THE GOLDEN GLOBES ceremony on February 28th had to overcome some significant obstacles. Due to coronavirus safety protocols, the nominees could not gather in one location, so viewers were denied the sight of celebrities posing elegantly on the red carpet and stumbling drunkenly in the auditorium. The hosts, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, had their usual impeccable timing and chemistry, despite having to do their double act in different venues on different coasts: Ms Fey was in the Rainbow Room in New York while Ms Poehler was in the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. The nominees were all at their various homes, hunched in front of their laptops, either in glamorous dresses or slobbish hoodies, so the stilted speeches and technical glitches were more reminiscent of a council meeting on Zoom than a glitzy awards bash.
A bigger problem was that the ceremony’s organisers, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), had almost been buried in an avalanche of bad publicity just beforehand. The HFPA is a group of 87 international journalists based in California, and this year the Los Angeles Times reported on the group’s unusual financial practices as well as the fact that it does not have a single black member. A slew of criticism from journalists as well as figures within the industry followed. Many questioned whether the HFPA had become obsolete or was in need of an overhaul.
The make-up of the group seemed especially shameful given that the HFPA failed to nominate any of this year’s high-profile black ensemble films in its drama category, including “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, “One Night In Miami” and “Da 5 Bloods”. In the television comedy or musical category, the HFPA shortlisted Darren Star’s fluffy Netflix series, “Emily In Paris”, while snubbing the far more acclaimed and groundbreaking “I May Destroy You”, created by and starring Michaela Coel, a black British woman. One of the writers of “Emily In Paris”, Deborah Copaken, wrote an article for the Guardian saying that “I May Destroy You” was “her favourite show ever” and “deserves to win all the awards”. The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag of 2015 was succeeded by #GlobesSoWhite this year.
The HPFA went into damage-limitation mode last week, announcing that it needed “to bring in Black members, as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds”, and that it would “work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible”. On the night, Ms Fey and Ms Poehler began the ceremony by chiding the “90 international no-black journalists” to “change”.
When the results were announced, though, the situation took on a different light. As questionable as the HFPA’s credentials may be, the 78th Golden Globes honoured several artistically bold films and performances, and were clearly not biased against people of colour. Chadwick Boseman, the star of “Black Panther”, was posthumously named Best Actor in a drama for playing an ambitious trumpeter in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, an adaptation of August Wilson’s play about the early days of the blues. Daniel Kaluuya (pictured) won Best Supporting Actor for his role as another kind of black panther, Fred Hampton, the deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, in “Judas and the Black Messiah”.
More surprisingly, Andra Day won Best Actress in a drama for playing Billie Holiday in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”. Pundits had tipped Frances McDormand to win for “Nomadland”, but that film, an elegiac and naturalistic road movie, won Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director for Chloé Zhao, making her the second-ever woman to win the directing trophy (after Barbra Streisand), and the second-ever Asian (after Ang Lee). The Best Foreign Language Film award went to “Minari”, an autobiographical story of a Korean-American family in rural Arkansas, written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung. The best animated feature was Pixar’s African-American body-swap farce, “Soul”, which was co-written and co-directed by Kemp Powers.
In contrast, “Mank”, which imagined the making of “Citizen Kane”, was directed by and starred two white middle-aged awards favourites, David Fincher and Gary Oldman, but it didn’t win in any of the six categories in which it was nominated. Similarly, Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” had five nominations, but only one win (for Mr Sorkin’s screenplay). Despite wins for Rosamund Pike, Jodie Foster and Sacha Baron Cohen, the globes weren’t so white, after all.
The results in the television categories were more conservative. John Boyega won a Best Supporting Actor award for his performance as an idealistic young black policeman in one of Steve McQueen’s five “Small Axe” films for the BBC—even though he was the lead actor in that particular film, “Red, White and Blue”. Otherwise, the awards went to “The Crown”, which won the main drama award, Best Actor in a drama (Josh O’Connor), Best Actress in a drama (Emma Corrin), and Best Supporting Actress in a Series (Gillian Anderson), and to “The Queen’s Gambit” and “Schitt’s Creek”. Not the most thrilling set of choices, but not the most embarrassing, either.
Given that the Golden Globes often foreshadow the Oscars, it will be interesting to see if that awards ceremony, which takes place on April 25th, can be as inclusive. It also remains to be seen whether the HFPA will succumb to the calls for reform and whether its membership will ever be as diverse as its award winners.