Golden Globes takes heat for turning a blind eye to an epic year for African American Film and TV

Reading Twitter’s reaction to the Golden Globe nominations announced yesterday, a few takes stood out — things beyond the usual “What do those foreign-accented liquor distributors and diner-owners know about good film/TV?” criticism.

“I May Destroy You” was Twittered up as a singularly grievous omission from the TV nominations. “Racism” was the answer I saw fans and film folk involved in the show coming up with. That seems entirely within the realm of possibility.

But as cluttered as the TV/streaming scene is now, I’d almost cut them slack for that. Too many choices, a widely split voting bloc, it could slip through the cracks.

The best things I saw on TV last year included “Mrs. America,” “The Good Lord Bird,” and a couple of others I saw omitted or mostly-passed-over. And yet they went for Hulu’s gaudy, stumbling and drawn-out “The Great.” “Queen’s Gambit” was good, and certainly has the hype to warrant being nominated. Anya Taylor-Joy’s status as new Brit “IT girl” is secured.

“Ted Lasso?” Come now.

When you look at the head-scratching field for movies — best picture (drama and “musical or comedy” categories) — making the case that “racism” maybe did play a role in which members got around to watching and endorsing which films and shows gets even trickier.

A couple of acting nominations for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” for Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman, a Regina King “best director” nomination for “One Night in Miami…” a deserved Daniel Kaluuya nod for actor in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” an out-of-the-blue nomination for Andra Day in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” all point to an electorate that at least got to all the pertinent African American films of last year.

Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” pushed by critics’ groups and the American Film Institute, was left out and I thought deservedly so. It’s like the fifth best African American-directed feature of the year and a huge “Treasure of Sierra Madre” sized fall-off from the heights of “BlackKklansman.”

But I would have surely thought “Ma Rainey” would earn a best picture nod, and maybe one for “Judas and the Black Messiah.” George Wolfe’s directing expertise was a great boost to “Ma Rainey.” Ms. King’s directing debut (“Miami”) struck me as pedestrian in comparison.

Looking at the playing field, unsettled with the collapse of theatrical exhibition during the pandemic, the Hollywood Foreign Press was facing a daunting task, getting to hundreds of streaming film titles and hundreds more new series.

Netflix’s “Mank” got more than its share of attention — FAR more than it deserved, in my opinion.

But when you remember “Emma.,” got around to considering the formidable “Pieces of a Woman” (Vanessa Kirby got an actress nomination), gave “Nomadland” its due and singled out Carey Mulligan and her movie, “Promising Young Woman,” you’re skating on the creme de la creme. Defensible choices, selected by allegedly secret ballot, all up and down the line.

Lee’s movie and its cast were passed over. But Hulu’s “U.S. vs. Billie Holiday” seemed an awards season outlier, until now. The Globes giveth and taketh…

Also, while I would’ve leaned more heavily into “Ma Rainey” than “Mank,” the “snubs” seem a lot less egregious when you consider how scattered the hype and “momentum” of this year’s “awards season” contenders was going to be, with a global pandemic altering everything from release schedules and buzz, and muzzling the over-ballyhooed pre-Oscars awards buzz.

AFI’s list, the deservedly-lost in the shuffle NY critics and National Board of Review and Gotham hype, little of that seems to be having its usual impact. Maybe we’re headed towards a more surprising Oscar field and Oscar night than usual.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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