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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Twelve Golden Globe-Winning Films and TV Shows to Add to Your 2021 Must-Watch List

If you're going to binge-watch something this year — or head to the cinema to see a movie — make sure it's one of these top-notch titles.
By Sarah Ward
March 01, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
March 01, 2021
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Parts of a Lady, Gronk, Day Planner and Ali G Goes to Chicago aren't going to win any shiny trophies this year, because none of them exist. But, after getting a shoutout in Amy Poehler and Tina Fey's very amusing opening monologue at the 2021 Golden Globes, you'll wish these fictional flicks were either showing at a cinema near you or streaming on your platform of choice. They might be an improvement on some of the movies and TV shows that were nominated this year, after all. Poehler and Fey noted that "a lot of flashy garbage" was vying for a gong and, well, they're not wrong.

It's always best to remember two things whenever entertainment awards roll around. Firstly, great movies and television shows, and the talents behind them, always remain that way whether they have the silverware to go with it or not. Secondly, finally valuing the exceptional work of women and people of colour in the entertainment industry after so long spent focusing on white men will always remain important. And, while the Golden Globes ceremony this year looked a little different to usual — it was held across both Los Angeles and New York, with Poehler and Fey split across the two cities; nominees called in via video from home in all their finery, rather than attending in person; and winners didn't physically put their hands on a statuette — it did give a heap of recognition to some very deserving folks.

Seeing three women contending for Best Director, with Chloe Zhao emerging victorious for Nomadland, really was something special. So was the fact that the first two gongs of the night went to Daniel Kaluuya and John Boyega, two of the best actors working today. Chadwick Boseman's posthumous award was always going to be an emotional moment and, winning special accolades, both Norman Lear and Jane Fonda made moving speeches about their careers and the current state of the industry. Plenty of top-notch talents missed out as well, though, because that's the way these congratulatory proceedings always go — but from everything that emerged victorious, we've picked 12 films and TV shows for you to feast your eyes on as soon as possible.

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MOVIE MUST-SEES

NOMADLAND

Frances McDormand is a gift of an actor. Point a camera her way, and a performance so rich that it feels not just believable but tangible floats across the screen. That's the case in Nomadland, which will earn her another Oscar nomination and could even see her win a third shiny statuette just three years after she nabbed her last for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Here, leading a cast that also includes real people experiencing the existence that's fictionalised within the narrative, she plays the widowed, van-dwelling Fern — a woman who takes to the road, and to the nomad life, after the small middle-America spot she spent her married life in turns into a ghost town when the local mine is shuttered due to the global financial crisis. Following her travels over the course of more than a year, this humanist drama serves up an observational portrait of those that society happily overlooks. It's both deeply intimate and almost disarmingly empathetic in the process, as every movie made by Chloe Zhao is. This is only the writer/director's third, slotting in after 2015's Songs My Brothers Taught Me and 2017's The Rider but before 2021's Marvel flick Eternals, but it's a feature of contemplative and authentic insights into the concepts of home, identity and community. Meticulously crafted, shot and performed, it's also Zhao's best work yet, and the best film of 2020 as well.

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Won: Best Motion Picture — Drama, Best Director — Motion Picture (Chloe Zhao)

Nominated: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama (Frances McDormand), Best Screenplay — Motion Picture (Chloe Zhao)

Nomadland returns to cinemas from March 4, after a sneak preview season in late December and early January. Read our full review.

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MINARI

Remember the name Lee Isaac Chung. Minari isn't the writer/director's first feature — with 2007's Munyurangabo, 2010's Lucky Life and 2012's Abigail Harm already on his resume — but it's the kind of intimate, heartfelt and resonant movie that cements its filmmaker as a top cinematic talent to watch. Remember the name Alan S Kim, too. The child actor makes his film debut here, but he steals every scene he's in. Considering that he's acting opposite Steven Yeun (Burning), who turns in his latest excellent performance and will hopefully nab an Oscar nomination for his efforts, that's no minor feat. Remembering Minari in general is a given, actually. It's so detailed, vivid and honest, and yet also so universal at the same time. Based on Chung's own upbringing, this tender drama follows the Yi family (which also includes My Unfamiliar Family's Yeri Han and first-timer Noel Cho) as they move to Arkansas to start their own farm. It's a movie about chasing the American Dream, but don't go thinking that you've seen this tale before, or seen any similar story told with such feeling either. The film's overall story can be summarised neatly, but Minari's many deep and thoughtful charms and triumphs aren't ever simplistic. Indeed, as features influenced by personal real-life tales can be at their best, this is a gorgeously and thoughtfully detailed picture, with Chung realising that trading in specific minutiae is far more compelling and relatable than opting for sweeping generalisations.

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Won: Best Motion Picture — Foreign Language

Minari is currently screening in cinemas. Read our full review.

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JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

The last time that Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield appeared in the same film, Get Out was the end result. Their shared scene in Jordan Peele's Oscar-winning horror movie isn't easily forgotten — if you've seen the feature, it will have instantly popped into your head while you're reading this — and neither is Judas and the Black Messiah, their next collaboration. With Kaluuya starring as the Black Panther Party's Illinois Chairman Fred Hampton and Stanfield playing William O'Neal, the man who infiltrated his inner circle as an informer for the FBI, the pair is still tackling race relations. Here, though, the duo does so in a ferocious historical drama set in the late 60s. The fact that O'Neal betrays Hampton definitely isn't a spoiler here; it's a matter of fact, and the lens through which writer/director Shaka King (Newlyweeds) and his co-scribes Kenneth Lucas, Keith Lucas (actors on Lady Dynamite) and Will Berson (Scrubs) view the last period of Hampton's life. Anchored by two fierce performances that stand out in their own ways — with Kaluuya commanding the screen during every single one of his real-life character's speeches, and Stanfield playing conflicted with a raw, nervy air — Judas and the Black Messiah does what only the best movies that look back at the past and its many problems manage. It roves its eyes over events gone by, shines a spotlight the rampant oppression and the struggle against it, and condenses a wealth of information into a gripping feature.

GLOBES

Won: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Daniel Kaluuya)

Nominated: Best Original Song — Motion Picture (Tiara Thomas, HER and D'Mile, 'Fight for You')

Judas and the Black Messiah opens in cinemas on March 11 — check back for our full review then. 

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MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM

Chadwick Boseman, Oscar-winner. That combination of words is very likely to become a posthumous reality for the late, great actor, thanks to his last screen role. Boseman is just that phenomenal in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. He has earned that term before in Get on Up, Black Panther and Da 5 Bloods, but his performance in this stage-to-screen production is such a powerhouse effort that it's like watching a cascading waterfall drown out almost everything around it. He plays trumpeter Levee Green, who is part of the eponymous Ma Rainey's (Viola Davis, Widows) band. On a 1920s day, the always-nattering, big-dreaming musician joins Ma — who isn't just a fictional character, and was known as the Mother of Blues — and the rest of his colleagues for a recording session. Temperatures and tempers rise in tandem in the Chicago studio, with Levee and Ma rarely seeing eye to eye on any topic. Davis is in thundering, hot-blooded form, while Colman Domingo (If Beale Street Could Talk) and Glynn Turman (Fargo) also leave a firm impression. It's impossible take your eyes off of the slinkily magnetic Boseman though, as would prove the case even if he was still alive to see the film's release. Adapting the play of the same name by August Wilson (Fences), director George C Wolfe (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) lets Boseman farewell the screen with one helluva bang.

GLOBES

Won: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama (Chadwick Boseman)

Nominated: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama (Viola Davis)

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is available to stream via Netflix.

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SOUL

Released early in 2020, Onward definitely wasn't Pixar's best film — but Soul, its straight-to-streaming latest movie that capped off the past year, instantly contends for the title. The beloved animation studio has always excelled when it takes big leaps. Especially now, a quarter-century into its filmmaking tenure, its features prove particularly enchanting when they're filled with surprises (viewers have become accustomed to seeing toys, fish, rats and robots have feelings, after all). On paper, Soul initially seems similar to Inside Out, but switching in souls for emotions. It swaps in voice work by Tina Fey for Amy Poehler, too, and both movies are helmed by director Peter Docter, so there's more than one reason for the comparison. But to the delight of viewers of all ages, Soul is a smart, tender and contemplative piece of stunning filmmaking all on its own terms. It's Pixar at its most existential, and with a strikingly percussive score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to further help it stand out. At its centre sits aspiring jazz musician-turned-music teacher Joe (Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy). Just as he's about to get his big break, he falls down a manhole, his soul leaves his body, and he's desperate to get back to chase his dreams. Alas, that's not how things work, and he's saddled with mentoring apathetic and cynical soul 22 (the always hilarious Fey) in his quest to reclaim his life.

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Won: Best Motion Picture — Animated, Best Original Score — Motion Picture (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste)

Soul is available to stream via Disney+.

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I CARE A LOT

Last month, we said that Rosamund Pike may not end up with many shiny statuettes for her efforts in I Care a Lot. We also said that her Golden Globe nomination was thoroughly well-deserved. The Radioactive and Gone Girl star is stellar in a tricky part in a thorny film — because this dark comic-thriller isn't here to play nice. Pike plays Marla Grayson, a legal guardian to as many elderly Americans as she can convince the courts to send her way. She's more interested in the cash that comes with the job, however, rather than actually looking after her charges. Indeed, with her girlfriend and business partner Fran (Eiza González, Bloodshot), plus an unscrupulous doctor on her payroll, she specifically targets wealthy senior citizens with no family, gets them committed to her care, packs them off to retirement facilities and plunders their bank accounts. Then one such ploy catches the attention of gangster Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones), who dispatches his minions to nudge Marla in a different direction. She isn't willing to acquiesce, though, sparking both a game of cat and mouse and a showdown. Dinklage makes the most of his role, too, but I Care a Lot is always the icy Pike's movie. Well, hers and writer/director J Blakeson's (The Disappearance of Alice Creed), with the latter crafting a takedown of capitalism that's savagely blunt but also viciously entertaining.

GLOBES

Won: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy (Rosamund Pike)

I Care a Lot is available to stream via Amazon Prime Video.

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BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM

Of all the twists and turns that 2020 delivered, the arrival of a new Borat movie ranked among the most unexpected. Watching Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, however, it's obvious why the famed fictional Kazakh journalist made a comeback at that very moment — that is, just before the US election. Once again, Borat travels to America. Once again, he traverses the country, interviewing everyday people and exposing the abhorrent views that have become engrained in US society. Where its 2006 predecessor had everyone laughing along with it, though, there's also an uneasy and even angry undercurrent to Borat Subsequent Moviefilm that's reflective of these especially polarised times. It's worth noting that Sacha Baron Cohen's last project, 2018 TV series Who Is America?, also used the comedian's usual interview technique to paint a picture of the US today, and the results were as astute as they were horrifying. There are plenty of jokes in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, which bases its narrative around Borat's attempt to gift his 15-year-old daughter (instant scene-stealer Maria Bakalova) to Vice President Mike Pence and then ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani to help get Kazakhstan's own leader into President Donald Trump's good graces, but this is the unflinching work of a star passionate about making a statement.

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Won: Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy (Sacha Baron Cohen)

Nominated: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy (Maria Bakalova)

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is available to stream now via Amazon Prime Video.

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SMALL SCREEN BINGES

SMALL AXE

British filmmaker Steve McQueen hasn't directed a bad movie — and, even after dropping five new features as part of the Small Axe anthology, that hasn't changed. The director of Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave and Widows gifts viewers a quintet of films that are as exceptional as anything he's ever made, with every entry in this new series taking place in England, in the 60s, 70s and 80s, with London's West Indian community at its centre. The first, Mangrove, tells an infuriating true tale about a police campaign to target a Caribbean restaurant in Notting Hill. From there, Lovers Rock spends time at a house party as two attendees dance into each other's orbits, and Red, White and Blue follows a young forensic scientist who decides to join the force to change from the inside. Next, Alex Wheatle explores the life of the award-winning writer of the same name, while Education unpacks unofficial moves to segregate children of colour in schools. There's no weak link here — only stunning, stirring, standout cinema that tells blistering tales about Black London residents doing everything it takes to resist their racist treatment. Every film is sumptuously shot, too, thanks to cinematographer Shabier Kirchner (Bull), and the cast spans everyone from Lost in Space's Shaun Parkes and Black Panther's Letitia Wright to Star Wars' John Boyega.

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Won: Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Supporting Role (John Boyega)

Nominated: Best Television Limited Series, Anthology Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

All five Small Axe films are available to stream via Binge. It's streaming soon in NZ. Read our full review.

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TED LASSO

What do Parks and Recreation, Wellington Paranormal and Ted Lasso all have in common? They're all stellar examples of kind-hearted TV sitcoms that are an absolute delight to watch. By now, the first two aforementioned shows have already established a legion of fans, but the third series listed above — a 2020 newcomer — definitely belongs in the same company even just based on its ten episodes so far. Starring a gloriously optimistic Jason Sudeikis as the titular character, the comedy follows its main figure during a period of transition. A college-level American football coach, he's just been hired by struggling English Premier League team AFC Richmond, despite having zero knowledge of soccer. He's actually been recruited for the role by the club's new owner, Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham, Game of Thrones), who received the organisation as part of her divorce settlement and is determined to tank it to spite her slimy ex (Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Anthony Stewart Head). For much of his career, Sudeikis has excelled at playing thorny, jerkish characters (see: the terrific Colossal) who initially seem likeable. And yet, he's pitch-perfect here, and Ted Lasso as a whole proves just as spot-on. Also featuring excellent work from Brett Goldstein (Doctor Who) and Juno Temple (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil) as an ageing player and a young hotshot's girlfriend, this is a smart, funny and warm gem.

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Won: Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy (Jason Sudeikis)

Nominated: Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy

Ted Lasso is available to stream via Apple TV+.

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SCHITT'S CREEK

The idea behind Schitt's Creek is immensely straightforward, and also incredibly obvious. If one of the obscenely wealthy families that monopolises all those trashy reality TV shows was suddenly forced to live without their money, like the rest of us, how would they cope? If you're thinking "not well", you're right. If you're certain that seeing the results would be amusing, you're on the money again. As envisaged by father-son duo — and the program's stars — Eugene and Daniel Levy, that's the scenario the Rose crew finds itself in, including moving to the titular town that it happens to own as a last resort. Yes, as the name gives away, they're in a sticky situation. The adjustment process isn't easy, but it is very, very funny, and remained that way for the show's entire six-season run before wrapping up in 2020. And, although plenty of other credits on her resume have made this plain (such as Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman and For Your Consideration, all also with Eugene Levy), the great Catherine O'Hara is an absolute comedy powerhouse as the Rose family matriarch. She now has both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her performance here, too.

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Won: Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy, Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy (Catherine O'Hara)

Nominated: Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy (Eugene Levy), Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Supporting Role (Dan Levy), Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Supporting Role (Annie Murphy)

Schitt's Creek is available to stream via Netflix.

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THE CROWN

When we say that fans of The Crown had been particularly looking forward to the show's fourth season, that isn't meant as a criticism of anything that preceded it. No disrespect is directed towards the regal drama's previous episodes, or to the past cast that took on the program's main roles before an age-appropriate switch was made at the beginning of season three. But, now more than halfway through the program's planned six-season run, this latest chapter focuses on two big showdowns that changed the shape of the royal family in the 80s. Firstly, Queen Elizabeth II (Oscar-winner Olivia Colman) and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (The X-Files icon Gillian Anderson) don't quite see eye to eye, to put it mildly. Also, with Prince Charles' (God's Own Country's Josh O'Connor) marriage to Lady Diana Spencer (Pennyworth's Emma Corrin) a big plot point, the latter clashes with the entire royal establishment. Among a cast that also includes Helena Bonham Carter (Enola Holmes) and Tobias Menzies (Outlander), Colman, Anderson, O'Connor and Corrin are all exceptional — and in a show that's always been buoyed by its performances, that's saying something.

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Won: Best Television Series — Drama, Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama (Emma Corrin), Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Drama (Josh O'Connor), Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Supporting Role (Gillian Anderson)

Nominated: Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama (Olivia Colman), Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Supporting Role (Helena Bonham Carter)

The Crown is available to stream via Netflix.

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THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT

In much of The Queen's Gambit, Beth Harmon sits at a chessboard. As a child (Isla Johnston), she demands that orphanage janitor Mr Shaibel (Bill Camp, The Outsider) teach her the game. As a teenager (Anya Taylor-Joy, Radioactive), she earns a reputation as a chess prodigy. As her confidence and fame grows, she demonstrates her prowess at tournaments around America and the globe, while also spending her spare time hunched over knights, rooks, bishops and pawns studying moves and tactics. None of the above sounds like innately thrilling television unless you're a chess grandmaster, but this seven-part miniseries proves that you should never judge a show by its brief description. Based on the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, written and directed by Oscar-nominee Scott Frank (Out of Sight, Logan), and dripping with lavish 50s and 60s decor and costuming to reflect its period setting, The Queen's Gambit doesn't expect that all its viewers will be chess aficionados; however, it's made with a canny awareness that anything can be tense, suspenseful and involving — and that every different type of game there is says much about its players and devotees. The series doesn't lack in creative and inventive ways to depict chess on-screen. It knows when to hang on every single move of a pivotal game, and when to focus on the bigger story surrounding a particular match or Beth path through the chess world in general. And it's especially astute at illustrating how a pastime based on precision and strategy offers an orphaned girl a way to control one lone aspect of her tumultuous and constantly changing life.

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Won: Best Television Limited Series, Anthology Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television (Anya Taylor-Joy)

The Queen's Gambit is available to stream via Netflix. Read our full review.

Published on March 01, 2021 by Sarah Ward

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