The 78th Golden Globe Awards kicked off the 2021 film and TV awards season on Sunday. As expected, it was a mostly virtual ceremony, with nominees tuning in through Zoom and presenters showing up in-person at their respective bicoastal locations. Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler returned, and with already three hosting turns already under their belts, it promised to be an eventful, no-holds-barred kind of night.
Despite the challenges of the past 12 months, it has nonetheless been an exciting year for movies and TV. I, for one, was looking forward to seeing how it would all play out. Beyond that, whether or not it would work with this unprecedented — and frankly, unpredictable — modality was certainly a point of curiosity, too.
The opening monologue was split between the two coasts, with Fey at the Rainbow Room in New York and Poehler at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, the usual home of the Globes. After rightfully poking fun at their situation, the co-hosts launched into their schtick, which this time included a host of self-aware jokes and blasts directed at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which organizes the Golden Globes and has no Black members. Barring a few exceptions, it was surprisingly well-synchronized and characteristically funny, adding a much-needed touch of the familiar to these unusual times.
The first award given out also, unfortunately, marked the first — and thankfully only — major technical problem. Daniel Kaluuya’s speech after winning Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture nearly didn’t happen after he was muted, leaving presenter Laura Dern to explain the bad connection. Thankfully, things quickly got back on track, but I don’t think there was ever a more unreal way to welcome audiences to the Globes.
While most of the night was spent cycling through the awards, there were a few light-hearted segments scattered throughout. For me, a definite highlight was TikTok star La’Ron Hines asking kids what they knew about the Golden Globes. Every answer was brilliant and extremely quotable, and of course, all were hilariously wrong. All except the last question, asking who the late Chadwick Boseman was, which every kid touchingly got right.
Some such segments, however, were not so well-received, coming off as downright awkward. The first that comes to mind is Maya Rudolph and Kenan Thompson playing the part of a pair of drunken composers giving a ridiculous acceptance speech. It might’ve started out funny but definitely lasted just a little too long.
Another key highlight was the speeches. Several stood out for the important issues they addressed, as well as the poignant messages they imparted. Jane Fonda’s speech after accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award brought up the importance of stories and diversity, and she took the time to lift up those around her.
Norman Lear, the third recipient of the Carol Burnett Award, celebrated those who helped him along his journey and credited laughter as being able to “add time to one’s life.” In another moving speech, Chadwick Boseman’s wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, spoke tearfully on his behalf after posthumously winning Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama.
Suffice to say, the ceremony had its share of both deeply heartfelt and delightfully amusing moments. Inevitably, the nature of its format made such moments often feel underwhelming, momentous wins and important words dimmed by poor audio and video quality. The magic and mystique of Hollywood’s awards shows just wasn’t quite there.
To add insult to injury, winners and nominees like Jason Sudeikis and Jeff Daniels surprisingly showed up on screen in a hoodie and a plaid shirt, respectively. It looked just as entertaining as it sounds and set a whole new tone for what we know — or thought we knew — the Golden Globes to be.
While the nominations may have drawn controversy, the winners of the night were all arguably very well-deserved. The Crown and Schitt’s Creek won big in the TV drama and comedy categories, and Nomadland and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm took home top film awards for drama and comedy respectively. History was made in more ways than one: Chloé Zhao became the first woman of Asian descent and second woman in history to win Best Director. It was also the first time in Golden Globes history that three women were nominated for that category.
For the most part, the three-hour-long ceremony stayed watchable and interesting, with one never quite knowing what to expect. It was certainly chock-full of firsts, and that alone made it one of the most memorable Globes to date. It may be hard to forget such an unconventional, markedly surreal experience. That said, I’ll still be looking forward to the Golden Globes being in person again.