“This all could have been done in an email,” said co-host Tina Fey in her opening monologue at The 2021 Golden Globe Awards. Unfortunately, this joke actually turned out to be painfully true. Always something of the “drunken uncle” of awards shows – alternately loved for its shambolic sense of fun, but derided for its voting process (which, ironically, pretty much always results in the same nominations as every other awards ceremony) – The Golden Globes is consistently the most entertaining of all the extended back-slap-a-thons, as Hollywood’s big guns are seated in close quarters at squashed-in dining tables, and then seemingly plied with liquor for three hours-plus. This usually results in amusing speeches, funny asides, and even some surprisingly telling moments. And The Golden Globes is, of course, the awards show that first engaged the great Ricky Gervais as host, prompting many moments of mind-blowingly vicious industry criticism disguised as humour. “Our next presenter is the star of Bird Box, a movie in which people survive by not seeing anything, which is what you lot did for years with Harvey Weinstein,” the comic genius said at The Golden Globes last year in one of the greatest flip-offs in Hollywood history.
Well, unfortunately, there was nothing of that calibre at The 2021 Golden Globe Awards, an event horribly hobbled (like pretty much everything else recently) by COVID-19. The ceremony was co-hosted by Tina Fey (in New York) and Amy Poehler (in New York) to a small audience of mask wearing first responders, with all nominees hooking in via Zoom, and a smattering of celebrity presenters on-site to hand out the awards. Hopefully, these first responders will be invited back next year when they can actually mix with the stars…something tells us, however, that Hollywood’s elite will continue to socially distance themselves from everyone else even when they don’t have to anymore, kind of like they’ve been doing for the last hundred years or so.
Apart from COVID-19, the big theme of this year’s awards was diversity and inclusion, with The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (made up of ninety or so international journalists who live and work in LA, and file stories for publications in their home countries) constantly called out for having no black members. In an extraordinary moment, three aged members of The Hollywood Foreign Press Association trudged out on stage as if to be greeted by a firing squad. They then apologised sincerely for their trespasses, and promised to try and do better in future. Without question, it was one of the strangest moments of the night. Maybe The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has something to learn from Australia’s politicians, who never admit that they’ve done anything wrong, and just spin the shit out of everything? We’ll get you PM Scott “Nobody-told-me-about-it-wait-I’ll-just-check-with-Jenny” Morrison’s phone number…
Sure, none of The Hollywood Foreign Press Association members might be black, and their voting system might be dodgy (apparently a new tradition in America) but they are from countries all around the world, which must tick a few diversity boxes, right? And while they might be a seemingly horribly racist and non-inclusive organisation, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association certainly started to turn things around this year by engaging several African-American awards presenters (including the charming, funny likes of Tiffany Haddish and Sterling K. Brown) and naming some significant African-American performers as winners: Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), John Boyega (Small Axe) and Daniel Kaluuya (Judas And The Black Messiah), whose mic fail initially and unfortunately appeared strangely emblematic of the systematic silencing of black voices in the entertainment industry. The late Chadwick Boseman also received a posthumous Best Actor Award for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, with his wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, delivering a heartbreakingly beautiful speech in his honour.
Aside from all that, the awards themselves were obviously affected by the limited release slate of the last year, with blue ribbon Hollywood flicks replaced by movies from Netflix and Amazon, and questions arising about what even constituted a “movie” in this year of mass cinema closures, which Fey and Poehler amusingly addressed in their opening monologue. Still, it was good to see the poetic and haunting Nomadland take out the Best Picture (Drama) gong, while the Best Director win for its Chinese-American helmer Chloe Zhao was a history maker.
Sacha Baron Cohen was the funniest winner of the night for Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm (Best Actor, Best Film, Comedy), hilariously thanking his “co-star”, dumb-shit extraordinaire, Rudy Giuliani. “Thank you to the all-white Hollywood Foreign Press,” he opened his acceptance speech. “I’ve gotta say this movie couldn’t have been possible without my co-star, a fresh, new talent who came from nowhere and turned out to be a comedy genius. I’m talking, of course, about Rudy Giuliani. I mean, who can get more laughs out of one unzipping? Incredible. Our movie was just the beginning for him. Rudy went on to star in a string of comedy films. Hits like ‘Four Seasons Landscaping,’ ‘Hair Dye Another Day’ and the courtroom drama ‘A Very Public Fart.’” His second speech was even funnier. “Hold on, Donald Trump is contesting the result,” Baron Cohen said. “He’s claiming that a lot of dead people voted, which is a very rude thing to say about the HFPA.”
Despite its virtual nature, The 2021 Golden Globe Awards were still surprisingly loooooooong, clocking in at over three hours. There were nice tributes to TV legend Norman Lear (who picked up The Carol Burnett Award) and eternal rebel Jane Fonda (this year’s recipient of The Cecil B. DeMille Award), who refreshingly deflected attention away from herself to instead talk passionately and learnedly about the night’s key theme of diversity and inclusion. Somehow, Fonda made it all feel authentic and real, and much more than mere tokenism. Humour came courtesy of presenter Ben Stiller (who made a banana bread Golden Globe while in lockdown) and Saturday Night Live mainstays Maya Rudolph and Kenan Thompson (mocking the Globes’ history of sloppy speeches in a funny-ish skit) and Kristen Wiig, who dropped by in-character with her Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar co-star Annie Mumolo for a funny bit. There was also a very amusing sketch with a host of celebs phoning in for some telehealth lockdown advice.
Fey and Poehler were pretty funny considering the fractured circumstances, and delivered a few pithy put-downs, sinking the slipper into pop singer turned director Sia’s ableist-accused Music (“Sia’s controversial film Music is nominated for best international flop-a-roony,” Fey said. “I don’t want to get into it, but it’s real problematic and Twitter is saying it’s the most offensive casting since Kate Hudson was the Weight Watchers spokesperson.”) and the TV show Emily In Paris (“Emily In Paris is nominated for Best TV Series Musical or Comedy, and I for one can’t wait to find out which it is”). Ouch! Nice hits indeed, but certainly not up to the standards of Mr. Gervais (who amusingly tweeted “Everyone can relax” before the show), whose jokes actually break the skin of Hollywood and let out a little blood. Maybe he could come out of “retirement” for next year’s Golden Globes? Or perhaps Sacha Baron Cohen could host? Now, there’s an idea…
So yes, The 2021 Golden Globe Awards were unfortunately not even as good as they could have been, considering the circumstances. While it was fun to check out the Zoomed-in bookcases of David Fincher and the guy who produced The Queen’s Gambit; admire the rock-star hair of Jared Leto and Ethan Hawke; question why people were all frocked and made up in their lounge rooms; and compare how different nominees had chosen how to approach the event (kudos to Jason Sudeikis’ “yeah, whatever” hoody and Kate Hudson for kicking it with her entire family…we’re always happy to see Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn!), it was all a bit flat and pointless, with haphazard acceptance speeches, self-satisfied sloganeering and lecturing, and questionable winners. Hey, wait a minute, that sounds like every year! Yeah, but with less energy, meaning, urgency and humour…and that really hurt. “We all know that awards shows are stupid,” Tina Fey said in her opener, and this year, that joke was a little bit close to home…
For a full list of winners, click here.