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Best and Worst Moments at the 2021 Golden Globes

It was rough sailing for the HFPA, but a lineup of deserving and surprising winners helped.
  • Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Kenan Thompson at the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards. (Photo: NBC)
    Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Kenan Thompson at the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards. (Photo: NBC)

    Joe Reid isn't just Primetimer's managing editor. He's also an awards expert and one half of the popular podcast, This Had Oscar Buzz. So who better to do the post-mortem on last night's 78th Golden Globe Awards?

    The 2021 Golden Globes were always going to be an odd occurrence, with the pandemic-dictated virtual ceremony keeping almost everybody out of the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. But this year's Globes also took place under an unprecedented cloud of controversy. After the nominations were announced, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association faced a significant backlash for ignoring breakout critical hits like I May Destroy You and Da 5 Bloods. Then came the shameful revelation this past week — in a scathing L.A. Times report that detailed multiple instances of corruption within the HFPA — that there are no Black people among the organization's 87 voting members. Still, like the old Hollywood adage goes, the show must go on. And so on it went. So who were the night's big winners and losers?

    LOSERS: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

    This year's Globes reunited its most beloved hosting duo: Amy Poehler and Tina Fey's Globes gigs in 2013, 2014, and 2015 set expectations incredibly high. And complicating matters was the fact that the pandemic restrictions meant Poehler was hosting from the Beverly Hilton in L.A., while Fey had set up camp at the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center.

    The hope was that Tina and Amy's natural comedic gifts would help them overcome, and while they made a hell of an effort, it was too much to overcome. The opening monologue swayed uncomfortably between jabs at the HFPA , to jabs at the nominated films and shows themselves. The joke about French Exit being what you do after watching one episode of Emily in Paris, and calling out the Sia film Music as a "controversial floparooni" were funny in and of themselves, but they landed awkwardly in a room devoid of any of the celebrities the hosts were ribbing.

    That's because both the Beverly Hilton and the Rainbow Room were populated with masked and distanced first responders and essential workers, the Real Heroes who, because of the force majeure of our current national nightmare, get a seat at the rich kids' tables. It's a nice gesture until you realize, as Fey pointed out, they were there in person "so the celebrities can stay safely at home." All having an in-house audience of essential workers did was remind the at-home audience that, actually, nobody should be at the Beverly Hilton at all. It's certainly not worth risking your health to be in a cavernous room while the Hollywood Foreign Press tosses a rando Supporting Actress trophy to Jodie Foster, who's on Zoom with her wife and restless dog.

    Ultimately, the in-person Globes were summed up pretty well by Fey at the end of the monologue: "Could this whole night have been an email? Yes!"

    WINNER: Winners!

    Here's the thing about an awards show: you can be corrupt, you can have massive diversity blindspots, you can be condescending to "regular people," and you can have embarrassing technical snafus like muting the video feed from your very first winner of the night. But if you deliver a lineup of fun, deserving, and/or surprising awards, that goes a long way towards justifying your existence. So kudos to wins for Nomadland and director Chloe Zhao, to surprise winners Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) and Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian), to Supporting Actor winner Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), and to Best Foreign Language Film Minari for being a decent reminder that seeing good work get rewarded and/or being gobsmacked by a surprise win is why we're watching in the first place.

    WINNER: Weird Celeb Moments

    For as much as so many of the moments during the show felt vaguely dystopian in their attempts to recapture the glitz and glory of a world we've been without for so long, I have to shout out the attempts made to approximate the voyeuristic delight we viewers take in watching celebrities mingle between tables as the Globes telecast goes to commercial. Without any in-person interactions, we instead got Zoom breakout rooms between nominees and their category-mates. We even got to hear them this time, so honestly score one for the quarantine Globes. Other great moments we wouldn't have gotten at a traditional Globes: Sarah Paulson and Emma Corrin introducing their pets to each other; Minari director Lee Isaac Chung's daughter saying "I prayed!" when her dad won; and Jason Sudeikis and Don Cheadle having a laugh over Tracey Morgan presenting the Best Original Score award to "Sal" (Soul).

    LOSER: Bits

    I ended up losing the battle on whether the Golden Globes needs hosts, but I'll win the war on this: The Golden Globes do not need bits. Whether it was Kenan Thompson and Maya Rudolph — who are wonderful talents — wandering on stage as weird Euro award winners having a classic messy Globes moment or a pre-taped bit with celebrities trying to get vaccine appointments from health care workers, nothing really clicked. The better lesson in adding a little levity to the proceedings was to do what the show did with the wondrous Barb and Star (Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo), who went through some character business before presenting the category they rightly deserved to win: Best Comedy Film.

    WINNER: Speeches

    Two particular speeches really hit home tonight: the first was Jane Fonda accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award for her lifetime's worth of incredible achievement. True to her nature, Fonda's speech was poised, passionate, and politically attuned to the moment, making a clear and urgent case for diversity and inclusion as necessary to move their shared artform forward, all the while shouting out the films and performances that deserved it. The second was Taylor Simone Ledward accepting the Best Actor in a Drama award for her late husband Chadwick Boseman, a tearful and grateful speech that likely obliterated tear ducts nationwide.

    WINNER: The Crown

    The last time a TV drama swept all three categories at the Golden Globes was Homeland in 2012, but Netflix's The Crown repeated that feat, and in its fourth season besides. Last year's champ Olivia Colman didn't repeat her Best Actress win, but that's okay, because Emma Corrin was right there to reap the rewards for her acclaimed turn as Diana Spencer. And what was good for Diana was good for Charles, as Josh O'Connor took the Best Actor trophy, besting the likes of Al Pacino. Too bad the producers didn't let him bask in in for long, as they played the walk-off music under him, just as he was making a heartfelt plea for mental health awareness. Throw in a Gillian Anderson win in the Supporting Actress category for playing Margaret Thatcher and you've got a sweep for the ages.

    WINNER: Schitt's Creek

    Surprisingly, given the Golden Globes' tendency to reward the newest kid on the block, the now-departed Canadian comedy was the big winner among the nominated comedies. Apple TV+'s Ted Lasso was considered a top contender, but while Jason Sudeikis did take home the Best Actor trophy for his role as a fish-out-of-water soccer coach, Schitt's Creek was named Best Comedy and Catherine O'Hara was named Best Actress. In both cases, this was a repeat of September's Emmy Awards, something that rarely happens at the Globes. Making her second major remote acceptance speech, O'Hara's husband, the production designer Bo Welch, played her some wrap-up music from his phone just to help replicate the in-person awards experience.

    WINNER: The Queen's Gambit

    As expected, Netflix's crazy buzzy limited series The Queen's Gambit took home the awards for Best Miniseries or TV Movie and Best Actress in a Miniseries for its star, Anya Taylor-Joy. Not even the feature film sheen of Steve McQueen's Small Axe could topple the chess drama, although star John Boyega did take the Supporting Actor award for his performance in one of the five Small Axe films. In the other miniseries award, Mark Ruffalo repeated his Emmy win for HBO's I Know This Much Is True.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Golden Globe Awards, The Crown, The Queen's Gambit, Schitt's Creek, Amy Poehler, Anya Taylor-Joy, Catherine O'Hara, Emma Corrin, Gillian Anderson, Jane Fonda, Jason Sudeikis, Josh O'Connor, Tina Fey