In a year unlike any other for film and television, filmmakers, actors and crew members nevertheless persisted to get their work out in time to contend for the 2021 Golden Globes. No one was sure what the award ceremonies would look like, but now they know: sketchy comedy, Zoom acceptance speeches and predictable controversy.
The Globes aired the evening of Feb. 28, and hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — tuning in from opposite ends of the country — made short work of addressing the most pressing controversy. Both women called out the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which constitutes the voting body for the Golden Globes, for having zero representation of Black journalists within its 87 members.
The HFPA attempted to assuage critics with a trite speech, given by HFPA president Ali Sar, vice president Helen Hoehne and board chair member Meher Tatna, best summed up by the phrase “too little, too late.”
Following the ceremony, Tina Tchen, the president and CEO of the charity Time’s Up, sent a statement to the HFPA which — amongst other criticisms — stated: “The problems with the HFPA cannot be addressed simply by a search for new members who meet your self-declared membership criteria. That criteria reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of the problems at hand.”
The Time’s Up organization was created in 2018 by a group of Hollywood celebrities in response to the growing awareness of sexual violence in the industry and since then has continued to fight for safety and equity in the workplace. Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay, a prominent member of the movement, tweeted out on Sunday night in an attempt to get the hashtag #TimesUpGlobes trending on Twitter.
The lack of representation in the HFPA was reflected in the apparent lack of nominations in the Best Picture — Drama category for critical hits like Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah,” Regina King’s “One Night in Miami” and George C. Wolfe’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
Another point of contention in the ceremony, but also celebration, was in the Best Director category. The HFPA has only nominated eight women in the category in 78 years, and a record-breaking three were nominated for this year’s award: Chloé Zhao for “Nomadland,” Regina King for “One Night in Miami” and Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman.”
In a glass ceiling-shattering moment, Zhao won the award, becoming the second woman to do so after Barbra Streisand won the award for “Yentl” in 1984. Zhao is also the first Asian woman to win the award and the second Asian filmmaker to ever win after Ang Lee won in 2001 and 2006 for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Brokeback Mountain,” respectively.
Zhao also graciously accepted the Globe for Best Picture in the final highlight of the night, causing David Fincher to take another shot as his film “Mank” lost the sixth straight category for which it was nominated.
The longest-lasting controversy for this year’s affairs started back in December when the nominations were announced. The U.S.-produced “Minari” was declared ineligible for the category of Best Picture and instead was relegated to the Best Foreign Language Film nomination.
To be explicitly clear, there is nothing “foreign” about a film that explores the life of a Korean American family pursuing their hopes and dreams after moving from California to Arkansas. Writer and director Lee Isaac Chung created the semi-biographical film after being raised as a first generation American. The film was even financed and distributed by United States companies Plan B and indie darling A24.
It all boils down to an antiquated “50% rule,” which requires that a film be spoken in English for at least half of the runtime in order to qualify outside of the Best Foreign Language Film category. Korean is spoken for the majority of “Minari,” which was cited as the reason for its categorization.
Scott Feinberg, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, said that from 2006 to 2009 films with a majority of their financing and creative input from the United States “wouldn’t be allowed to compete in the foreign language category in order to save spots for productions without ties to America.”
If that rule were still in place, “Minari'' would have been in the Best Picture — Drama category and could’ve had a shot to take the most coveted award of the night. Fortunately, the team didn’t walk away empty-handed, and in one of the cutest moments of the night Chung accepted the win for Best Foreign Language Film with his young daughter on his knee.
Addressing the controversy in his acceptance speech, Chung said: “It goes deeper than any American language and any foreign language. It’s a language of the heart, and I’m trying to learn it myself to pass it on. I hope we’ll all learn how to speak this language of love to each other, especially this year.”
Shelby Kleinhans is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99