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Golden Globes 2021: 'Nomadland,' 'Borat' sequel win top film honors

The co-hosts, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, cracked jokes about the unusual format and recent criticism of the organization behind the ceremony.
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The soulful road drama "Nomadland" and the bawdy prank comedy "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" collected the top film prizes at the 78th Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, capping off a largely virtual ceremony co-hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who appeared from opposite sides of the country.

"Nomadland" filmmaker Chloé Zhao became only the second woman to win the directing award — nearly 40 years after Barbra Streisand was recognized for "Yentl." Zhao, who is Chinese, is the first woman of color to triumph in that category.

In an acceptance speech from a remote location, Zhao described the celebrated film as "a pilgrimage through grief and healing."

She added: “For everyone who has gone through this difficult and beautiful journey at some point in their lives. We don’t say goodbye. We say: See you down the road."

"Borat," a raucous sequel to the Bush-era cult classic, triumphed in the best musical or comedy film category. Sacha Baron Cohen, the film's star, won best actor in a comedy and jokingly dedicated his prize to Rudy Giuliani, the target of one of his pranks.

He called the former New York City mayor “a fresh new talent who came from nowhere and turned out to be a comedy genius.”

In one of the most emotional moments of the night, Chadwick Boseman's widow accepted his posthumous award for best actor in a drama film for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," six months after his death at 43.

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"He would thank God. He would thank his parents. He would thank his ancestors for their guidance and their sacrifices," said Taylor Simone Ledward, fighting back tears.

Netflix, which went into the Globes with a staggering 42 total nominations, dominated the television categories.

The glossy royalty saga "The Crown" won best drama series, as well as acting honors for Josh O'Connor (Prince Charles), Emma Cortin (Princess Diana) and Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher). The streaming giant's “The Queen’s Gambit” won best limited series and best actress in that category for rising star Anya Taylor-Joy.

“Schitt’s Creek,” the warm-hearted Canadian series that grew its American audience on Netflix, won best comedy series for its final season. The veteran comedian Catherine O’Hara also took best actress in a comedy series.

Jason Sudeikis, winning the best actor in a TV comedy award for his starring role in the Apple TV Plus hit "Ted Lasso," embraced the relatively more informal spirit of the virtual event and accepted his trophy in a tie-dye hoodie.

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The opening monologue, split-screen edition

Fey and Poehler kicked off the festivities on Sunday with one-liners about the unusual format of the pandemic-era telecast and the renewed scrutiny of the organization behind the show.

"Normally, this room is full of celebrities, but tonight our audience on both coasts is made up of smoking-hot first responders and essential workers," Fey said from the Rainbow Room in New York. "We are so grateful for the work that you do and that you're here, so that the celebrities can stay safely at home."

The coronavirus crisis forced the producers of the Golden Globes to put on a largely virtual telecast, with nominees beamed in from their homes and hotel rooms via Zoom. Poehler, speaking to a small audience of masked guests at the Beverly Hilton in California, jokingly recalled that the ceremony is typically a free-wheeling, champagne-soaked party.

The co-hosts, featured on a split screen, also nodded to the recent criticism of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the small organization of international journalists that votes on nominees and winners — specifically the fact that the group does not have a single Black member.

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"The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is made up of around 90 international, no-Black journalists who attend movie junkets each year in search of a better life," Fey said. "We say around 90, because a couple of them might be ghosts, and it's rumored that the German member is just a sausage that somebody drew a little face on."

In the first 30 minutes of the show, which aired on NBC, three members of the group appeared on stage and pledged to diversify their ranks.

"We recognize we have our own work to do. Just like in film and television, Black representation is vital. We must have Black journalists in our organization," said Helen Hoehne, the association's vice president.

Meher Tatna, the chairman of the board, added: "We must also ensure everyone from all underrepresented communities gets a seat at our table, and we are going to make that happen."

Two entertainment industry luminaries received lifetime achievement honors. Norman Lear, the storied creator of seminal sitcoms such as "All in the Family," was given the Carol Burnett Award, named for the comedian of the same name. Jane Fonda, the trailblazing actor and activist, accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award.

Jane Fonda speaks at the Golden Globes on Feb. 28, 2021.NBC

In a passionate speech, Fonda paid tribute to the power of movies to foster empathy and called on Hollywood to push for diversity on screen, behind the camera and in board rooms.

The night included a few technical glitches. The first winner of the night — Daniel Kaluuya of "Judas and the Black Messiah" — began to give his acceptance speech with the sound off. The presenter, Laura Dern, apologized to Kaluuya, who won best supporting actor for his turn as slain Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton.

But then Kaluuya's sound came on. He jokingly wagged his finger at the camera and said, "You're doing me dirty!"

CORRECTION (March 1, 2:00 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the nationality of "Nomadland" filmmaker Chloé Zhao. She is Chinese, not Chinese American.