The Golden Globes have always specialised in a particular type of chaos. This year, to truly drive it home, they’ve nominated cultural menace James Corden for his offensive performance in The Prom while entirely ignoring Michaela Coel’s bruising and evocative I May Destroy You. They have heralded Emily in Paris, a withering Twitter meme disguised as a television show, while snubbing Dave, What We Do in the Shadows and PEN15.
There are minor stabs of progress among the rampant absurdity. The Best Director line-up featured a female majority for the first time in the awards’ history. But their hand was forced in that regard; because of the pandemic, there is a far smaller pool of films for awards voters to choose from. And even with that in mind, Black-led movies like Judas and the Black Messiah and Da 5 Bloods received either scant acting nods or nothing at all.
The Globes will probably pat themselves on the back for nominating filmmakers Regina King (One Night in Miami…), Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) in the Best Director category, but it’s far too soon to tell if this is a permanent act of progress. If things remain the same next year, when studios haven’t held back their awards hopefuls by more established and whiter men, then maybe we can celebrate.
It’s especially true when so much of the nomination line-up is otherwise egregious. Corden’s presence in particular. His performance as a Broadway has-been still traumatised by his experiences as a bullied and abandoned gay teen in The Prom wildly missed the mark. His casting, too, transformed the film’s well-intentioned if vapid politics (Queer pride! Be who you are! Love is love!) into confused soup.
Then there’s the bizarre presence of Music, a controversial vanity project written and directed by the musician Sia. A sickly coloured musical fiasco about autism starring Kate Hudson as a bald drug dealer, it has been trailed by upset ever since its first trailer was released last year. Sia has been condemned for casting Maddie Ziegler, who is not on the autistic spectrum, as a girl with autism, while her responses to the film’s critics have ranged from unpleasantly defensive to outright rude. Still, Music scored nods in the Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical category, and Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Somewhere Tom Hooper, director of last year’s Globes-snubbed disaster Cats, is seething.
The Globes have always existed in a strange space where admirable good taste and horrid mistakes collide. It’s partly why they’re so much fun. But this year’s line-up is proof that for all the speculation that the pandemic has upended the cinematic rule book, from how films are released to which ones get celebrated, some things really don’t change.