If anyone wondered what escapist entertainment might look like in a world where no one can escape, the Golden Globes comedy/musical film and television nominations for 2020 — aka The Year Formerly Known as Normal — provide a handy showcase of examples of the phenomenon.
If the drama side of the Golden Globes is all about empowerment (“Nomadland”), outrage (“Promising Young Woman”) and social justice (“The Trial of Chicago 7”), the lighter side is all about crawling into the costumes of the past (“The Great,” “Emma”) or ducking into colorful foreign climes (“French Exit”) for adventures in love and explorations of friendship (“Emily in Paris”).
Starting with the most obvious in escapism first, there’s nothing like breaking free of reality and all the laws of nature that govern human existence. On the film front, Max Barbakow’s trippy time warp riff, “Palm Springs,” scored a huge sale to Hulu out of Sundance 2020 and has gone on to rack up plenty of plaudits, including Golden Globes nominations for best motion picture, comedy or musical and best actor in a motion picture, comedy or musical for Andy Samberg.
Over on the small screen front, the utterly loopy and completely delightful “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” garnered the best actress in a television series, comedy or musical nom for breakout star Jane Levy. Because the idea of connecting to others through musical ESP is as good a pandemic fantasy as anyone’s come up with yet.
But not all escapist fantasies are created equal, and one doesn’t need to defy gravity or flee to an alternate space-time continuum for a good time in front of your favorite home screen. In a year when partying with friends and family members can get you fined, not to mention dead, the Golden Globes comedy nominations are packed with entertaining and good-natured excursions into that forbidden pastime known as “hanging out.”
The final season of Emmy comedy champ and plucky Canuck underdog series “Schitt’s Creek” turned a fish out of water story into a celebration of love, tolerance and friendship. Golden Globes voters felt the love and awarded the show nominations for best comedy or musical series, while also nomming Eugene Levy as best actor in a comedy or musical series and Catherine O’Hara as best actress in a comedy or musical series.
Wearing its LGBTQ heart on its musical theater sleeve, “The Prom” celebrated a gang of crackpot theater biz pals from the Big Apple who venture into the heartland in search of a cause they can exploit. Since no one can go to see New York theater or travel or hang with friends, “Prom” scored a triple whammy of escapist fantasy and garnered a best comedy or musical film nomination and a nomination for James Corden as best actor in a comedy or musical film.
And there’s probably no series more embodying the values of team spirit and simple human kindness than “Ted Lasso,” set in yet another land to which no one can travel and centered in another group activity, soccer, that no one can get out of the damn house and play without fear of Neighborhood COVID Watch patrols. “Lasso” got Golden Globes’ love in the categories of best comedy or musical TV series and best actor in a comedy or musical series for the wonderfully mustachioed and kind-hearted titular lead, winningly played by Jason Sudeikis.
Even the politics of the comedy or musical field are generally palatable, relatable and a playful departure from the tough realities of the past year. “Hamilton” continued winning praise for its potent reimagining of America’s founding and scoring Globe noms for best comedy or musical film and for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s now legendary lead turn.
As current as the most recent presidential election, in which the film actually played an important supporting role by highlighting Trump stalwart Rudy Giuliani’s strange proclivities and relaxation techniques, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” took audiences on a zany, but warm-hearted father-daughter journey through contemporary America. Their riotous rites of passage pic scored a best comedy or musical film nom and also won a best actor in a comedy or musical nom for star-writer-director Sacha Baron Cohen and a best actress nom for his incredible discovery (and Variety Actor to Watch) Maria Bakalova.
It can be debated by critics — or the extremely bored and stuck at home awards season watchers — as to whether the films and TV shows nominated for Golden Globes comedy and musical honors will be judged by history as ranking with the best of all time. But one thing is abundantly clear: none of us could have made it through the past year without the gifts of laughter and humanity they parachuted into our pandemically locked-down pads.
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