Golden Globes Snubs and Surprises: What Do They Mean for the Oscars?

     January 6, 2020

The Golden Globes were held last night, and despite the fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s reputation as a respectable voting body is less than stellar, and that Globes voters don’t vote for Oscars, the Globes do still have an impact on the Oscar race. As such, certain predicted wins that didn’t pan out can point the way towards possible Oscar upsets, especially in the wake of last year’s Globes where Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody reigned supreme. The reaction at the time was that the HFPA was being the most extra, and yet when the Oscars rolled around, which two films had the biggest night? Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody.

This year’s Golden Globes had its fair share of snubs and surprises, but the biggest shocker was 1917 coming out of nowhere to take Best Director and Best Motion Picture – Drama. Filmmaker Sam Mendes’ World War I film was a latecomer to this year’s Oscar race, and while the one-shot thriller has drawn strong notices for its technical achievement, critical reaction has been somewhat divisive. To that end, 1917 has had sort of a muted presence on the awards circuit thus far despite picking up nominations from various guilds. But 1917 is muted no more. In fact, it’s a serious threat.

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Image via Universal

I think the Best Director win says the most about 1917’s chances. Everyone’s been predicting Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, or Bong Joon-ho to be the frontrunner in that category, but if you look at the Oscar winners for Best Director over the past decade, they are more often than not people singled out for stunning technical achievements. Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity and Roma; Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu for Birdman and The Revenant; Ang Lee for Life of Pi; Damien Chazelle for La La Land. The winner in this category has usually gone to a filmmaker who has stretched the limits of cinema in some way, and if we follow that line of thinking, it makes sense that Mendes (who won Best Director for his first film, American Beauty) might win.

1917 is a nakedly ambitious piece of filmmaking only made possible by Mendes’ bold vision, whereas what Scorsese is doing with The Irishman or even Bong Joon-ho with Parasite is more subtly breathtaking. Not less impressive, mind you, but given that Oscar voters tend to award “most” over “best,” something a bit more obvious has a leg up.

Four of the last five winners of the Golden Globe for Best Director have gone on to win the Oscar, so statistics appear to be on Mendes’ side. And momentum too, as 1917 got a huge boost in visibility with those two big Globes wins. I’m less confident that the film’s Best Motion Picture – Drama win translates to a Best Picture Oscar win, but stranger things have happened (see: freaking Green Book).

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Image via Paramount Pictures

Another pretty huge surprise/upset at the Globes was Taron Egerton winning Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for his terrific turn as Elton John in Rocketman. He beat out Leonardo DiCaprio for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Eddie Murphy for Dolemite Is My Name, both of whom are considered major contenders in the Best Actor Oscar race—even if we can all kind of agree that Joaquin Phoenix has the Oscar win sewn up for Joker. But Murphy was riding a comeback narrative and DiCaprio is a Globes favorite, so for Egerton to pull ahead like that is certainly substantial.

Egerton has been working the awards circuit basically since last spring when Rocketman hit theaters, and you know what? Good for him. If Rami Malek can win an Oscar for lip syncing in a bad musical biopic, then Egerton at least deserves a nomination for actually singing in a good musical biopic. And while, again, Globes voters don’t vote for Oscars, the visibility of the winners can provide a boost to certain candidates, and I would not be shocked to learn that Egerton knocked Murphy out of the Best Actor nomination circle at the Oscars.

As for snubs, well Netflix couldn’t have been happy last night. The Irishman was completely shut out and Marriage Story took home only one award for Laura Dern for Best Supporting Actress. I don’t necessarily think this foretells doom for either film, and I expect both to have a strong showing nominations-wise, but in terms of wins it’ll be interesting to see how many—if any—can be racked up. Robert De Niro has already been snubbed by SAG and the Globes so it’s now looking likely he won’t earn a Best Actor nomination after all, and Marriage Story’s Noah Baumbach has to go head-to-head with Tarantino in the Best Original Screenplay category. Tarantino took the Globes prize, so it’ll be interesting to see if that momentum carries through the Oscars. Despite his reputation, Tarantino has only won two Screenplay Oscars for Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained.

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Image via Sony Pictures

Speaking of which, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood had a very good night, earning the most Globes of any film, and seems primed for a big Oscars run. Tarantino’s 1969-set film picked up the awards for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Supporting Actor (Brad Pitt), and Best Screenplay, solidifying Pitt’s status as the frontrunner to win his first-ever acting Oscar. And the film itself seems like the surest bet for a Best Picture win at the moment, especially in the wake of The Irishman’s lackluster showing—unless 1917 really does go all the way.

But there were two other major surprises at the Globes that could be pointing towards a couple of Oscar upsets. LAIKA took the Best Animated Feature prize for Missing Link over the much higher profile Toy Story 4 and Frozen II, while Rocketman won Best Original Song over the Frozen II earworm “Into the Unknown.” As for the former, LAIKA has never won the Oscar and statistics heavily favor Disney and/or Pixar in this category. But still, that Globes win was a huge PR boost for the stop-motion animation studio, and it’ll be interesting to see if it convinces voters to check Missing Link out during what is a decidedly weak year for the Best Animated Feature category.

As for Best Original Song, it’s less the fact that Rocketman won and more than songwriters Elton John and Bernie Taupin introduced the perfect narrative onstage: the team has never won an award together throughout their entire career. That’s an insane statistic and could give “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” a major boost in this category, especially given that John and Taupin are the subjects of the film as well.

Oscar nomination voting is ongoing right now—although it’s winding down, as the full list of nominees will be announced on Monday, January 13th. So we’re almost there, but the Golden Globe awards shook up a couple of narratives and could be hinting towards some major upsets come Oscar night. We’ll find out soon enough.

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