Just take a look at Twitter and you’ll find a combination of celebration and ritual draggings (some of it from yours truly) of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and its questionable choices for nominees in a year that has seen a global pandemic, a Black Lives Matter movement and a reckoning for all industries — especially Hollywood — when it comes to representation and equality for those in the margins.
The Television Academy and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have made concerted efforts to be more inclusive and to bolster diversity with their voters and what they nominate for their annual awards ceremonies. Based on today’s Golden Globe nominations, it just doesn’t quite feel like the HFPA is aligning with them. Case in point: Of the 10 films nominated in the Best Picture categories, none center on a narrative about a person of color or an underrepresented community. Of course, there is Hamilton, a narrative traditionally told through a white lens that Lin-Manuel Miranda disrupted by telling it with people of color. Then there is Sia’s problematic Music, which could have been an opportunity for representation but a huge can of worms was spilled after she was accused of ableism after casting Maddie Ziegler in the role of an autistic girl.
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The Golden Globes usually kick off awards season and the elusive HFPA’s history with its nominations has been — how should I put this — problematic for many. It’s usually a random hodgepodge of nominees that don’t necessarily dictate the Oscars or guild awards. Sure, the HFPA throws great parties and everyone has fun at the ceremony, but the Golden Globes has become increasingly baffling with the choices it has made…especially this year.
Don’t get it twisted… I recognize the diversity in this year’s nominations. It’s great that there are three female directors — two of them women of color — who were nominated in the directing category. I celebrate that. We also see a peppering of people of color in the feature categories and a scant amount of BIPOC nods in the TV acting categories. However, with the amount of content from people of color and other underrepresented communities that has come out within the past year, it’s hard to believe that the HFPA has overlooked and ignored so many great performances and projects. Based on these nominations, the HFPA is telling us that a show like Emily In Paris eclipses I May Destroy You. Something doesn’t add up there.
One could argue that “awards shows don’t mean anything” — but they do. They are supposed to be representative of the best of the best in Hollywood and, in turn, a reflection of the world. If we go by the Golden Globe nominations, it’s wildly Eurocentric with a pinch of inclusive stories created by diverse people. The Golden Globes is one of the biggest awards shows in Hollywood, so it has a certain level of significance, but more and more people are having a difficult time taking it seriously.
It’s not to say that the nominees aren’t worthy of their place in this year’s ceremony. Everyone is talented and has something to bring to the table, but HFPA’s scope of what is worthy of being nominated seems limited. The 80-something-member organization has a lot of blind spots and they need to address them.
This could have all been predicted when Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari was put in the Globes’ foreign language category. I get it. There are rules that the HFPA must follow. However, Minari is a very American film. It tells the story of the American Dream. It’s baked into its DNA. Still, the rules of the Golden Globes state that “any film with at least 50% of non-English dialogue goes into the Foreign Language category. Motion picture dramas, musicals or comedies with 50% or more English dialogue are eligible for the Best Motion Picture – Drama or Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy awards.” Also, there’s the strategy of it all. Perhaps Minari had a better chance of winning Best Foreign Language than Best Motion Picture. I would argue that it could win both. Maybe it’s time to change these rules.
There’s something to be said about the blatant lack of nominations for Black film and TV series. Yes, we have Viola Davis, Andra Day, Chadwick Boseman, Don Cheadle, John Boyega and Regina King in the running, but these nominations seem like checkboxes for the HFPA. They nominated Lovecraft Country for Best Television Series – Drama but not a single actor from the HBO series was recognized. From Jurnee Smollett to Jonathan Majors to the illustrious Michael K. Williams, each showed up and showed out on the socially-minded sci-fi fantasy yet they don’t deserve a nomination alongside Olivia Colman and Jason Bateman? There’s something wrong there.
Let’s not forget about Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, where Delroy Lindo commanded the screen alongside Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr as well as the aforementioned Majors and Boseman. In addition, Sam Levinson’s riveting Malcolm & Marie — a feat in pandemic filmmaking — featured Zendaya and John David Washington like we have never seen them. Yet, there was zero love for them on all fronts.
Daniel Kaluuya received a well-deserved nomination for Judas and the Black Messiah, but his co-stars LaKeith Stanfield and Dominique Fishback were ignored for their incredible performances, and director Shaka King was also overlooked. Regina King’s One Night In Miami saw a nomination for Leslie Odom Jr. but no Golden Globes shine for the amazing performances delivered by Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree and Aldis Hodge. Were they only allowed to have one?
Radha Blank could have also been a contender for acting, directing and writing for The Forty-Year-Old Version yet there were crickets. There’s also Colman Domingo in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Nicole Beharie in Miss Juneteenth, the cast and creators of P-Valley, Issa Rae’s Insecure and of course, Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You. The snub of the groundbreaking HBO dark comedy has left many livid… can you blame them? It’s one of the best TV series in the past two decades.
Let me circle back to Minari. With a petty grin directed at the HFPA, I applaud its nomination for Best Foreign Language film — but what about Steven Yeun’s moving performance? Or even Yeri Han’s? Or Youn Yuh-jung’s? Or Alan Kim’s? Or even the entire cast for that matter? Vida and One Day at a Time could have easily represented the Latinx community and Little America provided a wealth of diverse nominations that the HFPA decided to push aside. And how are you going to nominate Riz Ahmed for Best Actor but totally ignore Sound of Metal on all the other fronts? There’s also Lingua Franca, The Half of It, First Cow, Never Have I Ever and more films that could have easily sat next to some of these nominees. Maybe the HFPA should take a look at the Independent Spirit Awards to see what a list of nominees should really look like.
I’m sure the HFPA is filled with great people — but what is the ethnic breakdown and what publications do they represent? That might help explain this offbeat mosaic of nominees and their lack of inclusivity.
The HFPA remains a mystery in how they function and the choices they make. Their nominations are always unpredictable. At times, unpredictability can offer a pleasant surprise but, like an earthquake, it can also make a mess. Based on today’s nominations, the HFPA seems disconnected and not engaged with audiences or the changing landscape of TV and film. Maybe it’s time for them to sit down and re-evaluate what they represent.