If you are an awards pundit looking to past habits to predict the trajectory of this awards season, think again. All bets are off as we are clearly, and rather obviously, in uncharted territory when trying to assess how voters, particularly the early ones at SAG and the Golden Globes will be leaning. Although on the TV side of things, which both groups celebrate in addition to the current Oscar season for movies, the big question will be how influential September’s pandemic-affected Emmy telecast will actually be? As for the way the winds are blowing on the movie side, that is really where all bets are off this year.
Let’s start with that because if anyone can tell you who is leading the Oscar race in this craziest of crazy years, they will first have to realize that all roads must probably go through SAG and the Golden Globes. Covid-19 has ripped a hole through a season which has seen numerous projects sidelined and moved to next year, leaving the field largely to streamers flooding the race with one hopeful after another, along with a few stragglers from the studios. How this affects the race is anyone’s guess, but it could mean the playing field is really levelled to a degree it never has been before.
The 2021 Movie Awards Season Outlook: Weird-Case Scenarios Will Sweep All Categories
Both the Globes and SAG have proven in the past they often have the Midas touch in predicting, maybe even influencing, the direction of Oscar voters. In terms of timing, both SAG and the Globes followed Oscar’s lead in extending their eligibility periods to the end of February, as did BAFTA, Critics Choice and all the major guilds, so some late-breaking contenders may factor.
That said, this year could finally be the one that sees Netflix take the crown (and not just that much-talked-about British TV Series). The premier streamer is aggressively on the hunt for gold, and appears to be throwing every one of their best bets against the wall to see what sticks with voters, like the lavishly campaigned-to Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which will be handing out their Golden Globes on February 28, and SAG voters, whose televised show is also nearly two months later than usual this year on Sunday March 14 ( and now being forced to compete against the Grammys after Covid fears have pushed music’s biggest night to that same date).
The Globes NBC airdate could be particularly significant, since Oscar nomination voting will not even start until almost a week later on March 5, with ballots due on March 10. SAG nominations will also be a factor, even if final winners there will come in just one night before Oscar nominations are announced on March 15.
So, with so much on the line, who is out front at this point at SAG and the Golden Globes?
Since the Globes split their Best Film and lead acting categories between Drama and Comedy/Musical there will again be a wider field to look at. For the marquee Best Motion Picture Drama, Netflix has Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Globe favorite George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky in the pole positions for one of those five Drama slots (although the latter got I believe unfairly dinged by some critics), with longer shots at this point being Spike Lee’s earlier entry Da 5 Bloods, Ron Howard’s popular but critically-unacclaimed Hillbilly Elegy, and perhaps late breaker Malcolm & Marie, a black and white two hander featuring John David Washington and Zendaya in what is basically a two hour argument with each other that just might be catnip for the SAG actor voters. Netflix also has the devastating drama Pieces of a Woman for which star Vanessa Kirby took the Actress Silver Lion at Venice, and also features an awards-ready monologue from 88 year old Ellen Burstyn that is one for the ages. It likely will figure for those performances. Netflix is offering its Italian language beauty, The Life Ahead for the foreign language category at the Globes, and could figure heavily at Globes and SAG with its 86 year old legendary star Sophia Loren for her moving portrayal of Madame Rosa.
Rival Amazon’s One Night in Miami from director Regina King is the Bezos studio’s biggest bet and has been successful on the fest go-round, and Sound Of Metal or I’m Your Woman with a fine Rachel Brosnahan will also factor into their campaigns. Sony Pictures Classics will be pushing hard for the dementia drama The Father, while frequent awards champ Searchlight puts all their eggs in early fall fest critical favorite, Nomadland, which has been dominant on the circuit since winning Venice, and seems certain for one of those slots. A24 has the minimalist First Cow, but its best shot at Globes is with the Korean/American Sundance winner, Minari (albeit in the Foreign Film category due to it large amount of Korean dialogue). Meanwhile, newbie Apple will be heavily pushing the Feb 26 release of the Russo Brothers’ ’70s-style epic drama Cherry and probably their expensive pickup from Sony with Tom Hanks, the WWII action drama Greyhound. The studio presence is record-thin, but Warners’ Christopher Nolan thriller Tenet from late summer hopefully will not be ignored even though many were confused by its intricate plotting. That studio also has two very worthy entries with Judas and the Black Messiah featuring a career-best lead performance by Lakeith Stanfield, and John Lee Hancock’s brilliant thriller The Little Things with superb performances from three, count ’em, three Oscar winners – Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto.
From pre-lockdown look for Ben Affleck gaining renewed steam for his very fine work as an alcoholic high school basketball coach in Warners’ The Way Back. Also pre-lockdown Universal should remind voters of how great Elisabeth Moss is in The Invisible Man, and their Christmas Day release of Paul Greengrass’ sublime western, News of The World (again starring Tom Hanks) could actually turn out to be the one great hope for the majors. It is moviemaking on a high scale. Paramount is handing off their Lee Daniels-directed drama The United States Vs Billie Holiday to Hulu and it is just starting to be screened, and STX’s late breaking The Mauritanian with Jodie Foster are both question marks right now until they are more widely seen. NEON’s Ammonite may have a tougher time breaking through, but could have its strongest appeal with the HFPA. Solstice, another new distrib, will try to break in with Mark Wahlberg’s Joe Bell. Focus Features has a couple of Sundance favorites, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, and Promising Young Woman, the latter really a dark comedy but moved by HFPA from that category to Drama instead. Guess they didn’t get the joke. Wherever it may land this season star Carey Mulligan is a certainty for an acting nod.
And speaking of the Comedy/Musical front, Netflix’s Ryan Murphy adaptation of Broadway’s dazzling musical The Prom with its all-star cast led by Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman just screams Globes, and that could include several nods for its cast members too. The strongest competitor is Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, with the incomparable Sacha Baron Cohen, who took a Globe for Borat in 2007. Apple/A24 has Sofia Coppola’s delightful On the Rocks, with a good chance for its stars, Bill Murray and Rashida Jones too, while Hulu/NEON will be pushing their Sundance sensation Palm Springs. Sony Classics has the quirky French Exit with an exquisite Michelle Pfeiffer back in top form, and Searchlight has The Personal History of David Copperfield with Dev Patel, first seen at Toronto 2019, while mother Disney is weirdly pushing the filmed version of a Hamilton broadway performance as a theatrical movie at the Globes, but a TV entry elsewhere (go figure). HBO Max could score a first ever nomination for Let Them All Talk, which might have its best shot in supporting for Candice Bergen, since star Meryl Streep is more likely for The Prom. Bleecker Street’s Irish charmer Wild Mountain Thyme could have appeal for the foreign press, even if some critics (certainly not me) were underwhelmed. Focus has a possibility with their period comedy Emma. Netflix has yet another late breaker in its Virtual TIFF pickup, the dark comedy thriller I Care a Lot, that likely will land attention in this category for Rosamund Pike, and maybe at SAG too if it can get seen widely in time. It is wickedly entertaining and Pike is just great in it (as she also is in Amazon’s Radioactive).
On the TV side, SAG usually lags behind the Emmys, while the Globes tend to get in front of what could end up being Emmy candidates. With that in mind, expect HBO’s buzzy Lovecraft Country and its stars Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett to score at the Globes, along with Sarah Paulson as the title character in Netflix’s Ratched. Other newbies for Drama Series are HBO’s Perry Mason and its star Matthew Rhys, along with that same cable giant’s We Are Who We Are, and Industry making possible inroads into awards glory through the Globes’ desire to be hip to the new. Of course, at both SAG and Globes, faves like The Crown, Ozark, and The Mandalorian are likely to find love, with an outsider’s chance for The Outsider, and even ABC’s midseason ratings hit Big Sky. SAG is likely to also look to older titles like NBC’s venerable This Is Us, and the Emmy-snubbed cast members of Better Call Saul, since the guild likes to repeat its nominees once they join the club.
On the Comedy series front, Emmy love for the final season of Schitt’s Creek, plus nominees like Ramy (a past Globe winner for its star), What We Do in the Shadows, Insecure, Dead to Me, and the final season of Globe home network NBC’s The Good Place, seem like good bets at both SAG and the Globes. The latter will likely make a big deal about Apple’s newbie, Ted Lasso and its star Jason Sudeikis, Kaley Cuoco in HBO Max’s watercooler hit The Flight Attendant, and maybe such fresh possibilities as The Great, Pen15, Never Have I Ever, and Darren Star’s Emily in Paris. Still, expect Schitt’s Creek to be the “schitt” at SAG for sure and likely with the HFPA too.
In the Limited Series/Movie lineups, Emmy nominees like Unorthodox, Mrs. America, Little Fires Everywhere, I Know This Much is True (at least for Emmy-winning star Mark Ruffalo), and Normal People will land at Globes, SAG, or both in various races, but I expect post-Emmy new entries in the TV-verse to hugely dominate these Limited Series races, making frontrunners out of the buzzy The Undoing from HBO with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, and the beloved Netflixer, Queen’s Gambit and its star Anya Taylor-Joy (also making waves on the movie side in Emma) eating up most of the attention. Showtime’s The Comey Rule, with sterling work from Jeff Daniels and Brendan Gleeson (as Trump), as well as their new intense hit, Your Honor with Bryan Cranston, could be potential players, as well as Jude Law in HBO’s creepy thriller The Third Day, along with Hugh Jackman in their Emmy-winning Bad Education. FX could factor with the return of Fargo and new star Chris Rock. Don’t discount Ethan Hawke’s The Good Lord Bird, Steve McQueen’s five-part Amazon group of films Small Axe (which actually won the top theatrical movie prize (!) at the LA Film Critics even though McQueen made it as a limited series, or Michaela Coel’s critically acclaimed I May Destroy You—all in the mix in a category of talked-about entries that may be the year’s strongest at SAG and the Globes in either television or theatrical movies.
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