‘Nomadland’ Is the Official Oscar Frontrunner as ‘Borat 2’ Gives Amazon a Breakthrough

“Nomadland” has staked its claim as the official frontrunner for the Academy Award for best picture with its best picture (drama) prize at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards.

Meanwhile in the best picture (comedy) category, Amazon Studios’ “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” became the first film from a streaming service to win one of the night’s top two film prizes. The feature was able to hit the milestone after Netflix’s “Mank” from David Fincher and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” from Aaron Sorkin both lost the drama category to Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland,” the first film directed by a woman to win the drama award.

Directed by Jason Woliner, the Borat hit sequel topped three other streaming giants with its win — Disney Plus’s “Hamilton” from Thomas Kail, Netflix’s “The Prom” from Ryan Murphy and Hulu’s “Palm Springs” from Max Barbakow.

Streaming giants have working for several years to break into best picture territory, and the “Borat 2” win continues Amazon’s record-breaking awards luck. It was the first streaming service to garner an Academy Award nomination for best picture with Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” (2016), which also received a Globe nod, losing both prizes to Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight.” Lonergan’s film did win prizes for best actor (Casey Affleck) and original screenplay. “Borat 2” is the second Amazon film nominated by the Globes in the drama or comedy categories.

The night solidified the frontrunner status for several films on the road to the Oscars.

At the top, Chadwick Boseman won a posthumous Golden Globe in best actor (drama) for his performance as the trumpeter Levee in Netflix’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” He’s only the second posthumous winner in the category, following Peter Finch for 1976’s “Network,” who went on to win the Oscar as well. It looks as though Boseman will be following suit.

Chloé Zhao became the second female directing winner in HFPA history for “Nomadland.” Winning virtually every critics’ award this season so far, this seems to be the one major Oscar race that looks all but assured for a nomination, and maybe even the win. It should be noted that when the last female Globes directing winner, Barbra Streisand, won this prize for 1983’s “Yentl,” she failed to get nominated by the Academy. Let’s hope Zhao doesn’t suffer the same fate.

The shocks were all there as well with Andra Day beating out stiff competition for her debut work as Billie Holiday for “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” over competitors Viola Davis, Frances McDormand and Carey Mulligan. Rosamund Pike also leaped in front of more lauded performances, winning for “I Care A Lo,” over Maria Bakalova and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Jodie Foster was one of the night’s biggest jaw-droppers, winning for her performance in “The Mauritanian” over Glenn Close and Olivia Colman. That may have been the boost she needed to get her through to Oscar voting.

Daniel Kaluuya won for his work as Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which was one of the late-breaking films of the season and may have found its winning ticket to Oscar gold, and could bring added attention in categories like original screenplay, supporting actress, directing and best picture.

It was a tough night for “Mank” and “Promising Young Woman,” which both went home empty-handed.

With “Nomadland” solidifying its frontrunner status for Searchlight Pictures, it begs the question, will any of the streamers be able to go the distance with AMPAS this year? Although not nominated by the Globes, Amazon’s “Sound of Metal” from debut filmmaker Darius Marder has performed well with critics groups. It has momentum for lead actor Riz Ahmed, who has won the most critics’ awards this season along with his co-star Paul Raci.

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” garnered two other nominations for the Globes, including best actor and actress for stars Sacha Baron Cohen and newcomer Maria Bakalova. Cohen, one of the film’s producers, was also nominated for best supporting actor in a motion picture for his role as Abbie Hoffman in “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” The movie is also the first live-action sequel to win as “Toy Story 2” (1999) won this award before the introduction of the best motion picture (animated) category in 2006.

With the boost from the HFPA, can this win for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” translate to AMPAS attention, with voting set to start on Friday? Since the Oscars have expanded their best picture nominees from five to 10, and then later to a variable number, except for “The Hangover” (2009), every winner in the comedy category has gone on to be nominated by the Academy in best picture. Before that, the winner averaged a 40% crossover rate over the 1990s and 2000s. Based on the competition, especially from the drama contenders, this could be one of the “miss” years but who knows in this crazy year?

Pixar’s “Soul” won two awards, for best animated feature and original score. Co-director Kemp Powers became the first Black filmmaker to win for a debut film, although he won’t be eligible for the Academy Award if (and when) the film is nominated, as co-directors are not typically eligible. Director Pete Docter and producer Dana Murray will be the official nominees.

Diane Warren won her second Golden Globe for co-writing the song “Io Si (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead,” along with co-writers Laura Pausini, Niccolò Agliardi. With 11 previous losses at the Oscars, Warren may finally have her vehicle for awards glory. The last time she won the Globe, in 2011 for “You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” from “Burlesque,” the song failed to get nominated by the Oscars.

The streamers have been jockeying for the Academy’s most coveted prize for years, with Amazon and Netflix battling this year with multiple features. As we look to the future with more “pluses” coming into the mix with Apple, Disney and Paramount, it will be even more competitive to win voters’ affections.

In 2017, when streamers were racing to be “first” at the Emmy Awards, Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” emerged victorious, winning outstanding drama series. In 2018 and 2019, Amazon picked up awards for outstanding comedy series with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Fleabag.” None of the streamers made a considerable dent in 2020 as HBO’s “Succession” and Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek” took top honors.

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is now streaming on Prime Video while “Nomadland” is streaming on Hulu.

The full list of winners is below.

Best Picture (Drama): “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Picture (Comedy or Musical): “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)

Best Actor (Drama): Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

Best Actor (Comedy or Musical): Sacha Baron Cohen, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)

Best Actress (Drama): Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” (Hulu)

Best Actress (Comedy or Musical): Rosamund Pike, “I Care A Lot” (Netflix)

Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros)

Best Supporting Actress: Jodie Foster, “The Mauritanian” (STXfilms)

Best Director: Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Screenplay: “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Aaron Sorkin

Best Original Score: “Soul” (Pixar) – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste

Best Original Song: “Io Si (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead” – Diane Warren, Laura Pausini, Niccolò Agliardi

Best Motion Picture (Animated): “Soul” (Pixar) – Pete Docter, Dana Murray, Kemp Powers

Best Motion Picture (Foreign Language): “Minari” (A24) – Lee Isaac Chung, USA

 

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