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Golden Globes overshadowed by ethics controversy and criticism over lack of diversity

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Benjamin Lee
·4-min read
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<span>Photograph: John Shearer/Invision/AP</span>
Photograph: John Shearer/Invision/AP

An unusual awards season kicks off this weekend with the delayed Golden Globes, a ceremony that’s long been the butt of many an industry joke but this year, its standing has gone from bad to worse after a flood of controversy.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of 87 international journalists who vote on the awards, has come under fire after the Los Angeles Times published two damning exposes on both the questionable credentials of members and the ease at which they are reportedly courted by studios. The non-profit organisation has been accused of “ethical lapses” with members reportedly flown to Paris in support of Netflix comedy Emily in Paris, which received two nominations, while also being paid nearly $2m by the group between 2019 and 2020.

Related: Golden Globes 2021: who will win – and who should win – the TV categories

The lack of diversity (there isn’t a single black member) has also been criticised in a year when a number of black performances, films and shows have been ignored. Michaela Coel’s universally acclaimed drama I May Destroy You failed to secure a single nomination while One Night in Miami, Judas and the Black Messiah, Da 5 Bloods and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom were all ignored in the best picture category.

“That I May Destroy You did not get one Golden Globe nod is not only wrong, it’s what is wrong with everything,” wrote Deborah Copaken, a writer for Emily in Paris. “How anyone can watch I May Destroy You and not call it a brilliant work of art or Michaela Coel a genius is beyond my capacity to understand how these decisions are made.”

On Thursday, the HFPA released a statement responding to criticism. “We understand that we need to bring in black members, as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible,” it read.

The LA Times investigation comes soon after a lawsuit was filed against the HFPA by Norwegian journalist Kjersti Flaa, who was denied membership and accused them of a “culture of corruption” with members accepting “thousands of dollars in emoluments” from studios and celebrities. The suit was dismissed by a judge, partly because Flaa couldn’t prove any economic or professional hardship as a result.

The HFPA’s lead lawyer called it “a transparent attempt to shake down the HFPA based on jealousy, not merit.”

Sunday’s ceremony itself will be yet another combination of the physical and the virtual, with Covid-19 safety precautions requiring all nominees to stay at home. The HFPA has also warned against any unsupervised gatherings with California this week becoming the first US state to cross 50,000 virus-related deaths.

The night will be hosted by Tina Fey in New York and Amy Poehler in Los Angeles with presenters, including Kristen Wiig and Joaquin Phoenix, appearing in person following strict protocols. “It’s full-on weird,” Poehler said to the New York Times. “And we’re hoping that the weirdness, which people are unfortunately used to at this point, will translate into something fun and interesting.”

Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey&#x002019;s Black Bottom.
Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Photograph: David Lee/AP

The film field is led by David Fincher’s Mank, an ode to old Hollywood made for Netflix, including a best actor in a drama nomination for star Gary Oldman, who previously referred to the Globes as “fucking ridiculous” and “90 nobodies having a wank”.

Oldman is predicted to lose out to Chadwick Boseman, for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Boseman died in 2020 from colon cancer and his two final performances, in Rainey and Da 5 Bloods, have so far won him 20 posthumous awards with more on the way.

It could well be a big night for British talent, after last year saw Fleabag, Chernobyl and 1917 win big, with Carey Mulligan primed to pick up the best actress in a drama prize for her role in fiery rape revenge thriller Promising Young Woman, Daniel Kaluuya set to be named best supporting actor for Black Panthers biopic Judas and the Black Messiah and Sacha Baron Cohen favourite to win best actor in a comedy for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.

Within the TV categories, it’s likely to be a strong showing for Netflix’s chess drama The Queen’s Gambit and star Anya Taylor-Joy while the recent seasons of The Crown and Schitt’s Creek should also perform well.

While the lack of racial diversity has come under fire, the nominations did break new ground for female film-makers with a record three women nominated for best director: Regina King for One Night in Miami, Chloe Zhao for Nomadland and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman. Only five female directors have ever been nominated in the Globes’ 78 year history

The ceremony comes just a week before voting begins for this year’s Oscars, which will take place on 25 April.