Golden Globes 2020: 4 key storylines going into the awards show

Netflix could dominate and five-time emcee Ricky Gervais could shock the crowd. Here's what to expect.
Image: Golden Globes
Adrian Lam / NBC News

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By Daniel Arkin

Hollywood's second-biggest night is nearly here. The boozy Golden Globes Awards are slated for Sunday (8 p.m. ET on NBC), just 35 days before the relatively more prim Academy Awards ceremony. The list of film and television nominees picked by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is as eclectic as ever, but the telecast is once again shadowed by uproar over gender inequalities. Here's a look at some of the major storylines heading into the 77th Golden Globes, hosted for the fifth time by sharp-tongued comedian Ricky Gervais.

Netflix could rule the night

Netflix towers above traditional studios with 34 total nominations, including four movies contending for best picture and four television shows vying for the top-tier prizes. The combined 17 nods the streaming behemoth earned for its movies more than doubled that of Sony Pictures, which nabbed eight.

"Marriage Story," a biting divorce drama from Noah Baumbach, leads the pack of film nominees with six nods, including best drama and recognition for its stars, Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. Three other Netflix releases — Martin Scorsese's sweeping mob saga "The Irishman," the Vatican buddy comedy "The Two Popes" and the Eddie Murphy-fronted biopic "Dolemite Is my Name" — are up for best picture honors, too.

The streaming service might also dominate the television categories after notching 17 nominations — two more than premium cable powerhouse HBO — for its acclaimed original series, including the British royal family chronicle "The Crown," the blistering crime drama "Unbelievable," the lightly comic crowd-pleaser "The Kominsky Method," and Ryan Murphy's giddily satirical "The Politician."

Netflix's success Sunday could cement its status as the mightiest streaming player on the awards circuit, overshadowing new rivals, such as Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus, and giving it an edge over upcoming entrants such as HBO Max and NBCUniversal's Peacock. Meanwhile, broadcast networks were completely left out of the running.

'Here are the all-male nominees' — again

For the fifth time in as many years, the contenders in the best director category are all men: Bong Joon-Ho ("Parasite"), Sam Mendes ("1917"), Todd Phillips ("Joker"), Scorsese ("The Irishman") and Quentin Tarantino ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"). In fact, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has nominated only five women for the directing trophy, and only one of them — Barbara Streisand for "Yentl" — triumphed.

When this year's nominations were announced Dec. 6, awards aficionados were quick to point out that the Globes excluded several acclaimed and eligible female directors, including Greta Gerwig ("Little Women"), Marielle Heller ("A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood") and Kasi Lemmons ("Harriet"), among others. Rebecca Goldman, Time's Up chief operating officer, said the snubs were signs of "an industrywide crisis."

The omissions could loom over the telecast and potentially lead to a buzzy, headline-grabbing moment. That would not be unprecedented. At the ceremony in 2017, at the height of the #MeToo movement, actress Natalie Portman pointedly referred to the directing category's "all-male nominees" before she and director Ron Howard presented the prize to Guillermo del Toro for "The Shape of Water."

Gervais as M.C.? Anything could happen

Ricky Gervais, the bawdy and acerbic British comic, will return to host the Globes for the fifth and purportedly final time. He has turned previous ceremonies into ribald roasts, gleefully mocking A-list stars in the audience — such as when, at the 2016 ceremony, he described actor Matt Damon as "the only person Ben Affleck hasn't been unfaithful to."

The comedian has all but promised another eye-popping turn at the podium. "Once again, they've made me an offer I can't refuse," he said in a statement in November. "But this is the very last time I'm doing this, which could make for a fun evening." He elaborated in a recent interview on "The Graham Norton Show," saying: "When I do it, I'm going to say what I want. I don't have to rehearse."

If you want to refresh your memory on some of Gervais' most sharp-witted monologues from 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016, check out this video:

Best actor is anyone's guess

In a year of male-centered movies such as "The Irishman" and "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," it might be only fitting that the most crowded and competitive race is among the lead actors.

The five contenders for best actor in a drama — Christian Bale ("Ford v Ferrari"), Antonio Banderas ("Pain and Glory"), Adam Driver ("Marriage Story"), Joaquin Phoenix ("Joker") and Jonathan Pryce ("The Two Popes") — are heavy-hitters riding high on rapturous reviews. The same could be said of the stars in the comedy race, including Leonardo DiCaprio ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood") and Eddie Murphy ("Dolemite Is My Name").

This year's crop of notable male performers was so bountiful that there was apparently not room for a pair of actors who earned some of the most glowing reviews of their recent careers: Robert De Niro for his anguished performance in "The Irishman" and Adam Sandler for the frenetic crime thriller "Uncut Gems."