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The Biggest Snubs and Surprises of the 2021 Golden Globe Nominations

We break down the most stunning surprises of the nominations — from shutouts for Da 5 Bloods, Malcolm & Marie, I May Destroy You, and Fargo to nominations for Billie Holiday biopic star Andra Day and Promising Young Woman.

by | February 3, 2021 | Comments

One Night in Miami cast

(Photo by ©Searchlight Pictures)

Joel Meares, Debbie Day, and Jean Bentley contributed to this report

The 78th annual Golden Globe Awards nominations announced Wednesday morning held some snubs and surprises that stunned us and many industry watchers.

While we feel pretty good about the accuracy of most of our predictions, nominations for Ratched and Emily In Paris came as a surprise, and the overall snubs of Mrs. America (aside from Cate Blanchett’s acting nomination) and I May Destroy You seem almost unforgivable.

On the film side, the big story is Promising Young Woman, which had a… well, promising start to awards season, picking up four nominations, including Best Director for Emerald Fennell. For the first time, men are in the minority in the director category, and there are two debut directors (Fennell and Regina King for One Night in Miami) for the first time in the category.

Overall it was the surprises that had us pinned in our seats more than the snubs, with actors like Jared Leto and Kate Hudson seemingly coming from nowhere to earn nominations.

Despite some big nominations in acting fields for film and for best director, the biggest surprise of all was once-again scant representation of Black talent and titles among the nominees. Films with predominantly Black ensemble casts, including Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Judas and the Black Messiah, and One Night in Miami between them had seven nominations overall and not one made it into the the best drama picture category; compare that to the six total received by top-nominated film Mank. Fargo season 4’s Chris Rock, Ramy supporting actor Mahershala Ali, and I May Destroy You’s Michaela Coel were all left out, and those series have only one nomination (for Ramy Youssef) between them.

The Golden Globe Awards are voted on by about 90 HFPA members; the organization clearly has to do better about representation in the awards if it wants the Golden Globes to remain a relevant measure of entertainment quality.

Check out our pick of the biggest Golden Globe nomination snubs and surprises below – and let us know yours in the comments.

Film Snubs and Surprises | TV Snubs and Surprises


FILM


SURPRISE: Emerald Fennell and Carey Mulligan Nominated for

Promising Young Woman

(Photo by © Focus Features)

This dark comedy/thriller – we’re still not sure exactly how to categorize it – always stood a chance of making a dent in the nominations this year, particularly with Carey Mulligan an outside chance for a nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. But few had writer-director Emerald Fennell – best known as showrunner of Killing Eve season 2 and for portraying Camilla Parker Bowles on the last two seasons of The Crown – and her debut film as their picks for many other categories. And yet, on nominations morning Promising Young Woman came out one of the biggest winners of the day with four nominations: For Mulligan, for Best Motion Picture – Drama, and for Fennell for Best Director and Best Screenplay.


SNUB: Spike Lee and Delroy Lindo Miss Out for

Da 5 Bloods

(Photo by © Netflix)

With Promising Young Woman edging its way into the directing and drama categories, the space for other contenders in those groupings narrowed – and it seems Spike Lee and his critically acclaimed Vietnam epic Da 5 Bloods was one of those squeezed out. We had picked Lee as one of our five predictions in the Best Director category going into Wednesday morning, but the veteran filmmaker was left in the cold, along with the film’s star, Delroy Lindo, who had been singled out as an early awards favorite as far back as May.


SURPRISE(ISH): Sacha Baron Cohen Is a Double Nominee

Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm

(Photo by © Amazon)

Okay, so this wasn’t exactly a jaw-on-the-floor shocker – pundits had predicted Cohen could come out of the morning a double nominee for lead actor (comedy) for his Borat sequel and supporting actor for his work as activist Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of Chicago 7. (Yep, you read that right: Those in-the-know were predicting big awards power for Borat Subsequent MovieFilm.) Still, any double acting nomination is worth singling out, especially when one of those nods comes for playing a character as outrageous as his Kazakhstani provocateur. This is a dual nomination we liiiikkkkee.


SNUB: The Cast of

Steven Yeun and Alan S. Kim in Minari

(Photo by Melissa Lukenbaugh/©A24)

Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari – currently Certified Fresh at 99% on the Tomatometer – was subject of some controversy when it was announced it would be competing in the Foreign Language category, not for Drama, despite being an American film. The movie picked up a nomination in its eligible category, but anyone hoping for recognition elsewhere would be disappointed. Star Steven Yeun had a real shot for some Best Actor love for his portrayal of a Korean immigrant building his dream farm in the South as his wife and children lose faith, as did veteran Korean actress, Youn Yuh-jung, who plays the family’s grandmother.


SURPRISE: Two Noms for Sia’s

Until this morning, pop star Sia’s directing debut, Music, was best known for an Internet-breaking casting controversy and the filmmaker’s eyebrow-raising public responses to it. And the movie certainly wasn’t on many pundits’ radars leading into nominations morning. (To be fair, it hasn’t widely screened in the U.S., and a handful of reviews from Australia, where it opened in theaters, have it at 29% Rotten on the Tomatometer). So, color us very surprised when it was announced the film would not only be competing for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, but that its star, Kate Hudson, is up for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy. Good news for Sia was bad news for On the Rocks, which missed out on a best musical or comedy nod, and for Meryl Streep and Cristin Milioti, who we had picked in the acting category over Hudson and Rosamund Pike, who also earned recognition for her excellent turn in Netflix’s I Care A Lot.


SNUB: Meryl Streep in

The Prom

(Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix)

We’ve already covered this in our paragraph about the surprise nods for Music, but it bears repeating: THEY SNUBBED MERYL.


SURPRISE: Jared Leto Might Win Big For 

The Little Things

(Photo by Nicola Goode / © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection)

Perhaps we shouldn’t be as surprised as we are by this one. For starters, he’s Jared Leto – and the HFPA likes his work, as evidenced by his previous win in 2014 for Dallas Buyers Club. (It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a superstar, and the HFPA loves having as many of those on the red carpet each year as possible – virtual or otherwise.) On top of that, while John Lee Hancock’s old-school serial killer drama hasn’t been a hit with critics, it has a Fresh Audience Score and is sitting at the top of the box office as we write these words. And Leto has been singled out among the movie’s cast of Oscar winners – Malek! Washington! – for an effectively creepy performance as a repairman and suspect.


SURPRISE: Tahar Rahim Enters the Chat with

Reviews for Kevin Maconald’s The Mauritanian, which tells the story of a Guantanimo Bay prisoner’s fight for freedom after being detained without charges, have been heralding Rahim’s performance as one to watch. Yet most of the pundits – including us – thought the movie’s strongest chance for a nod was for co-star Jodie Foster in the supporting actress category (and she did come through there). If you want to study up on Rahim’s work – and you should, as we think he might go some distance this awards season – check out his star turn in French gangster flick, The Prophet.

SNUB: Zendaya Misses Out for

Critics are split on Sam Levinson’s talky and stylish two-hander about a filmmaker, his girlfriend, and a night-long argument that will define their future. (Little surprise there, given much of their discussion focuses on bad film criticism.) But all seemed to agree that Zendaya was transcendent as actress and recovered addict Marie. And yet she was nowhere to be seen when the nominations for best actress in a drama were announced. While her team-up with Levinson on HBO’s Euphoria gave her an Emmy win last year, she will go statue-less for Malcolm and Marie… for now.

SURPRISE: Andra Day Picks Up Nom for

United States Vs. Billie Holiday

(Photo by Takashi Seida / © Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection)

Singer and actress Zendaya’s loss turned out to be singer and actress Andra Day’s gain, with the latter earning a nomination for Best Performance by an Actress In A Motion Picture – Drama. Day stars in The United States Vs. Billie Holiday as the iconic jazz musician, and the movie charts her struggles with addiction and affair with a federal agent working undercover on a sting operation targeted at her. It comes out later this month.

SNUB: No Best Drama Love For

One Night in Miami

(Photo by Patti Perret/©Amazon)

It wasn’t exactly a bad morning for Regina King’s One Night in Miami, an adaptation of Kemp Powers’ play about the (fictitious) night that Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, and Jim Brown all hung out together. King was nominated for Best Director – for her first film! – star Leslie Odom Jr. is up for Best Supporting Actor, and “Speak Now” is among the five nominees for Best Original Song. But the movie – one of the best-reviewed releases of the year – was widely expected to also be nominated for Best Motion Picture Drama, and was sidelined in favor of more outside-chance titles The Father and Promising Young Woman in the category.

TV


SURPRISE: So Much Love for 

Sarah Paulson in Ratched

(Photo by Netflix)

Listen, of course there were elements to love about Ryan Murphy’s glossy, retro origin story about One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest villain Nurse Mildred Ratched. For starters, the committed performances from Sarah Paulson, costar (and Globes nominee) Cynthia Nixon and more. Then there are the gorgeous costumes and expansive sets and immersive world building. But the series debuted to mixed reviews (though it remains barely Fresh at 62%), meaning this was certainly not a shoe-in and most prognosticators did not predict that it would receive that much love. But Globes voters are known to love both Ryan Murphy and Netflix — don’t forget the number of nods The Politician got in its first year — so it isn’t without precedent.


SNUB: A Shutout for 

Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor in Bridgerton keyart

(Photo by Netflix)

Is there any show more talked about over the past few weeks than the Shonda Rhimes-produced Regency romance series? Netflix claims it’s the streaming service’s most-watched series to date (although it doesn’t officially release viewership data), and it’s certainly dominated headlines. On one hand, it seems like HFPA catnip — European-made International hit (it was filmed in the U.K. and stars mostly British actors. But on the other hand, perhaps the subject matter proved too tawdry. The HFPA also does not have a great track record with diversity, and this is one of 2021’s most glaring examples that perhaps voters should try harder to broaden their horizons.


QUELLE SURPRISE: Comedy Category Recognition for and 

CAROLE BETHUEL/NETFLIX

(Photo by CAROLE BETHUEL/NETFLIX)

Another splashy European-filmed series with a big name creator, Emily In Paris was not necessarily on Emmy voters’ radar but is exactly the kind of thing the HFPA appreciates (plus a previous nominee in Lily Collins). It, too, premiered to mixed critical feedback but sits Fresh at 63%. The fact that it edged out critical darlings Ramy and What We Do in the Shadows, both of which were Certified Fresh for their second seasons (and WWDITS at 100%, no less!) is certainly surprising. Addictive HBO Max dramedy The Flight Attendant snagging one of those coveted Musical or Comedy slots was also a bit of a surprise, though what’s more surprising is that this is Big Bang Theory all-star Kaley Cuoco’s first solo nod.


SNUB: No Series or Supporting Love for

mrs america uzo adubo shirley chisholm

(Photo by Sabrina Lantos/FX)

Small Axe’s inclusion is no surprise given the critical reception of the anthology film series from Steve McQueen, but axing the The Undoing certainly could have made room for the phenomenon that was Mrs. America. The series, about the effort to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, featured a slew of actresses delivering masterful performances, in particular Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm, Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan, and Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem. The fact that neither the series as a whole nor any of the supporting performances got nods is a major snub (though the lack of separate TV supporting categories at the Globes is particularly glaring here).


SNUB: Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors for

Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett in Lovecraft Country season 1 keyart

(Photo by HBO)

While Killing Eve‘s Jodie Comer got her second nomination and Ratched‘s Sarah Paulson got her fourth, Jurnee Smollett, universally acclaimed for her performance in HBO’s horror series Lovecraft Country, got nothing. For an awards body that loves to honor young actresses overlooked by other committees (in recent years, nominating Katherine Langford for 13 Reasons Why, Caitriona Balfe for Outlander, Rachel Bloom for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Gina Rodriguez for Jane the Virgin, among others), it seems like a pretty glaring oversight to leave Smollett out of the conversation. The actor category is no better, with Majors losing out on a nod for his acclaimed performance to several repeat nominees (Jason Bateman, Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Rhys) and a movie star who decided to do TV (Al Pacino in Hunters), another HFPA favorite category of actor.


SNUB: Caitriona Balfe for

Starz

(Photo by Starz)

After four nominations and no prize, the HFPA has finally given up on trying to honor Balfe for her role in the romantic fantasy series. Once given kudos for recognizing her performance in the fan-favorite series when other award-giving bodies overlooked the show altogether, it appears the HFPA has moved on to another fight.


SURPRISE: Al Pacino Nominated for

Hunters season 1 (Christopher Saunders / Amazon Studios)

(Photo by Christopher Saunders / Amazon Studios)

The veteran actor wasn’t much in the conversation among awards watchers. We expected Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country) or Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) to get a nod for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama. That Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk showed up in the category was not so much a surprise as a vindication for the actor having been overlooked in 2019 and 2020.


SNUB: Michaela Coel and

I May Destroy You

(Photo by HBO)

One of the top-scoring series of the past year, Coel’s remarkable look at the trauma of sexual assault was lauded as a favorite for nomination in the categories of Best Performance By An Actress In A Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television and Best Television Limited Series, Anthology Series or Motion Picture Made for Television — the actress-director for her role perhaps more so than the series overall. The Certified Fresh series, which currently has a 98% score on the Tomatometer, lost its spot to fellow HBO limited series The Undoing, which is Certified Fresh at 78%. Not that the nominations of The Undoing and its star Nicole Kidman were exactly a surprise, but Coel’s achievement with I May Destroy You was infinitely more deserving.


SURPRISE: Bryan Cranston and Jeff Daniels for Limited Series Best Actor

Bryan Cranston as Michael Desiato in YOUR HONOR

(Photo by Skip Bolen/Showtime)

On one hand, it’s no surprise that the HFPA likes to honor actors they’ve recognized before, and Cranston (Your Honor) and Daniels (The Comey Rule) certainly fit the bill. This is Cranston’s eighth nod (with one win) and Daniels’ fifth. But on the other hand, the shows they’re being recognized for aren’t necessarily the most critically hailed projects either has been in. Your Honor is Rotten at 44%, and miniseries The Comey Rule is Fresh at just 68%, missing the bar set for Certified Fresh designation. Cranston and Daniels are both masters of their craft, of course, but were they the best of this particular year? Normal People’s Paul Mescal and Fargo’s Chris Rock are right there, people.


SNUB: 

FARGO - Chris Rock

(Photo by Matthias Clamer/FX)

The fourth season of Noah Hawley’s anthology series, with a Certified Fresh 82%, was not the highest-scoring season of the show on the Tomatometer (that would be season 2, Certified Fresh at 100%). Even so, that the series didn’t get nominations for Jessie Buckley’s scenery-chewing supporting performance, for either Chris Rock or Jason Schwartzman in their lead roles, or as a limited series borders on bizarre.


SNUB: Hugh Jackman and

Bad Education

(Photo by HBO)

Also missing out in the tediously broad Best Television Limited Series, Anthology Series or Motion Picture Made for Television and its related categories were Bad Education and its star Hugh Jackman. With the streaming companies now rampaging through the field of contenders with impressive original films and limited and anthology series, it’s time to break out films from this overstuffed, overly-long-titled category and break up the companion acting categories, as well.


SURPRISE: Laura Linney and Julia Garner  Finally Recognized for

Ozark

(Photo by Steve Dietl/Netflix)

We are both surprised and not surprised that the HFPA finally acknowledged Linney and Garner, who have been snubbed for the past several years. Garner is a two-time Emmy winner for her role in the crime drama; meanwhile, their costar Jason Bateman is now on his third best TV drama lead actor nomination.


SNUB: Tom Pelphrey and Mahershala Ali for Best TV Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali in Ramy -- "can you hear me now?" - Episode 202

(Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

Both Pelphrey (Ozark) and Ali (Ramy) were expected by awards experts to receive nominations in the television actor in a supporting role category, which doesn’t distinguish between drama actors and comedy actors. Jim Parsons (Hollywood) and Donald Sutherland (The Undoing) received nominations instead. Ozark season 3: Certified Fresh at 98%. Ramy season 2: Certified Fresh at 97%. Hollywood: 57%. And The Undoing: Certified Fresh at 77%. The Tomatometer score doesn’t speak specifically to these actors’ performances — and this is certainly no swipe at Parsons or Sutherland — but both of those nominees have been recognized for meatier roles. Pelphrey and Ali deserved the recognition here.


Film Snubs and Surprises | TV Snubs and Surprises


The Golden Globe Awards will air live on NBC, Sunday, February 28, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. 

Are you as obsessed with awards as we are? Check out our Awards Leaderboard for 2020/2021.

Thumbnail image courtesy Netflix

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