The Golden Globes have more influence on the Oscar race than any other group. That doesn’t mean they have a predictive quality, that what wins at the Globes will win at the Oscars, but often what happens at the Globes has an impact on what happens at the Oscars. That is because the Globes can often serve as a trial run for perception of winners. A win can feel really good (Argo) or it can feel really bad (Avatar). Of course, social media has added a whole new layer to perception that sometimes is effective and sometimes isn’t, depending on how many high status Tweeters pile on, or how many think pieces are written or how many voters become aware of that perception. I suppose that wins for Bohemian Rhapsody, Three Billboard and Green Book had an impact on Twitter in a negative way. Green Book’s real trouble didn’t start until it won the Producers Guild, however. Three Billboards winning drama, and its subsequent BAFTA wins, definitely drove the anger towards it much higher; if a film is not a threat it can escape the hive mind’s wrath.
And that is really the trick heading into Oscars 2021. If we know we are in the “witch hunt phase” already, but we don’t know if we are at the apex of it or the beginning of it, we have to assume anything that wins Best Picture at the Globes is going to be hotly debated on Twitter – which is already primed for a fight. There are a few themes that will be putting pressure on the film awards race, like the grand finale of HBO’s new doc about the Woody Allen accusations headed for mid March just in time for the Oscars. It seems that every year there has been something overtaking the awards that makes some voters feel they have to somehow make a statement about it – whether it was the Me Too movement when the Harvey Weinstein story hit, or the antiracism concerns that are sweeping through all of American culture and its institutions. Trump is gone from social media, which is a bit like removing a chicken leg from a pile of ants devouring it. Once you pull it away the ants are in a state of chaos, not sure where to aim their army.
The Golden Globe Awards ceremony coming at the end of the month will be the first time we see at least two of the frontrunners go head to head: Nomadland and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Minari, which is widely seen as giving those two some Oscar heat, won’t be as much in play as it will at the industry awards coming next month.
At the moment, all we have is hindsight to guide us through the jump from the Globes to the Oscars. In an ordinary year, the Oscar race would be nearly over by now, with the Globes long since left behind. Now we have a long lag time with Oscar ballots not even being sent out until next month. That is plenty of time for a narrative to take shape. Or, as it sometimes goes, an anti narrative.
Let’s go through the last decade or so of wins from both groups and examine the narrative.
2009 – Heading into the Oscar race, Avatar and Jim Cameron were up against The Hurt Locker and Kathryn Bigelow. It wasn’t really until the Globes, when Cameron won the two top prizes, in keeping with the early buzz when the race began, that the awards community woke up to the possibility that the charismatic Bigelow was about to lose to Cameron, her ex-husband. That narrative took off like a dropped cigarette in a Santa Ana wind storm. The narrative of husband vs. wife, man vs. woman, big effects film vs. nuts and bolts movie, highest grossing film of all time (at that time) vs. one of the least grossing Best Picture contenders (or winners) of all time. That was a hell of a story to follow for the weeks of Oscar season – highly dramatic, with a heroine and a villain. It was too delicious to resist watching Bigelow beat Cameron and no one would have gotten to that frenzy had Cameron not beaten her at the Globes. The PGA handed it to Bigelow and from thence towards Best Picture.
Globes winner: Avatar
Globes Director: Avatar
PGA/DGA: The Hurt Locker
SAG: Inglourious Basterds
Oscar winner: The Hurt Locker
Oscar Director: The Hurt Locker
2010 – This was not my favorite year to live through because it was one of the better examples of complete and total buy-in by the critics and a total switcheroo by the guilds as The Social Network won Best Picture and Best Director at the Globes then lost Best Picture at PGA, ensemble at SAG, Best Director at DGA (a true head-scratcher) and finally, Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars. I could formulate a theory that there were rumors about money and other things but I think there is a kind of winner who doesn’t act excited enough to please the awards community in such a way as to justify their vote. I think that is what happened to Quentin Tarantino and even Sam Mendes last year, compared to Bong Joon Ho who was literally appearing everywhere, at every party, acting much more grateful. Ditto Danny Boyle and other winners. Voters on the whole like to feel like they are doing a good thing with their vote and unless they get that dopamine hit it can’t last a whole season. There are people who are able to play the part of the awards contender and do so happily but for others it is far too surreal to be the organ grinder’s monkey for a statue. It’s either that or The King’s Speech was just the movie that made you FEEL vs. The Social Network which, like Citizen Kane, All the President’s Men and other masterpieces, was not a movie that was driven by an emotional response, put it that way.
Globes winner: The Social Network
Globes Director: The Social Network
PGA/DGA/SAG: The King’s Speech
Oscar winner: The King’s Speech
Oscar Director: The King’s Speech
2011 – The Artist vs. Hugo – there wasn’t a lot of competition there. The Artist simply charmed its way through the critics awards and the industry awards and on through to Oscar. But Hugo ended up winning the same number of Oscars as The Artist did (5), which is interesting. The Artist, like the King’s Speech, was a Best Director newbie vs. a veteran that was driving some of us absolutely insane. Either which way, that was an easy year to figure out. There never was much of a debate about what was going to win.
Globes winner (musical/comedy): The Artist
Globes Best Director: Hugo
PGA/DGA: The Artist
SAG: The Help
Oscar winner: The Artist
Oscar Best Director: The Artist
2012 – Now we have our Argo year where the two strongest contenders appeared to be Lincoln vs. Zero Dark Thirty. There was also Silver Linings Playbook and Life of Pi – an incredibly strong year for the Oscar race. Argo winning at the Globes was a really good lesson on what a grateful winner looks like. They were surprised for sure and that surprised feeling, combined with Ben Affleck being left off the Best Director list, carried the movie on through the entire season, winning PGA, DGA, SAG ensemble and from thence to Oscar. A charismatic actor making a comeback being left off the Best Director list was a culture quake in the awards race and thus, unstoppable.
Globes winner: Argo
Globes Director: Argo
Oscar winner: Argo
Best Director: Life of Pi
2013 – This was the year there were several films by black directors that were headed for the race – Fruitvale Station, The Butler, and 12 Years a Slave, which came out of Telluride as the frontrunner. It was odd, though, because the critics did not really feel like bowing to the Oscar bloggers and awarding it Best Picture in their awards, as I recall, which made it an underdog heading into the race. The reason for that was the beginning of the “three amigos” overtaking the Oscar Best Director category for many years to follow. Alfonso Cuaron had brought Gravity into the race and it came down to those two, with many of the high profile pundits going for Gravity. At the Globes, 12 Years won but Alfonso Cuaron won Best Director. The PGA went to both films in a rare tie. Cuaron won the DGA. I figured out that an agreed upon split early like that could carry through to the end, as happens more often than not in the era of the preferential ballot.
Globes winner: 12 Years a Slave
Globes Director: Gravity
PGA: 12 Years a Slave + Gravity
SAG: American Hustle
Oscar winner: 12 Years a Slave
Oscar Director: Gravity
2014 – Here was another year where one movie dominated the critics awards to a staggering degree. That movie was Boyhood and it was going up against Birdman. Birdman didn’t even win the Globe that year because the Grand Budapest Hotel did. But it somehow resonated with the industry and won the PGA, the DGA, the SAG ensemble and from thence to Oscar. The BAFTA gave their awards to Boyhood, which gave many of us some hope that it might pull through the Oscars but it didn’t. Birdman all the way, and Alejandro G. Inarritu would win Best Director for the first time.
Globes winner: Boyhood
Globes Director: Boyhood
Oscar winner: Birdman
Oscar Director: Birdman
2015 – Another semi-wacky year with a late breaker, The Revenant, dominating the Golden Globes. It beat Spotlight there, but hit a snag, as so many films do, after it won at the Globes. Voters weren’t really digging it to the degree that would deliver a win. This is a great example of a divisive film that has a harder time winning on a preferential ballot where a film like Spotlight is ideal for it. This was definitely a case of the Globes hitting a certain mark and the Oscars deciding to go a different way. Inarritu would win his second consecutive Oscar. The Big Short would win the PGA somehow. But Spotlight would win the SAG ensemble and go on to win only two Oscars, including Best Picture.
Globes winner: The Revenant
Globes Director: The Revenant
PGA: The Big Short
DGA: The Revenant
Oscar winner: Spotlight
Oscar Director: The Revenant
2016 – This was supposed to be the La La Land year. As it would turn out, La La Land would win a record number of Golden Globe awards, where it would sweep. The Golden Globes were held just as Trump was being inaugurated and protests were exploding all over the country. While La La Land took the PGA and the DGA, it was not nominated for the SAG. La La Land was losing its luster heading into the race, where people began writing angry columns about Ryan Gosling “explaining” Jazz and the appearance of John Legend in the film and how all of a sudden it seemed like a really problematic winner for the brand new era under Trump. It was palpable the night of the Oscars where there was a chill against La La Land and warmth towards Moonlight, which ended up winning Best Picture. La La Land was announced first, then a mistake was revealed and Moonlight won.
Globes Winners: Moonlight, La La Land
Globes Director: La La Land
PGA/DGA: La La Land
SAG: Hidden Figures
Oscar Winner: Moonlight
Best Director: La La Land
2017 – After the La La Land fall, voters went ahead for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – a powerful film about a mother avenging the rape and murder of her child. But as with La La Land, the narrative around it became all consuming to the point where the film was being accused of overt racism, along with the film’s director, and even Frances McDormand. Despite that, it kept winning. It surprised at the Globes, beating The Shape of Water. But the Shape of Water won the PGA and the DGA, setting up what many thought might be a split vote, with the last of the “Three Amigos” to win, Guillermo del Toro, and Three Billboards winning Best Picture. It even won both Best Picture and Best British Film at BAFTA, and also the SAG ensemble. In the end, The Shape of Water would win, but Three Billboards would still win Best Actress for Frances McDormand and Supporting for Sam Rockwell.
Globes winner: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Globes Director: The Shape of Water
PGA/DGA: The Shape of Water
SAG: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Oscar winner: The Shape of Water
Oscar Director: The Shape of Water
2018 – Now we have the Green Book year, which was a continuation of what we already saw in 2016 and 2017, which is a film dealing with racism that became a target. La La Land didn’t deal, in any way, with racism but because it had a black character in it, and “jazz” as a character in the film it did come under fire for cultural appropriation. But none of it would come even remotely close to Green Book, which we’ve already discussed many times before and requires no additional explanation. It all started at the Globes when Green Book won in Musical/Comedy and Bohemian Rhapsody won in Drama. Neither of these wins sat well with Film Twitter, that’s for sure. This was the year Netflix went all in for Roma, which won Best Director at the Globes and Alfonso Cuaron would be on track to win his second Oscar. For its part, because the hive mind overplayed its hand, Green Book benefitted from a defensive vote, which ended up handing the win to Green Book, much to the traumatized horror of the film community.
Globes Winner: Green Book*
Globes Director: Roma
PGA: Green Book
SAG: Black Panther
Oscar Winner: Green Book
Oscar Director: Roma
2019 – Now we have a great year for Oscar movies, I thought, with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood going up against 1917 and Parasite. 1917 won the Golden Globe, and it would win the PGA and the DGA, setting it up for a big win at the Oscars. It is extremely rare to win all three of these and not win the Oscar for Best Picture. Except where the actors are involved. 1917 had no SAG ensemble nomination but Parasite did. The night of the SAG awards there were already protests against all of the frontrunners having “all white casts” and there were no non-white acting nominees at SAG or at the Oscars. Either way, Parasite was being strongly advocated on social media and word of mouth was spreading about what a great movie it was, and the leftover anger from Roma not having won, thus, Parasite became the first “foreign language film” to win Best Picture and Best Director.
Globes Winner: 1917
Globes Director: 1917
Oscar Winner: Parasite
Oscar Director: Parasite
Only two of the Globe Screenplay winners since 2009 have won Best Picture: Birdman and Green Book.
So there you have it. It is not easy to win the Globe and then go on to win the Oscar. But the Globes is where the narrative starts, for better or worse.