As outrage swirled over the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s perceived lack of inclusivity, and its mostly virtual Golden Globes ceremony dogged by technical issues, the opening salvo in the pandemic-affected awards season also signalled that Hollywood’s mood is underscored with a sense of grief.
The late actor Chadwick Boseman posthumously won the best actor (drama) prize for his role as trumpeter Levee Green in 1920s-set drama Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. His widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, accepted the award on his behalf, saying in an emotional speech: “He would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you can, that tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you are meant to be doing in this moment in history.”
The incongruity of holding a glitzy ceremony only days after the US recorded a Covid-related death toll of 500,000 was not lost on the ceremony’s participants. While her film Nomadland revolved around the devastation caused by another national crisis – the financial crash of 2008 – Chloé Zhao – who won best director as well as best drama film – related it to the prevailing mood in her acceptance speech for best film. She said: “Nomadland, at its core, for me is a pilgrimage through grief and healing. So for everyone who has gone through this difficult and beautiful journey at some point in their lives, this is for you. We don’t say goodbye, we say, ‘See you down the road.’”
The difficulties caused by lockdown also were on the Globes’ collective mind, with actor Josh O’ Connor, who won best actor in a TV series (drama) for The Crown, referring to its effect in his acceptance speech, saying: “I am very lucky to work in this period. and there’s so many people who are unable to work and are alone and isolated.” He added: “I hope we can all collectively put mental health at the forefronts of our minds.”
Two of the entertainment industry’s most high-profile political activists also made their case. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has made a donation to Sean Penn’s non-profit relief organisation Core (Community Organized Relief Effort), originally founded in 2010 to help with the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti and now playing a prominent role in Covid testing and vaccination. Penn reminded the Globes audience (and Hollywood) of ongoing activity to combat the pandemic, and asked for donations.
Meanwhile, Mark Ruffalo, a winner on the night as best actor in a limited TV series for I Know This Much Is True, suggested that seeing the back of Donald Trump could only be a good thing: “What connects us is greater than what keeps us apart, and the more we include each other, and see each other, and hear each other, the faster we’ll heal our broken hearts and minds.” But Ruffalo also referred to a crisis that is likely to be with us even when the coronavirus is a memory: “We have a dying mother … she’s Mother Earth. We must come to balance with her, and honour her, and she’ll heal, too.” A sombre start to the awards season.