What the Golden Globe Winners Really Mean for the Oscars

Jan 09, 2017

If the Golden Globes were your first look at the 2017 movie awards season, you likely came away thinking that there was one movie last year. It was called La La Land, and nothing else matters. The end. Not only was the night’s opening number a loving spoof of the film—a tacit endorsement, on the one hand, though it was certainly the most logical film to inspire a musical number because it is actually a musical—but it also won all seven awards for which it was nominated. This massive haul accounts for half of the movie awards doled out altogether and set a new record for most wins at the ceremony.

So La La Land must be a shoo-in to dominate at the Oscars on Feb. 26, right? In reality, it’s not so simple. The Golden Globes and the Academy Awards have exactly zero overlap in their voting bodies: Globes are decided by a group of 90-100 foreign journalists and Oscars by more than 6,000 actors, directors, cinematographers and other movie-makers. The Globes’ separation of dramas from musicals and comedies also precludes drawing a straight line to the Oscars’ movie categories. In previous years, the Globes have had about a 50% accuracy rate in predicting the Academy Award for Best Picture, according to a tally done by Flavorwire last year, though recognition from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association can raise the profile of certain actors or films, particularly since the Globes take place just five days before Oscar nomination voting closes.

Looking ahead to Oscar nominations on Jan. 24 and the ceremony one month later, here's how the Globes' outcomes could shake up the way things go down Oscar Sunday:

La La Land vs. Moonlight may boil down to buzz and backlash.

The Golden Globes anointed two best pictures: La La Land for musical or comedy and Moonlight for drama. By the time La La Land won its seventh and final award of the evening, it was almost getting old already. By the time Moonlight’s turn came, after having lost out in five categories, fans were beginning to worry. The win, though major, almost felt like a snub when viewed in the context of the entire evening.

Though it’s premature to count out other contenders—from Manchester by the Sea to Hacksaw Ridge—let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that Best Picture will come down to these two. Previous years demonstrate that the Globes’ Best Drama winners (12 Years a Slave, Argo, Slumdog Millionaire) fare better at the Oscars than Best Comedy/Musical winners. The exception: musicals. In the last 15 years, Golden Globe Comedy/Musical winners have won the Oscar for Best Picture exactly twice, and both were musicals: The Artist and Chicago. On the other hand, three of the Globes’ other recent musical winners (Sweeney Todd, Dreamgirls, Walk the Line) didn’t even get nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. In short, historical insight is only so helpful in predicting the future.

It may be buzz, both critical and political, that ends up influencing this race the most. While Moonlight has enjoyed basically unanimous critical praise, recent weeks have seen the beginning of a backlash against La La Land, in part due to what MTV’s Ira Madison III calls its “white jazz narrative.” And while La La Land’s subjects—love and dreams and creativity—are perfectly worthy of a two-hour investment, Moonlight, an exploration of black masculinity unlike anything seen in mainstream culture to date, has more urgency after a year when the killings of black men by uniformed officers made regular headlines. After two years of the #oscarssowhite conversation (and 90 years of #oscarssowhite reality), a win for Moonlight would make a statement beyond simply recognizing the movie as a masterpiece—and one which the Academy, after a year of conscious efforts to course-correct, may be more clued into than ever.

Some actors' profiles may rise, though not enough to ensure a win.

Most of the acting wins at the Golden Globes aligned with prevailing predictions: Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling won for La La Land, Viola Davis won Best Supporting Actress for Fences and Casey Affleck continued his winning streak for Manchester by the Sea. But Isabelle Huppert’s win for Best Actress in a Drama, for Elle, and Aaron Taylor Johnson’s win for Best Supporting Actor, for Nocturnal Animals, were two of the night’s big surprises.

Huppert’s win at the Globes may have been aided by her popularity among the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which includes many European members (Huppert is French). Though the Best Actress category is often discussed as a showdown between Stone and Natalie Portman (Jackie), Huppert’s rising profile—the Globe is a cherry on top of a string of less publicized honors from critics’ associations—may end up edging out another contender in the field. Amy Adams (Arrival), Ruth Negga (Loving) and Annette Bening (20th Century Women) have long been considered the trio to round out the category, but Huppert’s win means that none of them has a lock on those spots.

Johnson’s win was an even bigger upset, given that Mahershala Ali has won nearly every award there is to win so far for Moonlight, and if he didn’t win, Jeff Bridges seemed like a safe bet for Hell or High Water. Ali’s momentum is strong enough that it won’t likely be derailed by Johnson’s win, but it might shake things up among other contenders, including Dev Patel (Lion) and Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins).

Everything else is basically a crap-shoot.

La La Land won both Globes for music as well as Best Director and Screenplay, but its Oscar prospects in those categories are better for the music awards than for the latter two. Kenneth Lonergan, writer/director of Manchester by the Sea, was all but passed over Sunday night, despite widespread praise for his screenwriting. If Oscar voters decline to choose Manchester for Best Picture, there is a good chance many will spread the love by acknowledging its screenplay. The Oscars’ distinction between original and adapted screenplay also leaves room for Moonlight writer/director Barry Jenkins to get some recognition, as well, as Moonlight was adapted from Tarell McCraney’s short play (whereas La La Land and Manchester will fall in the Original Screenplay category).

While Damien Chazelle is the frontrunner in the director race, don’t count out Jenkins just yet. The Academy Award for Best Director typically (though not always) goes to the director of the movie that wins Best Picture, and Moonlight’s chances with the Academy should be stronger than they were with the HFPA. Much can still happen between now and Feb. 21, when final Oscar votes are due, and by the time Feb. 26 rolls around, we may be in for a very different kind of night.

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