What do the Golden Globes mean for the Oscars best picture race?

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There are few things more redundant in life (or at least in Oscars coverage) than mocking the supposed absurdity of the Golden Globes. It feels as if every article that mentions the show is legally obligated to bemoan how the Globes’ voting body, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is somehow made up of fewer than 100 unknown, unimportant and Oscars-ineligible foreign journalists. In its delirious and drawn-out haze of sloshed stars, the Globes offer probably the most purely enjoyable show of the year. Yet, the association’s composition does offer one fascinating challenge: What do the Golden Globes tell us about the Oscars best picture race?

Naturally, this question depends on just how predictive the Globes truly are. Whether the success of a film at the Globes is proof of a strong awards campaign, or whether the HFPA is even reflective of Oscar voters, is uncertain. And on another level, there’s the question of whether the Globes have a causal effect on the overall race. With an unusually early Oscars ceremony this year, the domination of films such as “1917” and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” sets viable options for undecided voters in the thick of Oscars nominations voting, which ended just two days after the Globes. 

Yet whatever the cause-and-effect relationship may be, as the opening canon of the awards race reverberates through the doldrums of January cinema, the Globes do leave us with some idea of the Oscars race. And it seems safe to start that conversation with the two Globes best picture winners: “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and “1917.” 

Since 1950, 65.7% of Globes best drama or best musical or comedy winners then took home best picture at the Oscars. Of course, the caveat here is that the Globes have two best film categories; this especially complicates things in 2020 because the current front-runner, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” won the relatively uncompetitive musical or comedy category. But ultimately, three Globes is nothing to scoff at — they help lend credence to the common-sense view that the film’s star-studded cast, unabashed sentimentality and adoration of Hollywood all make it out to be a prime Oscars contender. That’s not even to mention that Quentin Tarantino has never won best director or best picture at the Oscars, a show with an infamous history of rewarding past success

Meanwhile, in the trademark Globes shocker of the night, it was Sam Mendes’ World War I epic “1917” that took home both best drama and best director. While the film’s one-shot gimmick and stunning cinematic scale set it up to be a readily accessible — and crucially apolitical — experience, the film’s extremely late wide release date (Jan. 9) was seen as worrisome for its nontechnical awards chances. But the film’s victories for best drama and best director are undeniable, legitimizing the film as a leading Oscars contender.

Crucially missing from this best picture equation, however, is the most improbable runaway hit of the year. Because of archaic rules stipulating that best picture films at the Globes must be in English, the biggest question mark of the awards season remains with “Parasite.” The film took care of business in the best motion picture, foreign language category, but despite Bong Joon-ho’s popularity, he was unable to secure the best director award. Ultimately, the film’s language barrier may prove insurmountable, but the film’s extreme popularity — along with strong, yet not particularly pointed social critique — puts it ahead of a film like “The Irishman.” 

And speaking of “The Irishman”: uh-oh. The complete shutout of Netflix films at the Globes — from “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story” and “The Two Popes” — should terrify Netflix executives. The anti-streaming concern that seemingly doomed “Roma” may very well still be a factor here. Out of the three films, “The Irishman” should still have the best shot — after all, it is a critically adored Martin Scorsese gangster drama. But apart from its Netflix affiliation, the film’s daunting length, shoddy de-aging and depressed tone may prove a challenge for a younger Oscars voting block

Beyond “The Irishman,” the only film that emerges from the Globes as a viable dark horse candidate appears to be “Joker”. With its two Globes wins for best actor and best score, “Joker” is still kicking. But while the film’s pseudo-intellectual clown mask certainly appeals to many people, the disdain from critics makes it difficult to classify “Joker” as a possible front-runner because of the Oscars’ ranked voting system, which seems to reward inoffensive consensus. 

At the end of the day, the Golden Globes still offer only a small preview of the Oscars. The Producers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America awards, which announced both sets of nominees last Tuesday, are ultimately the most predictive award shows. In other words, there’s not much certainty to be gleaned from the Globes. Who knows — maybe “Cats” still has time to make a run for it. 

Contact David Newman at [email protected].