The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has been an organization that has had noteworthy recognitions in its history, especially in the comedy categories (i.e., “The Hangover” winning best picture in 2009) and undoubtedly some questionable judgment calls (i.e., “The Tourist” nominated for best picture in 2010, and even this year with Sia’s directorial debut “Music”). Oftentimes, we look to the international group to recognize films and performances that don’t get a worthwhile look from the Academy and other major awards bodies.
Josh Greenbaum’s “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” was released on PVOD on Feb. 12, and with the hilarious turns by Academy Award nominees Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, and a scene-stealing turn from Jamie Dornan, critics and audiences seem to be buzzing about it being the perfect movie during a pandemic. Unfortunately, the film is caught in a “COVID-awards loophole” under the current rules and guidelines for the Golden Globes and SAG Awards and is not eligible for either award in 2022.
The Lionsgate comedy was originally scheduled to be released theatrically on July 31, 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was pushed back to July 16, 2021. During the holiday period between Christmas and New Year’s, the distributor decided to cancel the film’s theatrical release and instead debut on premium VOD platforms on Feb. 12. On Jan. 11, Lionsgate announced its plans, and the film was now within the Oscars’ extended eligibility window. On Jan. 27, Variety reported exclusively the film was submitted for Academy consideration in all categories, including best picture but notably, original song, with “I Love Boobies” (written by Mumolo, Wiig and Richard Cheese) and “Welcome to Palm Vista” (written by Mumolo and Wiig). However, for the Golden Globes, the deadline for submissions was November 30, and at the time, the film was still thought to be a summer 2021 release. When the release plans were officially announced, it was too late for the film to throw itself into the ring for this year’s awards consideration.
There have been no official eligibility announcements by any major awards bodies regarding the 2021 film year and any upcoming 2022 award shows. The assumption has been it would begin March 1, 2021, and end on Dec. 31, 2021. This has placed “Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar” in this seemingly “eligibility purgatory” for any possible accolades. After Variety reached out to the HFPA for comment on this story, a representative for the group contacted Lionsgate telling them to set up their screening and that they would be eligible for next year’s awards, despite the current rules not reflecting those assertions. Per HFPA rules, all members must be invited to an official screening for a film within one week of its release, giving the team behind “Barb and Star” until Friday, Feb. 19, to set it up.
The last update to the HFPA rules and website was on Jan. 29, 2021:
On January 28, 2021, the HFPA adopted the following clarification to these special COVID rules: All motion picture drama, musical/comedy, foreign language and animated film submissions entered for consideration for the 2021 Golden Globe awards whose release schedule changes between February 3, 2021 (day of the nominations) and February 28, 2021 (end of current eligibility period) and therefore become ineligible for the 2021 awards because their release is delayed to a date after February 28, 2021, also will not be eligible for the 2022 awards. If you anticipate that your film’s release date will be delayed to a date after February 28, 2021, please advise us prior to the announcement of our 2021 nominations on February 3, 2021.
This brings about interesting questions surrounding films like “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” which will now debut on Paramount Plus on March 5. It did submit for the 2021 awards for best animated film at the Globes, and was also submitted for the Oscars, but is now out of the eligibility window for both. Is that film also just “out of luck?”
Informal discussions have already begun internally with members to revise the rules for next year’s eligibility period, and they are aware of the ambiguity of the current rules. The international group’s annual post-mortem intends to recommend they allow films released in the calendar year that did not submit for consideration, including January and February, to enter for consideration for the 2022 Golden Globes. Other topics likely to be discussed in that meeting are the eligibility of films with less than 50% English used to compete in the best picture categories. One of this year’s top awards contenders, “Minari” from Lee Isaac Chung, was forced to submit in the foreign language by A24 due to this rule. Past films, such as Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell,” were also relegated to the category. Still, its star Awkwafina won best actress (comedy) the same year, the first Asian American woman to win the category.
“Barb and Star” is also affected in the same way by the Screen Actors Guild Awards for 2022. Submissions for this year’s awards were closed on Nov. 20, and Greenbaum’s film was too late in submitting for consideration. A representative shared the following statement.
“This awards season has been and continues to be an ever-changing landscape. Our rules are typically released in July and we will be reviewing this and other scenarios that arise following the 27th SAG Awards on April 4.”
This may seem arbitrary for a slapstick comedy in which two Midwestern galpals go to an island and has a scene where Jamie Dornan breaks out into song, climbs a tree and rips off his shirt, but all cinema matters. While awards bodies like the Oscars and SAG too often scoff at the comedy genre, a film like “Barb and Star” that was the chatter of the weekend on social media, allowed some escape from a pandemic that is creeping up on its first anniversary. The Globes have been the leader in awards for those films and performances to get their proper notoriety such as winners Gene Hackman (“The Royal Tenenbaums”) and Jamie Lee Curtis (“True Lies”).
Also of note, “Barb and Star” failed to make the announced Feb. 9 Oscars shortlists for makeup and hairstyling, visual effects, original score and original song. The film is still in the running in other categories, including best picture, two lead actresses, supporting actor (Dornan) and original screenplay (written by Mumolo and Wiig).