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Breaking Down the 2021 Golden Globes Virtual Ceremony: What It Means for Other Awards Shows

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Golden
NBC

NOW’S THE TIME TO REINVENT THE AWARDS SHOW. SO WHY AREN’T WE?

How do you solve a problem like awards shows? Long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the rapidly dipping ratings for kudocasts were a cause for concern: In an age of infinite choice, why would anyone watch a three-hour marathon of celebrities congratulating each other and their reps?

The Grammy Awards figured this out long ago, tossing out most of the awards and focusing on buzzy musical performances. The Tony Awards, never a big ratings draw, does the same. In the case of the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes and SAG Awards, the trophies are the main attraction. But it turns out they’re not, if audiences aren’t invested.

And they just aren’t. Sure, these shows have tried tweaks, like going host-less or changing up the format. But that’s not nearly enough. Audiences became fragmented ages ago: Wide-appeal popcorn movies and big-tent TV procedurals may be a hit at the box office and the Nielsens, but they’re not awards fodder. And prestige TV has its fans, yet they’re siloed in different camps.

Nominating crowd-favorite shows like “The Mandalorian” (which the Globes did) and “Bridgerton” (which the Globes didn’t, but SAG did) is one way to reignite interest in these competitions. But that ignores the bigger issue with awards shows.

The Golden Globes is considered the most fun of all the shows: the Oscars’ naughty step-cousin, where celebrities get drunk and if we’re lucky, the wheels fall off by the end. Instead, this year’s mostly at-home edition had the opposite effect, as many a winner sat at their desk.

No, this is the year that we should be blowing up the awards show as we know it. We have permission, and yet we’re not taking it. If you had just listened to the audio of Sunday’s Globes, it sounded like … well, any other Globes. Where’s the experimentation? Where’s the new template that will at least make awards shows more palatable to those dwindling audiences moving forward? The window is closing. — Michael Schneider

IF THE ‘GLOBES ARE GONNA GLOBE,’ THEN LET THEM GLOBE

The HFPA celebrated its ceremony in the face of new scrutiny regarding the lack of Black members, something many have known for decades. For years journalists and awards enthusiasts have been trying to “shame” and change the Globes into something they are not — a legitimate awards body that doesn’t accept freebies, and rewards solely on merit.

They’ve always been an interesting concoction of success in the awards show space. They’re second to the Oscars in ratings for live events, surpassing the Grammys, but there’s a reason why the “G” in EGOT doesn’t stand for Globes. Roughly 90 international journalists, many of whom are reported to no longer be active at any publication, have existed in this middle ground between the Oscars and the MTV Movie & TV Awards — yet we continue to expect a sophisticated response to the cultural shifts in the industry.

In the best picture drama category this year, movies with Black ensembles — such as “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “One Night in Miami” and “Da 5 Bloods” — were left off the list. This is not unfamiliar. Whether Pia Zadora (“Ragtime”) wins New Star of the Year over Kathleen Turner (“Body Heat”) or the critically panned “The Tourist” gets nominated for best picture (comedy) or the American film “Minari” is forced to compete in the foreign category but is excluded from best picture, the Globes would be better served by simply admitting what they are. Let us stop pretending the agenda is anything other than rubbing elbows and collecting a check. We’ll all be better off. — Clayton Davis

THE LOOK AHEAD TO THE OSCARS

The translation from the Globes to the Academy is mostly hit than miss, especially in the past decade. Chloé Zhao picked up wins for directing and best picture (drama) for her American tale “Nomadland.” While this looks to validate a strong critics’ awards showing and solidify the film’s front-runner status, an enemy may be afoot for the poetic character study: the Oscars’ notorious preferential ballot.

With the expansion of the best picture category in 2009 from five to 10 nominees, the Academy changed its voting method for selecting winners. It involves a lot of math, but in essence, if a film dominates by appearing in the No. 1 spot on 50% plus one of all ballots, you have the best picture winner. Yet, without knowing the actual tally from previous years, it’s widely believed that it’s not about being in the top spot on ballots but about being the No. 2 and 3 on others. This is why “The King’s Speech,” “Moonlight” and “Green Book” are all winners today. It also explains why “The Social Network,” “La La Land” and “Roma” are not.

“Nomadland” is undoubtedly beloved, eliciting passion from its admirers, but this could be its weakness moving into phase two. It’s easy to secure one vote from a small group of 87 HFPA members to get you over the hump. It’s another to woo 10,000, which bodes well for films like Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Focus Features’ “Promising Young Woman” and A24’s “Minari.” They’re all still in the race. — C.D.

THE LOOK AHEAD TO THE EMMYS

Netflix is not a joke, especially for competitors on the awards trail. The streamer’s huge kudos tally is not new, but its dominance in nominations this winter awards season — which now extends to by far the most wins at the 2021 Golden Globes — has rivals bracing for a similar result in the upcoming Emmy season. A rep for one network wonders whether Netflix, which landed a record 160 nominations in 2020, might surpass the 200 threshold this year.

Part of that is attributable to delays (due to COVID-19 and other reasons) on productions from other outlets that might otherwise have been major contenders in 2020, such as a new season of HBO’s “Succession” or FX’s “Atlanta.” Of course, there’s also the sheer tonnage of Netflix titles, including drama “The Crown” and limited series “The Queen’s Gambit” — two programs that won big at the Globes and are immediate front-runners in the Emmy race.

The hefty load of contenders paid off with the Globes nominations, in which Netflix scored 20, more than double second-place HBO (with seven). The SAG nominations were a similar blowout, with Netflix picking up 17 nods and HBO next in line with seven. That translated to wins: “The Crown” was awarded four Globes (including best drama series) on Sunday, the most of any program, while “The Queen’s Gambit” landed two, including best limited series. The only other program to pick up multiple Globes was Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek,” a cable outlier whose success was largely thanks to, yes, Netflix, and won’t be eligible for this year’s Emmys anyway.

It almost doesn’t seem fair anymore. With Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV Plus, Hulu, Disney Plus and HBO Max also fronting top-of-mind contenders, it’s the streamers who will rule the Emmy roost this season — with Netflix far and away leading the charge. — M.S.

AN ANSWER TO ZOOM FATIGUE

Almost a year into the pandemic, awards shows are still relying on at-home virtual acceptance speeches — whether through Zoom or other technology. It’s exhausting and tiring to see yet another celebrity inside a box with hazy video and hollow-sounding audio (if it even works at all). But at the Globes, at least one winner provided a template for how to lean into the “at-home” aspect of it all.

Jodie Foster, who won the supporting film actress trophy for her role in “The Mauritanian,” showcased the epitome of “party up top, but all-around comfortable” in her Neil Lane jewelry and Prada pajamas combo. Even more than her fashion choices, her casual appearance on a couch, relaxing with wife Alexandra Hedison and their dog Ziggy, made it feel like popping over to celebrate a special moment with a friend.
After a year of so much loss, there is something to be said for celebrating the art that has offered everyone an escape from these dark times. Yet it’s still jarring and a bit disconnected to see people go all-in on red carpet-ready looks, then just sit in front of a computer.

Offering a reprieve, as Foster did, will continue to be essential as the weeks and months march on, with the pandemic still raging and many people still quarantining in their homes. Hopefully this will inspire other at-home awards attendees as we make our way through the rest of awards season: Get comfy on the couch, and grab your pooch. — Danielle Turchiano