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Golden Globes 2021: What to Watch For

LOS ANGELES — “Mank,” David Fincher’s black-and-white tale of Old Hollywood, is nominated for six trophies at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards, the most of any film. It has been available for viewing on Netflix since Dec. 4.

Seen it yet?

That’s OK. Neither have a lot of people in Hollywood.

What about “The Father,” about the devastation of dementia? It is a contender for best drama and three other prizes. Or perhaps “The Mauritanian,” set at Guantánamo and vying for two Globes in acting categories? Or the twice-nominated “Judas and the Black Messiah,” about Black political radicals in the 1960s? It actually received a national release in theaters (about 1,900 of the operating ones) this month.

Seen any of them?

Well, I don’t know what to tell you. Pretend like you have at least heard of a couple.

In a year when almost all of the nominated films have bypassed theaters because of the pandemic, the Globes — the biggest-tent awards show there is, given its dual focus on film and television — may feel rather small. Nominees have struggled to get noticed. For many people, including some in Hollywood, it is hard to care about little golden thingamabobs at a time when the coronavirus is still killing roughly 2,000 Americans on most days.

“The stakes have never been lower,” Tina Fey, returning to host the ceremony with Amy Poehler, has been saying in deadpan Globe ads.

Who said nobody in Hollywood is honest? Here are some other things to consider before the ceremony begins on Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern:

The traditional engine of the Golden Globes, a colossal red carpet, will not exist this time around. The honorees will all be at home. (Accepting trophies from mansions and luxury hotel rooms, tonally fine. Preening for hours for photographers while draped in diamonds and couture gowns, apparently not.) Fey will host the Globes from the Rainbow Room in New York, with Poehler stationed at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. A smattering of frontline and essential workers have been invited to attend in person, but the usual ostentatious supper has been scuppered.

Certainly not helping matters, the 78th Golden Globes arrive amid a renewed sense that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the scandal-prone group that bestows the awards, needs a dramatic overhaul. The 80-some voting members have long been painted as out of touch and faintly corrupt, including by their own hosts; Ricky Gervais referred to them as “vegetables” during last year’s live broadcast. But recent news reports have revealed brutal infighting and a questionable fixation on compensation.

The group has no Black members, The Los Angeles Times discovered.

But the awards machinery must grind on: Too much money is at stake. NBC pays $60 million a year for broadcast rights. Studios and streaming services will spend millions of dollars to publicize Globe wins, in part because balloting for the more prestigious Academy Awards begins on Friday. (Oscar nominees will be announced on March 15. The Oscars ceremony, delayed because of the pandemic, will take place on April 25.)

If nothing else, Nielsen ratings for this most unusual Globes telecast will help set expectations for the pandemic-retrofitted Academy Awards. The Globes attracted about 18.3 million total viewers last year, when “1917” and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” collected the top movie prizes and Billy Porter caused an online traffic jam by wearing his version of the Bjork swan dress. In contrast, when the Globes became a humdrum news conference in 2008 because of a screenwriter’s strike, only 5.8 million people tuned in.

In other words, razzmatazz matters.

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