2021 Golden Globes Post-Mortem: Andra Day Cracks the Best Actress Race Wide Open?

There’s no way that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association could’ve known that a scandal involving bribes and an indefensible lack of diversity amongst its ranks would nearly derail its annual boozy celebration/Oscar prediction gig. If they did, however, that might explain the awards they handed out over the weekend: a desperately needed distraction.

The 78th Golden Globe Awards officially kicked off an unprecedented awards season of shifting deadlines and ceremony dates, canceled campaign plans, and a slate of contenders that people could see before the Motion Picture Academy announced their nominations. (I hope the last point remains once the pandemic is officially over and “normalcy” returns.) Concepts like “frontrunner” and “underdog” felt moot without the traditional awards PR machine, but heading into Sunday night, some narratives and expectations were forming around who might ride their victory at the Globes to the Oscars.

And then the HFPA blew them straight to hell.

With the dust settled, here are some key takeaways from the Golden Globes:

Andra Day in The United States v. Billie Holiday (courtesy: Hulu)

Andra Day Swings Her Way into the Best Actress Race

There were several surprises at the Globes this year, but none quite as Earth-shattering as Andra Day taking home the prize for Best Actress in a Drama for her performance as Billie Holliday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Her four fellow nominees – Viola Davis, Frances McDormand, Vanessa Kirby, and Carey Mulligan – have been favorites for months. The fifth spot has been a revolving door, with pundits slotting in Michelle Pfeiffer for The French Exit, Sophia Loren for The Life Ahead, Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy,and Zendaya for Malcolm & Marie. Andra Day has received universal and well-deserved praise for her portrayal of Holliday, but the film itself has been met with tepid notices, at best. Her Globes win, which makes her the first Black woman winner in the category in nearly 40 years, is a massive profile boost that could essentially lock her into that fifth slot. The question is, could Andra win the Oscar? Her path is difficult: both the SAG Awards and the BAFTAs – key Oscar constituencies – snubbed her. However, Regina King did it two years ago, and Day has cut an amiable figure on the virtual awards circuit. It is less important, but a nice fun fact: Day winning would be a course correction for those who thought Diana Ross should’ve won in 1973 for playing Billie Holliday in Lady Sings the Blues, which was also her first film role. Even if Day can convert her Globes triumph into Oscar glory, the Best Actress race is much less clear than it was a couple of days ago. A Globes win amongst the top four would’ve established a frontrunner who probably would win the Oscar. Now, all eyes are on the SAGs to see who they choose. This season has proven that anything is possible (read: Jared Leto), and Day might be the best beneficiary of that.

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman (courtesy: Focus Features)

Promising Young Woman Isn’t So Promising

Of all the contenders, Promising Young Woman has captured the zeitgeist (my review isn’t just the most viewed Chasing Oscar review of the season; it’s my most viewed post ever). The sheer interest in the movie helmed by Carey Mulligan has helped it build some serious momentum, receiving multiple nominations from critics groups and guilds. A win of any kind at the Globes would’ve pushed Promising Young Woman into serious contention. Sadly, the film came up empty-handed in all categories, losing to NomadlandThe Trial of the Chicago 7, and Andra Day. Perhaps the enthusiasm for the film didn’t register with the notorious eccentric HFPA? Whatever the reason, Promising Young Woman‘s Best Picture chances are a lot less rosy, especially as the wave of interest it built up in January crests as the Academy makes its nomination selections.

Frances McDormand in Nomadland (courtesy: Searchlight Pictures)

Nomadland is the One to Beat

Anyone who’s been paying attention to Gold Derby the last few months knows that Chloé Zhao’s contemplative and graceful road warrior film was the odds-on favorite to win the Best Picture Oscar. However, the Globes tend to go for the flashier, star-studded pick, which was why many were betting on The Trial of the Chicago 7 to claim the night’s biggest prize. The HFPA choosing Nomadland is the kind of boost that the film didn’t necessarily need. Now, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that it will win Best Picture, barring some insane event that I can’t even begin to predict. The same goes for director Zhao, who is poised to be only the second woman after Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 to win Best Director.

Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (courtesy: Netflix)

Chadwick Boseman Will Win the Best Actor Oscar

Speaking of sure bets, you can mark down Chadwick Boseman as the Best Actor Oscar winner for his searing performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. While he was the odds-on favorite early on in the season, Boseman’s Globes win, coupled with a heartbreaking acceptance speech by his wife, Taylor Simon Ledward, effectively seals the deal for him becoming the first posthumous winner since Peter Finch for Network. This year, there is no more powerful narrative than a beloved yet critically-underrated actor delivering their best performance while bravely, secretly battling the final stages of cancer. Besides honoring Boseman’s performance, the Academy would also be admiring a career they’ve often overlooked but has made a profound impact. If you’re not convinced, let the children the Globes interviewed tell you: the Black Panther is unbeatable.

Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (courtesy: Amazon Studios)

The Best Supporting Actress Race is a Hot Mess, Again

More than any other category this year, Best Supporting Actress was pretty much anyone’s game, even down to nominations. Most critics have thrown their weight behind Minari’s Yuh-Jung Youn (snubbed by the Globes) and, to my surprise, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’s Maria Bakalova (who was nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy because the HFPA is weird). Mank’s Amanda Seyfried was considered a traditional scene-stealing favorite. Although most people haven’t seen The Father, the expectation is that Olivia Colman will score a second nomination for her performance. Despite the abysmal reviews that Hillbilly Elegy has gotten, Glenn Close is looking to take home an Oscar, finally, thanks to boosts from the HFPA, the SAGs, and the BAFTAs. Helena Zengel of News of the World has been building steam, even overshadowing her movie icon co-star Tom Hanks. Ellen Burstyn was another contender for Pieces of a Woman before everyone snubbed her. Sunday night could’ve provided some clarity to an up-in-the-air race. The expectation was that Bakalova would win in her category and become the frontrunner. Either Seyfried or Close would win in theirs and be the other top contenders. Alas, the Globes threw us all for a double loop: a timely Netflix release helped push Rosamund Pike to a surprise win for I Care a Lot, while Jodie Foster, an HFPA favorite, won for The Mauritanian. Of course, that leaves the race even more unsettled than it was before. Bakalova’s loss (the only one of the night for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) doesn’t bode well for her Oscar chances, which means that Foster could take her place. If Bakalova does make it in, and Foster is still in play, what does that mean for Youn? And who the hell is going to win? As I said, a hot mess.

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