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How the Golden Globe Results Just Changed the Oscar Race

Daniel Kaluuya celebrates his Best Supporting Actor win. Photo: NBC

The weirdest Oscar year ever gave us the weirdest Golden Globes ever — an event suffused with the muted dread of a Monday-morning Zoom meeting, taking place under a cloud of controversy that called into question the very existence of the ceremony itself. But despite all that changed in the last 12 months, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association still managed to perform its most basic function: They handed out a bunch of trophies on TV, sometimes following consensus, other times following their own eccentric muse. With Oscar nomination voting beginning this week, how did their picks affect the race?

As always, when it comes to the Globes’ influence of the Oscars, the usual asterisks apply: The Globes are voted on by 90-something anonymous international journalists who absolutely love free trips to Paris and absolutely hate inviting any Black people into their ranks. Perhaps knowing all eyes would be on their suddenly well-publicized issues, on Sunday the HFPA gave us a remarkably diverse slate of winners: In the 14 film categories, there was only one instance of a white winner besting a Black nominee. (It was Best Song, where Diane Warren’s Italian power ballad “Io Sì” took the prize.) Was this the awards-ceremony version of a racist Bachelor contestant Instagramming a copy of White Fragility? Perhaps. But it also meant a set of results far more interesting than many pundits assumed, with intriguing implications for the Oscar race.

Let’s start with the night’s big prize, Best Drama, where Nomadland beat out its closest rival, The Trial of the Chicago 7. Predictions had them basically neck-and-neck going into the night, but the conventional wisdom was that Chicago 7 had a slight advantage: Not only was it the mainstream, accessible choice, it was also written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, a longtime HFPA fave. By triumphing anyway, Nomadland was able to quiet the doubters who’ve suggested Chloé Zhao’s film is too art house to catch on with anyone but hardcore cinephiles. Team Sorkin can take solace in picking up another big prize, as well as the fact that, since 2000, the Globes’ top picks have aligned with Oscar less than half the time. In any event, Sunday night solidified these two as our strongest horses in the Best Picture race, especially as the other three nominated films — The Father, Mank, and Promising Young Woman — all went home empty-handed.

In Supporting Actor, if Daniel Kaluuya could pull off the victory on a night where Judas and the Black Messiah wasn’t nominated for anything else, his magnetic turn as Fred Hampton should be considered the performance to beat. Voters went chalk in Screenplay and Director, as well, handing the former to the talky movie, Chicago 7, and the latter to the pretty movie, Nomadland, thereby ushering Sorkin and Zhao into the fast lane of their respective races. And, hours before Renée Zellweger presented the prize for Best Actor in a Drama, the Globes gave us a heartwarming segment in which small children gushed about Chadwick Boseman, thus confirming that they would not be heartless enough to award the trophy to anybody but the late Black Panther star.

But while those four races seem more or less sewn-up, the rest of the Oscar ballot has been thrown into disarray. After a few years where the Globes have rubber-stamped the Oscar front-runners in the four acting races, the HFPA’s choices have ensured Actress and Supporting Actress remain intriguingly open. Two-thirds of GoldDerby’s experts pegged Andra Day of The United States vs. Billie Holiday as the last-place finisher in Best Actress in a Drama, only for the R&B singer to triumph over supposed heavyweights Viola Davis, Frances McDormand, and Carey Mulligan. Day’s chances of waking up an Oscar nominee in two weeks have improved substantially, but she’ll have a hard time building the momentum for the win: She missed the cut at both SAG and the BAFTA longlist, thus ensuring each of tonight’s losers can hold out hope for a comeback.

On the Musical/Comedy side, Rosamund Pike’s unexpected victory for I Care a Lot probably inspired a few more Academy members to check out the late-arriving satire. But Oscar-wise, the greater impact was probably on two of the nominees she beat out. Pike’s win meant Michelle Pfeiffer of French Exit could probably kiss her shot at the fifth Best Actress spot good-bye; Day’s win meant she could kiss it twice, or even three times. And it was not a very nice night for Maria Bakalova: The Borat breakout was her film’s sole nominee not to win, and her inability to prevail on what was otherwise a great night for the comedy sequel is a sign she remains a long shot for a nomination in Supporting Actress, the category she’s competing in everywhere else.

The silver lining for Bakalova is that her biggest competition also flopped — the Supporting Actress prize went, in the night’s second-biggest surprise, to The Mauritanian’s Jodie Foster. With neither Glenn Close, Olivia Colman, nor Amanda Seyfried able to get the ball rolling with a win, have the Globes paradoxically enshrined Minari’s Youn Yuh-jung — whom they didn’t nominate — as the Supporting Actress front-runner?

Speaking of Minari: While its rivals were duking it out in Best Drama, Lee Isaac Chung’s film was named Best Foreign-Language Film, the category it was controversially slotted in due to its preponderance of Korean dialogue. As expected, that win resulted in a clamoring of support for the immigrant drama, much of it hailing Minari as the most quintessentially American of films. As Nomadland and Chicago 7 dominate the headlines, is our third major Best Picture contender hiding in plain sight?

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How the Golden Globe Results Just Changed the Oscar Race