Golden Globes 2021 predictions: Who will win and who should win?

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he Golden Globes exist as an irritation first, a celebration of film and TV artistry second. Every year, a mysterious collective of 93 non-American journalists living in Los Angeles, known as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), convene in order to hand out trophies with no apparent rhyme or reason behind the decisions. That deeply moving, contemplative indie drama you fell head over heels for? It’s nowhere to be seen. Some tacky thing stuffed with cheap sentiment and bankable stars? It’s guaranteed to break every Golden Globes record there is.

The awards have never served as particularly accurate predictors of what will come to pass on Oscar night. All they really do is lend extra clout to any existing frontrunners – which, this year, are Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, and David Fincher’s Mank. Last year, 1917 was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Drama). While it wouldn’t go on to snag the Oscar, the night marked a sea change in how the war epic was perceived, as it surged ahead of early favourite The Irishman and announced itself as major competition.

Usually, there’s a bit of fun to be had with the ceremony. Food and drink is dished out alongside the trophies, so there’s always a looser, more jovial atmosphere in the room. Everyone treats it like one big party. That, most likely, won’t be happening this year, though the Globes have yet to announce their Covid-19 contingency plans. Except that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who have a proven track record here, will host live from opposite coasts – Fey will broadcast from The Rainbow Room atop the Rockefeller Center in New York City, while Poehler will be in the Globes’s usual location inside the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Without further ado, here’s what to expect from the film categories when the Golden Globes take place on 28 January.

Best Motion Picture (Drama)

The Trial of the Chicago 7

(Niko Tavernise/Netflix)

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Will win: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Shoulda got a look-in: Minari

Netflix failed to dominate this year’s Globes in the way people predicted – or the streamer intended, since its current strategy seems to involve buying up as many awards contenders as possible and hoping for the best. Both The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Mank got a look-in here, but Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Da 5 Bloods were notably absent. Meanwhile, Netflix’s biggest competition remains Searchlight’s Nomadland. It’s a fairly strong frontrunner for the Oscar, but it’s semi-documentarian approach – in which Frances McDormand stars alongside real-life nomads and first-time actors – means it lacks the flashiness needed to wow the HFPA. Voters will more likely be swayed by the courtroom dramatics of The Trial of the Chicago 7.

One of the many infuriating aspects of the Golden Globes is its restrictive approach to international film. Parasite, which won Best Picture at last year’s Oscars, wasn’t even eligible in this category, since the rules state that at least 50 per cent of a film’s dialogue must be in English to compete. This year, that’s barred Lee Isaac Chung’s sublime Minari – despite the fact it’s directed by an American, produced by American companies, and tells the story of a Korean immigrant family living in Arkansas. What a joke.

Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical)

Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg in Palm Springs

(Limelight/Neon/Hulu/Kobal/Shutterstock)

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Will win: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Shoulda got a look-in: The Personal History of David Copperfield

Although Borat Subsequent Moviefilm seems like the obvious choice here, having done well at various critics awards, the Golden Globes have famously been snobby about broad comedy. It certainly means that the ingenious Palm Springs, the best the genre had to offer last year, has almost zero chance here. The film, and star Andy Samberg, will simply have to settle for the honour of being nominated.

Significantly, the Globes have allowed Hamilton, a filmed version of the Broadway musical, to compete where the Oscars have not – the HFPA may let it win out of stubbornness. The nomination does feel like a little bit of a cheat, especially since it (and the disastrous, Sia-directed Music) are occupying spots that should have gone to Armando Iannucci’s vivacious Dickens adaptation, The Personal History of David Copperfield.

Best Director

Frances McDormand in Nomadland

(20th Century Studios)

Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

Regina King, One Night in Miami

Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Will win: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

Should win: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

Shoulda got a look-in: Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

It’s a huge moment in Globes history. For the first time, three women have been nominated for Best Director, when only five have ever been recognised in the Globes’s 78-year history: Sofia Coppola, Jane Campion, Ava DuVernay, Kathryn Bigelow and Barbra Streisand, the latter both nominated twice. Even if Nomadland doesn’t land Best Picture, you would hope that the HFPA will at least award Zhao’s own efforts. But there’s one notable name missing here – Spike Lee, for his daring work on Da 5 Bloods.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama)

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman

(Focus Features)

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Andra Day, The United States vs Billie Holiday

Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman

Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Will win: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Should win: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Shoulda got a look-in: Nicole Beharie, Miss Juneteenth

There are some strong contenders in this category. Frances McDormand brings an incredible lightness of touch and vulnerability to her work in Nomadland, as a woman who’s lost almost everything she holds dear. Viola Davis, in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, boasts the more dramatic transformation, in the role of a real-life blues legend – alongside a formidable performance. But, increasingly, this looks to be Carey Mulligan’s year. In Emerald Fennell’s daring thriller Promising Young Woman, Mulligan’s Cassie pits herself against a world of abusive men by transforming herself into a very particular kind of avenging angel – a vessel of pure grief and rage. It’s the kind of performance that demands attention.

It’s only a shame awards season never looks beyond the major studio offerings. It would have been wonderful to see Nicole Beharie’s performance in Miss Juneteenth honoured here – it’s a beautiful piece of acting that sees all the joys and woes of motherhood reflected in Beharie’s soft, sad eyes.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama)

Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

(David Lee/NETFLIX )

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Anthony Hopkins, The Father

Tahar Rahim, The Mauritanian

Will win: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Should win: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Shoulda got a look-in: Steven Yeun, Minari

It’s hard to see how Chadwick Boseman won’t win in this category – his performance in the big-screen adaptation of August Wilson’s play, which follows a set of Black musicians in Twenties Chicago, crackles like embers in a fire. This always would have been the case, but his death late last August undoubtedly adds a new layer of significance. And while it’s great to see Riz Ahmed and Tahar Rahim among the nominees, since their award chances weren’t always guaranteed, Steven Yeun’s absence feels stark – was he hurt by Minari’s ineligibility to compete in the Best Picture category? It’s still expected that he’ll land an Oscar nomination next month.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical)

Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

(Amazon Studios)

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit

Rosamund Pike, I Care a Lot

Will win: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Should win: Rosamund Pike, I Care a Lot

Shoulda got a look-in: Phillipa Soo, Hamilton

Award season loves a good narrative and, this year, the most irresistible one orbits around Maria Bakalova, star of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. The actor, who was a total unknown outside of her native Bulgaria, stepped in to play the Kazakh television journalist’s daughter and pretty much stole the show. Her performance is an exercise in pure grit and determination, especially when it comes to a certain newsworthy, climactic encounter with Rudy Giuliani. Kudos should also go to the perpetually underrated Rosamund Pike, who is absolutely fiendish in dark satire I Care a Lot. But, if we must include Hamilton, why not honour its female cast? Philipa Soo’s final moments as Eliza Hamilton mark the purest expression of the show’s idealist aims.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical)

(AP)

Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Dev Patel, The Personal History of David Copperfield

Andy Samberg, Palm Springs

Will win: Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Should win: Dev Patel, The Personal History of David Copperfield

Shoulda got a look-in: Will Ferrell, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

While it’s a risk to place any confidence behind a broad comedy during awards season, Cohen will undoubtedly be aided here by the second nomination he earned for his supporting role in The Trial of the Chicago 7. It seems likely he’ll win at least one Golden Globe. Could he walk away with more? If only there was more recognition of Dev Patel’s performance in The Personal History of David Copperfield – the excitable, puppy dog energy he brings to the role is both delightful and infectious. And, if the HFPA could truly open their hearts to comedy, why not honour Will Ferrell’s deeply silly efforts in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga?

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

(Netflix)

Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy

Jodie Foster, The Mauritanian

Olivia Colman, The Father

Helena Zengel, News of the World

Will win: Amanda Seyfried, Mank

Should win: Olivia Colman, The Father

Shoulda got a look-in: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari

This is the toughest category to predict, since there’s a lot of fine work on display and no real stand-out. The HFPA will most likely be wooed by the nostalgic allure of Mank and Amanda Seyfried’s turn as the breezy but deceptively wry Marion Davies, actor and lover of William Randolph Hearst. Then there’s Olivia Colman. The fact she won only two years ago for The Favourite shouldn’t distract from how deeply felt, and elegantly expressed, her performance is as a woman facing her father’s slow decline in The Father. Yet again, this is a category where Minari should have made an appearance – specifically, veteran star Yuh-Jung Youn, who’s magnificent as a grandmother who defies expectations.

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

(AP)

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Jared Leto, The Little Things

Bill Murray, On the Rocks

Leslie Odom Jr, One Night in Miami

Will win: Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Should win: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Shoulda got a look-in: Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

The results here will likely come down to how infatuated the HFPA is with Sacha Baron Cohen’s work. They may simply reward him for Borat. Or they may want to recognise his malleability as an actor and highlight his performance as political activist Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7. Alternatively, they could hand the Golden Globe over to a very worthy candidate: Daniel Kaluuya, who captures both the immense charisma and sense of impending doom that followed Black Panther leader Fred Hampton wherever he went. He is the driving force of Shaka King’s powerful Judas and the Black Messiah. That said, it’s surprising not to see Paul Raci among the nominees. His work in Sound of Metal, as a deafened alcohol counselor, has been universally praised.

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