In recent years, the Golden Globes have proved themselves not good predictor of Oscar’s Best Picture, drama. If you subtract last year’s steamroller, Slumdog Millionaire, you will see that the Globes don’t always “influence” Oscar the way one might thing. They are a group of about 100 dubious members of the “foreign press,” whose identities are largely unknown listed on their website. What we do know about them, though, is that they are forthcoming with their polling. The day before the Globes a friend told me that two publicists he knew had polled enough members of the HFPA to know that they “loved Avatar” with a passion and that they would be voting for Jim Cameron for Director, and the film in large numbers. Surely this can’t be so, I said. But Kathryn Bigelow–his response was “they hated The Hurt Locker.” Hearing that, I was not that surprised (although a bit gutted) to watch Kathryn Bigelow’s masterpiece go home empty-handed last night. Anyway, instead of laying out criticisms of the HFPA, we can file them in the category of “it doesn’t matter what they think except in terms of how they influence the race, if at all.”
Anyone who gets very excited, or very depressed about their choices (raises hand) must remember that they are a fairly insignificant group known more for being impressed with celebrity. I loved it when Ricky Gervais suggested they can be bought off because everyone knows it’s true, or at least believes it to be true:
1. No group, except maybe the National Board of Review (and even they get more respect) gets less respect than the HFPA.
2. The reason people suck up to them, and the reason they matter is because they can sway public opinion and they can alter perception.
3. The critics probably don’t care much about public opinion. They certainly don’t care about box office. The Oscar voters, however, do.
4. The Golden Globes are often an audition for awards season to see if a winner is “right” or a winner is “wrong.”
5. They have become such a big broadcast that now it’s almost its own honor to win a Golden Globe, whether it gets you to the Kodak or not.
I’m only half kidding. What is Oscar season without the inevitable “let’s trash the HFPA for being starfuckers” article, right?
So who gained ground, who lost ground last night?
Sandra Bullock AND Meryl Streep – these two will easily sail through to Oscar. Streep comes with her usual problems – she is too good so people take her for granted. Sandra Bullock has the money in a year when the money really matters. Did the money buy her her Golden Globe? I don’t think so. Some might feel that Carey Mulligan “deserved” it but I think that when you have two actors side by side, one has paid dues and the others hasn’t — if it’s a toss-up as to their performance, why not award the actress who has paid her dues? If one performance is that much better (and don’t count the part where one has an English accent and therefore “sounds smarter”) then it’s a different story. What I can say is this: Julia Roberts wasn’t that great in Erin Brockovich. But her popularity more than made up for it in awards season: it was time. Making things a little more difficult this year is that both Streep AND Bullock are money makers this year (if that don’t beat all).
Avatar and Jim Cameron – as I said in the comments last night, Kathryn Bigelow had a hold on the critics up to the point of the Golden Globes. Where it goes from here will be talked about and debated for years to come. What I do know is that the seal has been broken and we’ve seen that Cameron can beat her (even if it is with a dubious group of non-critics, non-industry professionals — who are they anyway? WHAT are they?) so now, it will make a difference as to whether one film rises where another falters. Will the awards be a slam dunk for Avatar, thus infusing the film and awards industry with a much-needed healthy cash flow? Will they award the movie that brings in fans from all over the world to be interested in their own awards show? Will they want to revive the Oscars to be the global event it once was? Or will they simply award the best film of the year? We will have to wait and see how that goes – what we do know is that Jim Cameron won last night. The Hurt Locker was shut out (by a bunch of –insert insult here).
Jeff Bridges — there is no stopping Bridges now. I think, or I will make a long shot prediction, that the only possible challenger Bridges has right now for the Lead Actor Oscar would be Viggo Mortensen if he even gets nominated. I think Viggo will be in the Adrien Brody slot if he somehow manages to woo the Academy and that could prove problematic for Jeff Bridges. I don’t think anyone watched The Road, but if they did they would be blown out by Viggo’s work much the same way they were blown out by Brody’s. But the most likely scenario is a Jeff Bridges sweep of the awards, up to and including the Oscar. It helps that Crazy Heart is a good movie.
The Hangover – on the one hand, it’s hard to take the Globes seriously at all, about anything, but The Hangover is a popular film. When an awards show begins, and you’re watching the red carpet, one gets a feeling for certain people. I knew immediately Robert Downey, Jr. was winning the minute I saw him on camera. But I didn’t predict him to win because I was not thinking about his star power. The Hangover and Avatar were both palpably popular on the red carpet — none of them were talking about The Hurt Locker. Two reasons why not – the first, it’s a depressing war movie. This crowd of anti-depressants were looking to forget their troubles, come on get happy. The second reason, many of them had not even seen the film. Why hadn’t they seen it? No stars. It is every cynic’s worse case scenario playing out. The Globes, more than any other group, panders to celebrities. So it was clear to me that Downey, Jr. was winning, the Hangover was winning, Cameron and Avatar were winning.
Lost Ground or Holding Steady:
Up in the Air. Since the Globe are notorious starfuckers, one assumed that George Clooney would triumph as Best Actor, at the very least. That he didn’t win showed a weakness, at least where the Globes are concerned. Not quite sure why Up in the Air is falling so fast this season – I really think it was too heavily hyped during the festival circuit, perhaps. It needed to be discovered by critics and/or audiences. So audiences are going for Avatar and critics are going for The Hurt Locker – Up in the Air is faltering. But it will likely win Screenplay. Its biggest challenger is Precious in adapted, I think. Maybe District 9.
Precious, Inglourius Basterds — while Screenplay can be Tarantino’s big play, these two films have secured wins in the supporting categories. That may be deemed “enough.” We’ll have to see what the other voting bodies do, but if the Globes are any indication of how this race will go (they may or may not be) this was the moment Basterds or Precious would have turned up the heat.¬† This is the moment when the Oscar race often turns sour for me. When I see good films get the short shrift. But such is the price one pays – the trick is not minding.
The Hurt Locker – I hesitate to put this on here because the film is doing well without the Globes. But should it falter from here on out it’s because we are entering a new phase where the critics matter less than the money. Someone told me last night that Avatar is the kind of film that will keep people in jobs for decades to come – it is the birth of a franchise, the ultimate cash cow. Even if people don’t like it, they can’t help but bow down to all of that green. If it topples Titanic, forget it. It’s all over. I understand the reasons why. We are here to attempt to make sense of it all, even when it doesn’t make sense.¬†¬† If it turns out to be a replay of 1997, as we have been presuming all along, then this is the point when opinion shifted. It shifted from LA Confidential to Titanic at the Globes. And then Jim Cameron and co. kept on winning.
Avatar is a film that people can understand all over the world. Because of its universal theme, like Titanic, it isn’t a complex story that requires intelligence to figure out – almost anyone can figure it out. By contrast, both The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds require intelligence upon viewing. One must actively watch, not passively watch. Avatar is a great experience, an exceptional experience. The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds are great films period. I still believe that The Hurt Locker was the best film of 2009. It might go down in film history as such, which would made it a great candidate to lose the Oscar. After all, they have a reputation to maintain.
It doesn’t matter what I think, though. Money. Money. Money.
Our Globes comparison chart is here.