This weekend, the Golden Globes will be the first big try-outs for how the Oscar race might go. As the biggest publicity event heading into the Oscars, held right in the sweet spot after Oscar voting starts but before it ends, and with every celebrity in the known universe attending, there is no better chance to see what a win for a film or actor feels like in front of an audience. Or what a loss for one might feel like.
When Jim Cameron won big for Avatar at the Globes, the way that win was received, as the audience watched Kathryn Bigelow lose, really did help propel The Hurt Locker’s dominance. The Oscar story was a brilliant one, pitting Bigelow as the scrappy underdog and Cameron as the former ex-husband/mentor who had already won big at the Oscars with Titanic. It turned out to be gold for voters, and with Bigelow becoming the first woman to win Best Director and Best Picture, it was all the more delicious. Would The Hurt Locker have still won big had it beaten Avatar at the Globes? It’s hard to say. Perception is a tricky thing to navigate. It is not something you know — it’s something you feel.
When Argo won big at the Golden Globes, it was fairly close to Ben Affleck’s “snub” for Best Director at the Oscars. His shock and surprise at his own win was a pleasure to watch and they sustained the film’s dominance on through the entire season, eventually landing Argo the Best Picture win.
When La La Land broke the record at the Globes with seven wins, that definitely meant it would land its 14 Oscar nominations, which it did quite easily. But there was a sense at that moment that the worm might turn a little bit, particularly since Moonlight was right on its tail, beloved by all. And as La La Land’s momentum began to dip, Moonlight’s began to rise. Was the turning point the Globes? If La La Land had not won there, might there have been more urgency to vote for it by the time the Oscars came around? It’s possible. Moonlight did win the Globe for Drama before going on to win in a mix-up upset at the Oscars. La La Land could have blocked Moonlight’s Globes boost had it been placed in the Drama category, but how do you put an actual musical in the Drama category? You can’t really, though A Star is Born really pushed that to the limit this year.
When Kate Winslet won two Globes for The Reader and for Revolutionary Road, it was a moment she played off perfectly. She was spiking the ball on a long career of being always a bridesmaid and never a bride. With the help of Harvey Weinstein, who knew just how to sell Winslet as a winner, she ended up receiving her Oscar for The Reader in Best Actress.
The Globes can play a huge part in how a winner is made or how a frontrunner can slip. It all depends on how it plays out. It isn’t something you can know until you watch it go down. Last year’s win for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was a bit of an upset. Guillermo del Toro still won Best Director, as he was expected to do all through the season. Spotlight was completely shut out of the Golden Globes because The Revenant dominated there and, like del Toro, Inarittu was expected to win, at the very least for Best Director.
The reason that it’s so hard right now to predict this Oscar race is that we don’t know what story voters will want to tell. Now more than ever films aren’t judged just on whether or not they’re good — they also have to be supremely woke. They have to not offend anyone. They have to make people feel good about supporting them for whatever reason. There has to be urgency to vote for the film. Three Billboards was hit with a shitstorm, which knocked it down a peg heading into the Oscars, even though it won at SAG and BAFTA. Voters, in the end, chose The Shape of Water partly because they liked it, and partly to avoid the shitstorm they knew would be coming if they picked Three Billboards.
And so it goes with Green Book. If that movie does well at the Globes, there will be some epic think pieces written. You know the journalists who will be writing them. It could create the wrong kind of noise that could boomerang back to the Oscars, perhaps towards a win for Black Panther or BlacKkKlansman, though either film could win anyway.
Still, a Green Book win at the Globes won’t be an epic shitstorm — more of a shitsquall — because it’s mercifully in the Musical/Comedy category and no one will care enough to take it apart. The real heat, as everyone knows, is in Drama category where A Star Is Born will go up against Black Panther. You can see right away how that one will play out. Though Ryan Coogler is not nominated as Best Director, the enthusiasm for the film remains off the charts, both to “save” the Oscars from the dreaded popular film category but also because it is the most successful, least problematic film in the race. Imagine if/when A Star is Born beats it, how people are going to feel about that. You can probably guess.
What other films might win if it isn’t either one of those? Well, BlacKkKlansman could do it, along with Spike Lee in Best Director. That would bring the house down and set that film up as the newly minted frontrunner. It might be the only film that can beat Black Panther once the momentum train starts a-rolling down the tracks.
A win for Beale Street or Bohemian Rhapsody would be considered a super shock. But you never know. Most likely we’re looking at a showdown between Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, and A Star Is Born. A lot of people will presume that Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman will cancel each other out and A Star Is Born will take it.
Over in the Musical/Comedy category, Green Book goes up against The Favourite. Green Book has nominations for director, screenplay, and two acting nominations, while The Favourite has screenplay and three acting nominations while missing director. To add even more complication, Mary Poppins Returns is also in the game there and could easily win on its charms. Vice is the real wild card. Admired by the Globes with nominations for Director and Screenplay, but with mixed reviews by the critics, it’s a story without a known ending. This is a tough category to predict and any of these films could win.
Both Vice and Green Book might have some strange blowblack from the bloggerati if they win, while The Favourite or Mary Poppins likely won’t. Green Book is the more universally appealing. But that might not fly now, when films aren’t measured just by how good they are but also how little they offend.
The acting categories are also somewhat confusing. Oscar watchers often predict the Globes based on two things: how big the star is and how much a-courting the studio and/or star did with the HFPA voters. Are we talking perfume, are we talking parties? Most will be expecting both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga to win because everyone knows that viewers will want to see them both take the stage. What that means for Oscar? Well, it’s one of those things we have to see play out.
The Golden Globes on Sunday are going to help us get a slightly clearer picture, but it won’t be until the Producers Guild announces their winner that we’ll get our first really big hint for what Best Picture might look like.
We will be posting our predictions on Friday. Stay tuned.