As we approach awards season peak, the defining films of the season come into focus. The movies which you claim to have seen or ‘have heard great things about’, or even bragged about how early you got to see it. This awards season sets to be defined by Mank, Nomadland and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Out of the nominees, there are some pleasant surprises. Some obvious choices. Then some real headscratchers.
The biggest headline to come from these nominations was the recognition of three female directors, when previously it was a rare miracle that a single female director was recognised. Having three meaningful and distinctive nominees marks a titanic leap forward. There were also some remarkable features from those female filmmakers not nominated, including First Cow, Saint Maud, and The Assistant, which you should definitely check out too.
Mulligan manages to convey both vulnerability and control, with a multifaceted, layered performance
Emerald Fennell is nominated for her audacious candy coloured, feminist revenge thriller Promising Young Woman. In an electrifying first feature, Fennell announces her arrival with a darkly comic, delicate balancing act of a woman on the edge. Men reaching a breaking point in films and television is nothing new (Breaking Bad, Joker, Falling Down etc.) but it is refreshing to see a female protagonist shown to finally take things into her own hands. Starring Carey Mulligan (who also deserves to win in the Best Actress category) the film follows a woman on a mission, as Mulligan manages to convey both vulnerability and control, with a multifaceted, layered performance. The movie is aided by a pop soundtrack and a timely, relevant story with numerous shocking twists and turns, Fennell’s writing is punchy, twisted, and cheeky. Pulling no punches on the ‘nice guys’, the film is a deliciously fresh take on revenge, and Mulligan’s Cassie Thomas is a heroine for the ages.
Regina King has also been nominated for her directorial debut. A powerful, timely study of forgotten African American figures, One Night in Miami shines a much-needed spotlight on a key moment in contemporary history and its often-overlooked figures including Sam Cooke, Cassius Clay and Jim Brown. King also takes on the challenge of adapting a play, and successfully transitions from stage to screen, ensuring the important themes are retained and seamlessly adding cinematic flourishes. Cracking with ideas and weighty ideas it offers insightful observations at a tipping point in American history. Filled with excellent performances, insightful dialogue and timely themes, One Night in Miami, illustrates that Regina King is just as talented behind the camera as she is in front of it.
All three features are examples of unique, bold filmmaking, with Zhao hotly tipped for awards glory
The third film is Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland – a poetic, subtle Americana tale of nomadic living and the continued devastating effects of the great recession of 2008. Featuring stunning cinematography, empathetic storytelling and bravo performances, Nomadland signals Zhao’s command of her craft, and she proves once again, after The Rider, that she excels at examining contemporary American life. Filmed in an almost documentarian style, Zhao delicately and intimately enters the nomad’s world with both a respect and affinity. It is a stunning portrait of the American west and it is as much an examination of Frances McDormand’s Fern as it is an examination of the American soul. Just like Fern, the movie takes you on a physical and emotional journey, which will leave you warm and yearning for adventure. All three features are examples of unique, bold filmmaking, with Zhao hotly tipped for awards glory.
In terms of the most scandalous snubs and omissions, there were no nominations for Spike Lee’s sensational war film Da 5 Bloods, which follows a group of African American soldiers returning to Vietnam to find the buried treasure that they left there 40 years ago. Using this as a setup to explore guilt, fatherhood, and the black experience both in the Vietnam war and in the present day, it is Spike’s most visceral and relevant work since Do the Right Thing, and Malcolm X. It is also the best Vietnam film since Platoon.
The Globes continue to shy away from sensitive subject matter with the omission of Never Rarely Sometimes Always
There was also very little love shown towards Judas and the Black Messiah, Shaka King’s electrifying debut following Fred Hampton and the man who infiltrates the Black Panther’s in the 1960’s. Whilst Daniel Kaluuya’s masterful take on Hampton was appreciated with a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, no attention was given to any other aspect of the film. Moreover, the Globes continue to shy away from sensitive subject matter with the omission of Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Sidney Flannigan’s sensitive, understated abortion drama highlighting the continued struggle of abortion access in the United States. Subtle, unobtrusive and gut-wrenching all in one, it was one of the year’s best and deserved recognition.
Apparently, shows which dared to challenge audiences were too much for the Golden Globes to stomach
In terms of television, the most glaring and shocking omission was I May Destroy You – Michaela Cole’s devastating, visually bold and daring exploration of sexual assault and its aftermath. The show challenged the viewer just as much as it did the titular Arabella. So, which show did receive a nomination? Well… um… Emily in Paris did. Now I’ll level with you. I didn’t watch Emily in Paris, but I watched the trailer and that told me all I needed to know. I have nothing against the show, but I can’t imagine it was as ground-breaking and innovative as I May Destroy You. Michaela Cole infused the show with an authenticity and honesty so rarely seen in media. Never before has a show been so open and intimate in its examination of trauma and recovery. Apparently, shows which dared to challenge audiences were too much for the Golden Globes to stomach as seen with the following snubs.
Watchmen was completely shut out. The series successfully using the Watchmen comics as a template to explore American race-relations, and as a result, was an astonishing mix of comic book antics and social commentary. Also starring Regina King, who proves herself as an acting tour de force as well as a director, the miniseries managed to explore racism both in the past and present, the police, hate groups, politics, vigilantism and personal identity. Political and intellectual without becoming inaccessible, the show seemed to pull off the impossible with its expansive, complex story and seismic scope.
These awards shows continue to struggle with both representation (in front of and behind the camera) and recognising challenging, daring work
Mrs America did receive a nomination for Cate Blanchett, but the show was utterly shutout of all other categories. This miniseries followed the women’s movement in the 1970s and the conservative backlash gaining momentum against them. Blanchett is masterful as Phyllis Schlafly (the pioneer of the anti-ERA movement), but no attention was given to Uzo Aduba’s sensational performance as Shirley Chisholm or Rose Byrne’s fresh take on Gloria Steinem. An expertly written historical biopic, the show highlights both the successes and faults of both movements whilst reminding the audience the feminist movement still has far to go. With a pitch-perfect ensemble cast, a funky 70’s soundtrack and brimming with a strong sense of purpose, this series is both a wickedly entertaining recount of past events and a loud call for action.
As per usual with these award nominations, there are clearly some glaring snubs, however there are also some downright offensive nominations such as James Corden for The Prom, and Glenn Close for Hillbilly Elegy. I am thrilled to see some atypical awards fare recognised such as Promising Young Woman, The Sound of Metal and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, but standard awards fodder continues to reign supreme. These awards shows continue to struggle with both representation (in front of and behind the camera) and recognising challenging, daring work.
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