and the charming Palm Springs for Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical. But the cynical view of awards season is often the correct one. Who knows? Maybe Nomadland will be this year’s Parasite, a festival awards darling (it took the top prize at both Venice and TIFF) that overcomes the Hollywood odds to become the most decorated film of the year. But c’mon, they nominated Glenn Close for that awful caricature of a performance in Hillbilly Elegy. Wake me when Netflix receives 100% of the nominations.