When it’s time to hand out their film awards, the Golden Globes have three main motivations. Like a critics’ group, they want to reflect the often idiosyncratic tastes of their membership. Like any self-respecting precursor ceremony, they want the prestige of “predicting” the Oscars. And, like the MTV VMAs, they want to create moments that everyone will be talking about the next morning. These goals are often in conflict, but occasionally, they align: The Globes handing Isabelle Huppert Best Actress in a Drama two years ago certainly was in keeping with the, let’s say, continental sensibilities of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but that surprise win also provided crucial momentum for Huppert to pick up her own Oscar nomination, and in retrospect was a key sign that Jackie just didn’t have it.
With that in mind, how should we interpret Sunday night’s shocking Golden Globes results in terms of the Oscars race? First, I’m skeptical that big wins for Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book mean that they’re our new Best Picture front-runners. The small voting pool of HFPA members ensures polarizing contenders have a much better shot at taking home the top prize at the Globes than at the Oscars, where the preferential ballot rewards consensus picks in Best Picture. And those Globes trophies tend to have a habit of sparking even more backlash. Recall the massive dunkfests that greeted La La Land and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri after they were their respective nights’ biggest winners — neither wound up winning Best Picture. With the preferential ballot, it’s important to be loved but it’s just as important not to be hated, and I suspect too many people have issues with both Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book for either to triumph.
So, if those two aren’t the favorites to take home Best Picture, who is? Twenty-four hours ago, I would have said A Star Is Born, before the Globes did everything but drop a handkerchief in the face of Bradley Cooper’s film. Star missing out on nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay seemed to indicate the HFPA was cooler on that giant than anticipated, and the ceremony confirmed the suspicion, with the film taking home only a single win: Best Song, an honor even the biggest Star Is Born hater would not have denied it. Still, it remains to be seen if the lack of love for the remake is widespread, or just one of those weird Globes things. The guild awards should tell us more — if Star underperforms at those too, it might be time to start betting on Roma, Black Panther, or even a dark horse like The Favourite.
If Best Picture is marked by uncertainty, a few other races became clearer last night. With wins in Best Director and Best Foreign-Language Film, Roma all but locked up those categories on Oscars night. Into the Spider-Verse triumphing in Best Animated Feature solidifies it as the surprise front-runner in that category, making this the rare year that title doesn’t go to the Pixar entry. And in the supporting acting categories, Mahershala Ali and Regina King cemented themselves as the names to beat, though Richard E. Grant and Amy Adams should not be counted out just yet.
Most interestingly, though, both lead acting categories remain open. Rami Malek’s win over Bradley Cooper is proof the younger actor’s gaining in the race between the year’s two rock stars. I had been curious how the Bryan Singer issue would affect Bohemian Rhapsody’s chances, but judging by its acceptance speeches Sunday night, Team BoRhap seems to have embraced the convenient fiction that the movie has no director. And, since filmmaker and star are known to have clashed on set, viewers can justify a vote for Malek as a vote against Singer, if they so choose. Over on the Musical/Comedy side, Christian Bale gave one of the night’s more memorable acceptance speeches, and the prospect of him delivering another fiery podium moment may be enough for liberal Oscars voters to get over any subconscious aversion to marking a ballot for Dick Cheney.
Best Actress, too, seems like a three-way race between the two Globes winners, Olivia Colman and Glenn Close, and the Star Is Born player who was snubbed. Working against Lady Gaga is the fact that she’s a shoo-in for Best Song, which means she’s also going to be singing at the ceremony; voters who love to spread the wealth around might embrace the chance to see someone else up on stage, too. Colman is the natural pick for the industry’s sizable contingent of Commonwealth voters, and Hollywood loves to reward an actress for playing a queen, even a mediocre one. Close, meanwhile, is a respected veteran who fought hard to get her film made, and she’s been nominated for six Oscars without a win; to my ears, the ovation for her surprise win was the biggest of the Globes.
It’s rare for the four lead-acting winners at the Globes not to include either of the two Oscars winners, which is bad news for the Star Is Born duo. The last time it happened was in 1986*, when eventual Oscar winners William Hurt and Geraldine Page lost to Jon Voight and Whoopi Goldberg, respectively. I suspect the snubs were hurtful enough for Cooper and Gaga to have one very pointed question for the HPFA: “Why did you do that, do that, do that, do that, do that to us?”
*This post originally misstated the winners of the 2009 Golden Globes. Kate Winslet did not win lead actress for The Reader because she was placed in supporting actress, and won.