For those with a healthy obsession over awards season, The Golden Globes are of great interest– not because of any great respect held for the trophy itself, but rather for its potential function as a catalyst for increased/decreased buzz heading down the stretch toward the Academy Awards. However, one must be careful to not overreact to what the Golden Globe victories may signify in regards to Oscar potential. As a wrap-up for the ceremony, I’ll break down some perception vs. reality when it comes to the night’s big winners and losers.
Perception: A Golden Globe Best Drama win solidifies front-runner status for 12 Years a Slave.
Reality: To find the last film that won only Best Drama at the Globes and still went on to win Best Picture, you have to go all the way back to Rocky. Thus, the front-runner label is still very much up for grabs. In fact, one can argue the real momentum is with American Hustle, which not only took home Best Comedy but two acting awards as well (The Artist won three Globes two years ago). Besides, The Golden Globes aren’t of great help to Oscar prognosticators when it comes to Best Picture. Only three of the last ten Golden Globe Best Drama winners went on to win Best Picture (The Return of the King, Slumdog Millionaire, and Argo, respectively). The SAG Best Ensemble award is the best indicator, as the Academy’s largest voting group– the actors– also vote for the SAG Awards.
Perception: Leonardo DiCaprio, with tonight’s Globe win, is in the Oscar race.
Reality: As the Oscar nomination ballots have already been turned in, he may not even show up on the ballot. If he makes it into the final five, the win last night, coupled with his incredibly gracious and charming speech, certainly could propel him forward in the race. However, considering how often films are sunk by controversy stirred up thanks to moral outrage (see: Zero Dark Thirty), and considering how incredibly stacked the category is this year– it’s crazy to think that Tom Hanks may not be nominated for his best performance to date in Captain Phillips— it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if we don’t hear his name called this week.
Perception: Jared Leto can’t be caught– the Best Supporting Actor win is his.
Reality: This perception may be on the money: only four of the last fifteen winners of the Globe for Best Supporting Actor failed to win the Oscar. All four of those upsets occurred when seasoned veterans– Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Michael Caine, and James Coburn– and no such elder statesman of the profession seems poised to swoop in this awards season. Michael Fassbender does have the “fortune” of the perception of having been snubbed last year, which could play in his favor, but it seems like a bit of a longshot. Leto’s biggest competition in my eyes? James Gandolfini, the late beloved veteran, who could gain momentum for a posthumous award for his lovely work in Enough Said.
Perception: Jennifer Lawrence will win her second consecutive Oscar.
Reality: Hard to argue with this one either, as, again, only four of the last fifteen winners in this category failed to win an Oscar. Still, this one feels far less settled thanks to Lupita N’yongo. Lawrence charmed again with her Globes acceptance speech, but N’yongo’s dress will have people talking, the lack of acting awards for 12 Years a Slave will be viewed by many as a wrong that needs rectifying, and one can’t help but wonder if all of Lawrence’s awards domination will eventually result in enough backlash that it would give N’yongo some extra wind behind her sails. 12 Years a Slave does seem, after tonight, to be evidently less well-liked than American Hustle… but that doesn’t mean Lawrence is out of the woods just yet.
Perception: So if the statistics for the supporting categories are being used as evidence, what about Best Actress? Only once in the last fifteen years has a winner of a Best Actress Globe failed to win the Oscar! So is Sandra Bullock out of it?
Reality: No, but the SAG Award is her last chance. That exception in the last fifteen years was Halle Berry, who won the SAG. Bullock’s best chance is if Gravity ends up getting serious Best Picture momentum– certainly not out of the realm of probability– so if people just vote for Gravity down the ballot, Bullock would be the beneficiary. Still, this does put Cate Blanchett firmly as the front-runner, and Diane Keaton’s gracious acceptance of Woody Allen’s lifetime achievement award at the Globes, with a focus on how terrific his female characters are, certainly helps matters.
Perception: Chiwetel Ejiofor was pretty close to a lock for Best Actor, but with his loss tonight, the race is wide open.
Reality: The worst acting category to use the Globes as a predictor for would be Best Actor. Fewer than half of the winners of the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama went on to win the Academy Award (seven out of fifteen). Even if 12 Years a Slave loses Best Picture, the Academy is bound to give it at least one above-the-line win, and Ejiofor’s brave leading performance seems a pretty strong bet. The race is definitely more open now than it was yesterday morning, with McConaughey looking to be a tough competitor, and, as mentioned, DiCaprio could be the comedic fly in the ointment for his more serious counterparts.
Perception: Even if Redford loses, All Is Lost may come home with the Best Original Score Oscar for Alex Ebert.
Reality: While Original Score has lined up between the two award shows dating back to 2007, before that there was plenty of divide. All of the wins the last few years were for films nominated for Best Picture, which All is Lost is wildly unlikely to be. I still think, much like Best Picture, this race comes down to 12 Years a Slave versus Gravity. Still, it was great to see Ebert win, as the music in All is Lost truly is terrific.
Perception: U2 has 22 Grammys. This year, with Harvey Weinstein at their side, could they add an Oscar to the mix?
Reality: A not-so-secret secret: the HFPA usually gives Best Original Song to whoever the biggest star nominee is. Rarely do the winners for Best Original Song at the Globes also win at the Oscars. Sometimes, the Globe winner isn’t even nominated. Bono will have to settle for his makeout session with Amy Poehler.
Perception: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler weren’t as good this year as they were last year.
Reality: While some of their early jokes earned crickets, they also weren’t given much time to show themselves off. Still, while Ellen should be a genial Oscar host, she’s unlikely to give you a zinger as quality as the George Clooney joke Tina and Amy launched into the room early into the ceremony.
Perception: Who the hell cares? Awards season doesn’t matter.
Reality: This is a common complaint among the masses (including on this very website) during this time of year. It’s hard to disagree sometimes: the marketplace is insanely saturated with advertisements and thinkpieces. Plus, when a movie you dislike ends up doing well, it’s enough to make you wonder what the point is. If you hate Argo, you aren’t going to remember last year as “the year of Argo,” and the lack of an Oscar certainly doesn’t diminish the greatness of a truly great piece of cinema, so what’s the point of awards and this whole crazy season?
The point is how much attention the season draws. The American layman loves a good awards show. They’re more likely to see a film if it’s nominated or wins a major award like a Golden Globe or an Oscar. Over 40 million people watched last year’s Academy Awards, far more people than an indie critical darling would dream of drawing at the box office. Thus, awards season has a massive impact on exposure. It affects box office, it affects rentals and purchases, and, perhaps most importantly of all, if the box office of a high-quality film goes up, it makes it more likely that high-quality films will continue to get distributed. The types of films we don’t usually get to see, too.
For instance: The Artist, a French silent black-and-white movie, made over forty million dollars in America alone. Americans hate black-and-white films and they hate having to read the dialogue on the screen… yet more Americans saw that than safer box office bets like Final Destination 5, Spy Kids 4, Scream 4, Big Momma’s House 3, or the Arthur remake. They saw it because they heard about it on awards shows. Flash forward two years: at the Golden Globes, two more black-and-white films, Nebraska and Frances Ha, receive nominations. More people will see those films as a result of hearing about them during an awards ceremony, and perhaps more people will subsequently get over their silly contemporary bias against the lovely art of black-and-white cinema.
The effect doesn’t apply solely to the layman either. I see a lot of films (over 125 every year), but there are certainly movies that go under my radar. Awards season coverage has helped and continues to help steer me towards films I otherwise may have missed. Plenty of bloggers wrote that Brie Larson gives an award-worthy performance in Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12 after they saw it at SXSW this past year. It was put into the cross-hairs of people like me, people who helped drive it over a million dollars at the domestic box office. Even if no awards or nominations come from this, the award isn’t the important end result: it’s the exposure. If somehow Short Term 12 does surprise and claim an Oscar nomination, that will have a massive impact on its rental numbers, introducing a whole new audience to a stellar bit of cinema.
Last year, Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone was pleading to her readers to check out Middle of Nowhere, a tiny film by Ava DuVernay that moved her– she felt the film was award-worthy in several categories. I went and sought it out solely due to Ms. Stone’s piece, and it became one of my favorite films of the year. I was grateful that Ms. Stone’s piece brought such a talented filmmaker and vital cinematic voice to my attention when it otherwise may have been drowned out by all the noise. Again, just because awards season doesn’t always (or doesn’t often) reward what I would choose as the best work of the year, it does help me and others like me find movies and filmmakers that otherwise may have gone unnoticed.
If one person hesitant about seeing 12 Years a Slave finally relents and checks it out as a result of its Golden Globe win, then awards season is worth it. If one young man or woman is moved by Dallas Buyers Club and feels represented on screen in a way they’ve never seen before, and they discovered it as a result of hearing about awards show results, then awards season is worth it. It’s easy to simply roll one’s eyes and say, “Awards season doesn’t matter, people should instead use the ample resources at their disposal and discover what films may interest them without this incessant need for trophies and pageantry.” The truth of the matter is that many people don’t seek out cinema past the big summer blockbusters, and if the pageantry of the ceremonies and the glamor of the trophies draws them in and hooks them into seeing a more artistic-minded film, mission accomplished. I remember as a teenager the first time I grew intrigued by awards season, and the first time I went to go see a drama at a movie theater as a result of what I’d heard would be up for Oscars. Awards season is a gateway drug that often leads to the creation of young cinephiles. Maybe awards season doesn’t matter to you. The reality about its importance to the movie-going nation at large and the industry as a whole is incredibly different.