What Do the Surprise Golden Globes Wins Mean for the Oscars?

     January 7, 2019

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Even for an organization as prone to weird picks as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, this year’s Golden Globes ceremony was all kinds of nutty. While the Globes have the distinction of being the most high-profile awards ceremony in the lead up to the Oscars, most have come around to the notion that the Globes aren’t really to be taken seriously. After all, not only does the mysterious 90-plus-member HFPA organization have zero voter overlap with those who vote for the Oscars, they are also notoriously susceptible to, well, celebrities. It’s fairly well known that if you want to be nominated/win Golden Globes, you often have to put in significant facetime with the HFPA members.

Still, even with the knowledge that the HFPA once nominated the forgettable 2010 flop The Tourist for Best Motion Picture –Musical or Comedy, the picks last night were all over the place. A Star Is Born was the presumed frontrunner for the Drama trophies given that, well, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are both huge stars and the film itself is the current Oscar frontrunner in a number of categories. And yet when all was said and done, A Star Is Born walked away with only one award: Best Original Song.

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Image via 20th Century Fox

In A Star Is Born’s stead, Bohemian Rhapsody reigned supreme. The film is probably the biggest surprise of this year’s awards season. Its commercial success can’t be ignored, but poor reviews and scathing criticism about how the film’s “fast and loose” approach to Freddie Mercury’s story has serious ethical concerns led many Oscar prognosticators (myself included) to believe it was a nonstarter. On top of all of that, the film’s director Bryan Singer was fired during production for reasons that still aren’t explicitly clear, and the actors/producers refuse to acknowledge or answer questions about Singer—who’s also fielding sexual misconduct allegations—now that the film is on an awards track. But it picked up a SAG nomination for Best Ensemble, has been recognized by the editors’ guild, and shockingly beat out four critically acclaimed dramas for the Golden Globes’ top prize. Moreover, Rami Malek triumphed over Bradley Cooper for the Best Actor prize.

So what does this mean for the Oscars? Well, again, Golden Globes voters don’t vote on Oscars, but the ceremony itself can shift momentum in either direction for a particular film or performance. The visibility of the Bohemian Rhapsody wins are undeniable, and Oscar nominations voting opens today, meaning that the Queen biopic is fresh on voters minds. While I’m still highly dubious the film has any shot at actually winning Best Picture at the Oscars (Academy voters are far more discerning than the HFPA), it now seems fairly inevitable that Best Picture and Best Actor nominations are in the cards—at the very least. The SAG and other guild nominations signaled there are fans of the movie in the industry, and the Globes wins came at just the right time to boost visibility right before Oscar voting begins.

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Image via Universal Pictures

The Globes also gave a much-needed boost to Green Book, which won the most awards of the night with three in total—including Best Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Screenplay. Peter Farrelly’s race relations dramedy enjoyed mostly positive reviews, but while the film was expected to be a breakout feel-good box office smash, its performance in theaters hasn’t necessarily been remarkable. Moreover, the film has been plagued with drama, as the family of the film’s central black character—Dr. Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali—has come out against the film, saying the filmmakers never reached out to them to get Shirley’s side of the story. Indeed, the film chronicles the friendship between a racist white driver and a black pianist, but its screenplay was written by the white driver’s son. The film was already hit with criticisms for its naïve racial themes, and Dr. Shirley’s family’s statement did it no favors.

But the Globes wins boosted the film’s visibility, and in accepting the Best Picture award you could feel Farrelly pleading to Oscar voters to ignore the drama surrounding the film and to focus on what he believes to be its central message: can’t we all just get along? Of course it’s not that simple in real life, and wins for Green Book are particularly eyebrow-raising considering BlacKkKlansman and Black Panther—two films that tackle race relations with far more complexity, and hail from black filmmakers—are also in the awards conversation.

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Image via Warner Bros.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the Globes effect on the Oscars, Green Book got a much-needed boost, although as with Bohemian Rhapsody I’m less confident of its chances to actually win the top award. Indeed, the Globes wins for these two films don’t solidfy them as Oscar frontrunners. The Shape of Water, Spotlight, Birdman, and The King’s Speech all failed to win the Globes’ top honors and yet went on to win the Best Picture Oscar—in fact Spotlight won zero Golden Globes, and The King’s Speech only won one. So A Star Is Born and Black Panther are in no way down for the count.

The other major Globes shocker came in the Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama category, where the celebrity-loving HFPA was expected to award Gaga for her stunning work in A Star Is Born. Indeed, Gaga is one of the frontrunners for the Best Actress category at the Oscars, with Olivia Colman (who won Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy) seen as her most serious competition. But the Globes went for Glenn Close, whose performance in her passion project The Wife has been on awards prognosticators’ radar for some time even though the film itself has little buzz.

But the Globes’ affect on the Oscars also comes down to the speeches, and Close gave one hell of a speech, spurring a standing ovation in the room. In many ways the Globes are seen as an audition for the Oscars. At the end of the day, the Oscars are voted on by peers of fellow professionals in the industry, and sometimes it’s as simple as, “I liked X’s acceptance speech a lot. I’d like to see her/him win at the Oscars.” Close’s speech was pitch-perfect, packed with genuine emotion and an eloquent pitch for The Wife’s social relevance as it relates to gender dynamics. If The Wife was the film most people hadn’t seen yet, Close’s speech no doubt went a long way towards getting voters to finally pop in that screener. Moreover, Close’s lack of an Oscar win throughout her impressive career adds an “It’s time” narrative in the vein of wins for folks like Gary Oldman and Leonardo DiCaprio.

So no, the Golden Globes don’t really matter, but in terms of Oscar, they can (and do) shake up the narrative a bit. This awards season had a feeling of inevitability to it leading up to the Globes, and as annoyed as I may be by some of these wins (Bohemian Rhapsody? Really?!), the Oscar race admittedly just got a lot more interesting—and complicated. Hold on to your butts.

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