78th Golden Globe Awards kick off 2021 awards season with big wins for ‘Nomadland,’ ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’

Photo of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Golden Globes
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The 78th Golden Globe Awards started off the 2021 awards season with a whimper. Broadcast simultaneously from New York and Los Angeles Feb. 28, it was a relatively dull, occasionally clumsy ceremony that handed out few surprises and feebly attempted to respond to the recent criticism of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) for its lack of Black membership and questionable nomination process.

Return hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did a laudable job emceeing the ceremony from separate venues on opposite coasts. Their monologue was mostly by the book, featuring an enjoyable bit about how the boundary between television and film has all but disappeared during a year when we watched everything from our couches. The monologue did include some surprising shots at the HFPA toward the end — it appeared to be an early signal of some serious self-reflection for the voting body, but the criticisms went mostly unaddressed for the remainder of the night, save for a terse mea culpa delivered by three HFPA executives halfway through. 

The ceremony sensibly doled out most of the night’s largest film trophies. Best picture, drama went to Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland.” Zhao likewise took the best director win, becoming the second woman ever to do so. Both wins were expected, as was best picture, foreign language for “Minari” and best screenplay for Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which deservedly topped a host of worthy competitors. 

The television categories were likewise predictable, with the biggest awards of the night being taken home by “Schitt’s Creek,” “The Crown” and “The Queen’s Gambit.” The first television award went to John Boyega for his supporting performance in Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe” anthology, beating favorite Dan Levy for his role in “Schitt’s Creek.” And although the “Schitt’s-storm” that took place at the Emmys was denied a repeat performance out of the gate, they rebounded quickly, with Catherine O’Hara winning the trophy for best television actress, musical/comedy Series.

Daniel Kaluuya won the trophy for his supporting performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and was immediately stymied by a muted microphone as he tried to mount an acceptance speech. This wouldn’t have been an at-home Golden Globes without at least one technical blunder — and, naturally, without the chaos. 

Co-stars Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin each received Globes for their performances as Prince Charles and Princess Diana in “The Crown,” whose fourth season tracked the rise and fall of the storied royal relationship. Gillian Anderson later won for her supporting performance in the show as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and with the Best Drama Series Globe, “The Crown” ultimately cemented itself as one of the biggest winners of the night.

The Globes are not known for acumen, and the show held to that notorious heritage this year. HFPA shot a confounding misfire by sending Jodie Foster home with the award for best supporting actress, motion picture. Foster, of “The Mauritanian,” hit the nail on the head: “Are you kidding me? I think you made a mistake.” The win came out of left field in an already turbulent ballgame that was firmly between Olivia Colman, Glenn Close and Amanda Seyfried for their elevating acts. 

Foster’s was not the only wacky win. Rosamund Pike’s performance in “I Care a Lot” edged out Maria Bakalova’s breakthrough comedic genius in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” for the best actress, motion picture, musical/comedy, prize. The win was not entirely surprising, though, and turned out to be foreshadowing for a couple of other categories. 

The HFPA’s logic appears — emphasis on “appears” — to be them hewing to the Academy Awards’ judgment: The Academy relegated Bakalova to the supporting actress category and barred “Hamilton” outright. Despite Bakalova’s loss, Sacha Baron Cohen won for his starring role in his “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” which also received best picture, musical/comedy.

Jason Sudeikis was another surprise win for his starring role in “Ted Lasso,” coming in over favorite Eugene Levy. The Levy father-son duo didn’t walk away totally empty-handed though, as “Schitt’s Creek” went on to win for best musical/comedy series. 

The television categories were finished out with the television motion picture categories, which fan-favorite “The Queen’s Gambit” dominated — dual nominee Anya Taylor-Joy won for her performance as Beth Harmon, which was followed up with a win for the series itself.

In the most emotional speech of the evening, Taylor Simone Ledward, Chadwick Boseman’s wife, teared up as she accepted his posthumous award for his lead role in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” — no upsets there, thankfully. The best actress, motion picture drama category proved rowdier than anticipated, with Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”, unseating major contenders Viola Davis and Frances McDormand. Day is only the second Black woman to win the award. 

Keeping a lid on the anarchy, the Globes delivered “Soul” best picture, animated, in addition to best score motion picture by way of Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste. Best song motion picture went to Diane Warren, Laura Pausini and Niccolò Agliardi’s “Io Sì (Seen)” in Italy’s “The Life Ahead.”

Though the Golden Globes don’t necessarily presage the rest of the awards season, “Nomadland” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” emerge as the films to beat heading into future ceremonies. “Schitt’s Creek” walks away with one final feather in its cap, and “The Crown” and “Queen’s Gambit” look like serious contenders for the 2021 Emmys. 

Matthew DuMont is a deputy arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected].

Dominic Marziali covers film. Contact him at [email protected].