February 28, 2021
By Tim Jackson
In a less than dignified moment, Times film reviewer Manohla Dargis tweeted: “why in the fuck is anyone watching the Golden Globes?” Personally, I have no issue with Hollywood’s awkward season of competitive public relations. I do watch. Should I be in a circle with a bunch of strangers proclaiming, “Hi, my name is Tim and I watch Award Shows”? All of them. I vote with the SAG Awards, so that’s one excuse. Annually beholding the Academy Awards comes from lifelong conditioning. This public confession is not made without some embarrassment. I know no one who actually watches the GG’s (as Twitter responders refer to them) including my wife who sits next to me on the couch cloistered in headphones and MacBook watching Schitt’s Creek.
This was first major awards show cobbled together virtually from various locations. They did a pretty good job, all things considered. Any unintended glitches only added comedy to proceedings and fodder for the ‘hate-watchers’, those who have a predisposition toward the irrelevance of award shows. In a pre-show interview, LaVerne Cox gushed about the awards dressed in a fiery red Thai Nguyen gown with sequin embroidery and caped sleeves standing in front of mirrors near a closet, which I assume is located in her home. “Is that gown red?” asked pre-show host Jane Lynch. Apparently, we weren’t all seeing the same monitor. An always effervescent Elle Fanning in a Zoom chat with Jane Levy (Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist) claimed, “You are my role model.” Levy countered with: “And you’re mine.” That happened a lot between nominees.
As the show began, Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler managed to glance at one another across a split screen in the correct direction so we almost forgot that they were separated by a continent. To further the illusion, Fey reached across to touch Pohler as a mismatched arm appeared from across the divide. Moving to the awards, viewers could do readings of celebrity living rooms, dens, families and friends. A lot of gushing went on between the winners and the losers, who were often left dangling in their grids as the winners accepted their awards.
As with this year’s Super Bowl, applause appeared to be piped in to pump up enthusiasm that couldn’t be generated from the small socially-distanced audience made up of first responders. One segment had celebrities in humorous faux conversations with their actual doctors. The usual array of million-dollar jewels and gowns with plunging necklines were a stark contrast to Jason Sudeikis sitting alone in a gray hoody sweatshirt accepting for Ted Lasso. Jodie Foster appeared on her couch in silk pajamas with her wife, Alexandra Hedison, and their dog. She won Best Supporting Actress for The Mauritanian. Foster, who eight years ago bravely came out during her Lifetime Achievement Award, last night gave a kiss to her wife. Cheers went up from friends in some other room as the grid of other female nominees grinned. Helena Zengel, the lovely twelve year-old nominee from Germany, was more sullen. Maybe it was a language issue or perhaps the global broadcast was overwhelming for her. Nevertheless, aside from the reading of her nomination for News of the World not a soul acknowledged her presence, which I thought was an unkind oversight.
Despite necessary griping about the lack of diversity among the foreign press voters by occasional presenters, Black performers received top awards: Andra Day for Best Actress in The United States Vs. Billie Holiday (the second Black actress to ever win the category); John Boyega for Best Supporting Performance by an Actor in Television in Small Axe, the late Chadwick Boseman Best Performance by a Lead Actor Drama in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Daniel Kaluuya for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in Judas and the Black Messiah. The win for Best Director went to Chloé Zhao, the second ever for a woman and the first for an Asian-American. Her film Nomadland won as well, the first win by a woman since 1982.
On the political side, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm won Best for a Musical or Comedy and Sacha Baron Cohen as Best Actor in that same category. As might be expected, Cohen, who pushed hard to have the picture released before the election, had a brilliant response. Assuming the audience was hearing him crediting his co-star Maria Bakalova, he began: “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.” With his wife chuckling next to him, he continued: “I’m talking, of course, about Rudy Giuliani. I mean, who could get more laughs out of one unzipping”. He went on to name Giuliani’s “string of comedy hits” like: ” ‘Four Seasons Landscaping,’ ‘Hair Dye Another Day’ and a courtroom drama ‘A Very Public Fart.’ ” If you need the joke explained, read the news; see the movie. If you have seen the film, it was terrific to see Jeanise Jones, the ‘real’ babysitter to Borat’s fake daughter Tutar (Bakalova), make a virtual appearance to introduce the nominated film.
98-year-old Norman Lear accepted the Carol Burnett Award for outstanding contributions to television on or off the screen. He is a model for graceful aging and a life well-lived. The Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award went to Jane Fonda. In addition to a remarkable range of films, she is the daughter of a Hollywood legend, became a fitness guru to fund her commitment to activism, and is currently featured in a hit TV show. She had three Zeitgeisty marriages: French bad boy Roger Vadim in the 6o’s; political activist Tom Hayden (one of the Chicago 7) in the ’70s and ’80s; Media mogul Ted Turner in the ’90s. It is a fitting irony that about the time Donald Trump was sowing division in a rambling 90-minute tirade at CPAC in Orlando, Fonda was giving a clear, concise, and forward-thinking speech. She wisely cited the current crop of nominated films as evidence of the possibility for diversity and change. She closed by saying: “After all, art has always been not just in step with history but has led the way. So let’s be leaders. OK?”
Tim Jackson is a film reviewer, actor, director and musician based in the Boston area and is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics.