Golden Globes upend history as three female directors nominated

Emerald Fennell, Chloé Zhao and Regina King compete in category previously marked by its male dominance, as Mank and The Trial of the Chicago 7 lead field of overall nominations

Three female directors will compete for the first time at this year’s Golden Globes, following decades in which it was rare a single woman was mentioned in the category.

Only five female directors have ever been nominated in the Globes’ 78 year history: Sofia Coppola, Jane Campion and Ava DuVernay, while Kathryn Bigelow and Barbra Streisand have both been nominated twice. Only Streisand has won – for Yentl in 1983.

Yet a majority of women make up this year’s shortlist: Regina King, for One Night in Miami, Chloé Zhao for Nomadland and Emerald Fennell, the British film-maker who also rose to fame last year playing Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown, for her rape revenge comedy, Promising Young Woman.

They will compete against two men who are no strangers to Globe nominations: Aaron Sorkin, for The Trial of the Chicago 7, and David Fincher, for Mank.

Mank, a black-and-white ode to Hollywood’s golden age, leads the field this year, with six nominations, including one for leading actor Gary Oldman, who plays Herman J Mankiewicz, hammering out the script for Citizen Kane.

Gary Oldman in Mank.
Gary Oldman in Mank. Photograph: AP

Sorkin’s courtroom drama comes in next with five, followed by The Father – an adaptation by Florian Zeller of his play about a man beset by dementia – Promising Young Woman and Nomadland, which all have four.

Nomadland, an elegiac look at the life of disenfranchised Americans who live on the road, starring Frances McDormand, is widely tipped to dominate this year’s awards, having won best picture at almost all the smaller prizes already given.

One Night in Miami took three nominations, as did Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Sacha Baron Cohen’s barnstorming comedy released just before last autumn’s US presidential election.

Baron Cohen is up for leading actor for that film, as well as for his supporting role in The Trial of the Chicago 7. Maria Bakalova, the unknown Bulgarian actor who played his daughter in Borat, is nominated in the leading actress in a comedy or musical category.

The nominations are the first of the major prizes to be unveiled since the coronavirus pandemic capsized the movie industry. While closely monitored production has now resumed, most cinemas in the US have been closed for the past 10 months.

Eligibility criteria for the Globes have been relaxed to include major digital-only premieres up until the date of the ceremony itself on 28 February.

Netflix, the streaming service whose presence in the sector had been mushrooming even before Covid-19, now dominates unchallenged, responsible for some 42 nominations across film and TV, including those for Mank and The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Meanwhile Amazon took 10, for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and Small Axe, and Hulu nine, for Palm Springs and Normal People.

Britons accounted for a sizeable proportion of the acting nominations, including Mulligan for Promising Young Woman, Rosamund Pike, for healthcare satire I Care a Lot and Vanessa Kirby for her role as a grieving mother in Pieces of a Woman.

Meanwhile British actors in the running for leading film awards include Oldman, Baron Cohen, Anthony Hopkins for The Father, Riz Ahmed for his role as a deaf drummer in Sound of Metal and Dev Patel for Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield.

James Corden was a surprise inclusion in the comedy category for his role in The Prom, Ryan Murphy’s star-studded Netflix musical; Corden’s role as a gay Broadway performer was met with considerable backlash.

British actors up for TV prizes include John Boyega for Small Axe, Hugh Grant for The Undoing, Daisy Edgar-Jones for Normal People and Lily Collins for Emily in Paris.

John Boyega in Small Axe.
John Boyega in Small Axe. Photograph: S Goodwin/AP

The Crown picked up nods for Olivia Colman, Emma Corrin, Josh O’Connor, Helena Bonham Carter and Gillian Anderson, as well as best drama, making it the most nominated show. Close on its heels are Schitt’s Creek, with five nominations, and Ozark and The Undoing, which each have four.

The nominees for the 78th annual ceremony were announced by previous winners Sarah Jessica Parker and Taraji P Henson, who were joined by Spike Lee’s children, Satchel, 26, and Jackson, 23, who are this year’s Golden Globe ambassadors.

However Lee’s latest acclaimed film, Da 5 Bloods, was ignored by voters, with many assuming it would have been nominated in multiple categories, including director and for the performances of Delroy Lindo and Chadwick Boseman.

Boseman was nominated for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, alongside co-star Viola Davis, but many predicted the film would be mentioned many more times.

One especially glaring omission on the list was Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. The sole major blockbuster to have come out in cinemas last year polarised critics and picked up just one nomination, for original score.

TV shows I May Destroy You and Bridgerton were also cold-shouldered by Globes voters, while veteran stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Sophia Loren – whose return to acting aged 86 had led many to assume she was a shoo-in – were also passed over.

Backlash to the snub for Michaela Coel’s groundbreaking BBC show has gathered pace in the aftermath of the nominations. One of the staff on a rival show, nominated over I May Destroy You, added their voice to the controversy.

“This is just wrong,” tweeted Deborah Copaken. “I was a writer on Emily in Paris, but your show was my favourite show since the dawn of TV, & this is just wrong. I loved I May Destroy You, and I thank you, personally, for giving us your heart, your mind, your resilience, & your humour.”

Meanwhile Music, the directorial debut of songwriter Sia, whose depiction of autism has come in for criticism, picked up a surprise trio of nominations, including for lead actor Kate Hudson.

Last year’s host, Ricky Gervais, has been replaced by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, who will return after a triumphant three year run in the middle of the last decade. In a first, the ceremony will unfold on both US coasts, with Fey in New York and Poehler in Los Angeles.

The Golden Globes are decided by a small, mysterious and largely anonymous group of foreign language journalists in Hollywood. Fewer than 90 voters are involved, compared to the 7,000 who determine the Oscars and 6,500 who vote for the Baftas. Previous years have been dogged by accusations of corruption and bribery, with the small voting pool proving easy prey for stars and publicists eager for their favour.

The Globes’ reputation as a bellwether for the Oscars is also diminishing, in large part due to peculiarities in their categorisation. As well as splitting the films into drama and comedy or musical – often using questionable rationale – the Globes do not consider foreign language titles for their top prizes.

This meant that Parasite, which took Oscars last year for best picture, director, original screenplay and international film, lost out to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 1917 in the headline awards at the Globes and only went home with the foreign language film prize.

However, this year’s Globes are likely to affect voting for both the Baftas and the Oscars this year, which take place two months later than usual, in April.


Catherine Shoard

The GuardianTramp

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