There’s a solemn reverence and a queasy irony to posthumous awards, which must celebrate those who cannot ever carry them.
That’s the case with Chadwick Boseman, who won his first Golden Globe for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” a movie he wasn’t alive to see. The best actor winner died last summer of colon cancer at 43, and the adaptation of the August Wilson play didn’t hit theaters and Netflix until later in the year. The years-long diagnosis of the actor, who starred in Black Panther and played Black American icons like Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and James Brown, was not known to the public.
When Boseman won the award, his widow Taylor Simone Ledward accepted on his behalf with an emotional speech.
— NBC Entertainment (@nbc) March 1, 2021
“He would thank God,” Ledward said through tears. “He would thank his parents. He would thank his ancestors for their guidance and their sacrifices.
“He would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you, ‘you can,’ that tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you are meant to be doing in this moment in history.
“I don’t have his words. But we have to take all the moments to celebrate those we love.”
The speech was a rare highlight of the strained and stilted ceremony, which was plagued with pandemic-induced technical glitches and burdened by controversy over the stark racial inequity in its voting body. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” was snubbed a best picture nomination along with other critically-acclaimed movies centered on Black-led narratives like “Judas and the Black Messiah” and Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” which also featured Boseman.
Despite pushback against the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, it was still a pretty big night for actors and directors of color.
Beyond Boseman’s landmark win, Daniel Kaluuya won the first award of the night for his portrayal of Black Panther revolutionary Fred Hampton in “Judas and The Black Messiah”; John Boyega cinched another for his role in the Steve McQueen anthology “Small Axe”; Pixar’s first Black-led movie “Soul” won best animated picture (though the competition was slim); Andra Day got best actress in a drama for the title role in “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday”; and Chloé Zhao won best director for “Nomadland”, becoming the first Asian woman (and the second woman ever) to win the award.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Chloé Zhao as Asian-American. She is Chinese.
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