E: Look, you know it’s going to be a great party. You know there’ll be gorgeous celebrities in glorious gowns and slick tuxedos, practically stepping over each other to get to the open bar. This ward show has more A list stars backed into a smaller space than any other. There’ll be nutty moments and teary ones. And Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are going to make us hurt-laugh.
The Golden Globes mark the turning point in the Oscar race between the critics prizes and the guild (i.e., industry) ones. This is often the swing from an esoteric film to a more popular or audience pleasing one. Many, though definitely not all, of those nominated tonight will go on to Oscar nominations. The winners can’t actually influence the Oscar nominations (they’ve already been voted on and will be announced on Thursday morning) but they can give us an idea of how Hollywood at large is feeling. If you care about Oscar, there are few things that tonight’s telecast can tell us, and much of bit boils down to this: there are things we think we know, and things we know we don’t. Will conventional wisdom prove correct? Here’s a quick overview (and look here for a list of all the nominees).
First, we know that the critics have been fairly consistent about the supporting races this year. The overwhelming majority of critics awards have gone to J.K. Simmons for Whiplash, and Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. If they win tonight, and they’re charming or funny or touching in their acceptance speeches, chances are great that they’ll ride that high all the way to an Oscar. If another actor sneaks in to either race, then it makes things a lot more interesting. Still, these two are likable veterans, and it gives a nice feeling to see them now do so well.
There’s similar consensus in the best actress (in a drama) race: the amazing Julianne Moore seems finally poised to get her due for her performance as an Alzheimer’s patient in Still Alice. She’s like to beat the four actresses (Jennifer Aniston, Felicity Jones, Rosamund Pike and Reese Witherspoon) who’ve thus far been nominated for the most critics awards. Actress in a comedy will be a more curious category, but might tell us something very important about whether the Oscar slate will be the five drama nominees or not: Moore is nominated in comedy as well, along with a slate of respected actresses who’re largely unlikely to snag AMPAS noms. (Permit me to whine briefly; I’m still a bit peeved that despite having two acclaimed leading roles this year, Gugu Mbatha-Raw didn’t land on either list, particularly the musical comedy one. Beyond the Lights was a far better reviewed film and The Hundred Foot Journey, just to pick one, and she had to sing and dance credibly in it as well as act. Unfortunate.) Of the five, the only one in real contention is Amy Adams for the Tim Burton art flick Big Eyes. A win for Adams would signal that she’s likely to take the fifth slot away from Aniston (the way she took Emma Thompson’s slot last year), and so I’ll be watching this category with acute interest. And as always, if an obvious favorite like Moore loses drama, I’ll be deeply interested in that as well. I don’t expect it, though.
Best actor is more of a pickle. There’s no consensus at all on what man wins, and honestly, this could be one of those years that all the major award shows pick different men. The easy bet would be Michael Keaton in the very high brow comedy slate, though it’s just possible either Bill Murray or Ralph Fiennes could best him. Drama, on the other hand… wow. Without Keaton in the mix, a trio of young Brits battle it out for the top slot: Benedict Cumberbatch, David Oyelowo and Eddie Redmayne, all three playing important historical figures. As Stephen Hawking Redmayne has the greatest physical challenge, which often results in awards notice; his film had the added benefit (from a campaigning standpoint) of being released just months after the Ice Bucket challenge mania of 2014. Oyelowo has the most dramatic film, and the one with the most topical politics. Benedict Cumberbatch, on the other hand, is the biggest celebrity without question, and the Hollywood Foreign Press love to do their part in anointing the new It Boy or Girl, as well as putting the gloss of critical praise and credibility onto a rising star’s corona. Since Selma has had consistent problems in it’s campaign (failing to mail screeners to the PGA and SAG voting bodies) and Redmayne’s film opened in November without making much impact at box office, I would guess Cumberbatch by the tiniest of margins. It’s a very tough call, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see any one of the three win. (In fact, I just argued myself out of Oyelowo, my gut instinct, by writing out the pros and cons.) I’d be far more shocked by a triumph for Carrell or Gyllenhaal, who’re fighting for that fifth spot on the Oscar ticket along with Keaton and the Brits. And a good speech – particularly a better speech than Keaton’s – could give whichever of these three men win a leg up in the race for a win.
As for director and best picture, well. Comedy should go to Birdman, with The Grand Budapest Hotel as a strong alternate. From there is where things get interesting. If you pay attention to the critics awards, you have to consider that Boyhood and it’s director, Richard Linklater, to be the prohibitive favorites. Critics have absolutely fallen over their own feet to put laurels on Linklater’s head. The praise for his film echoes across plains and mountains; for most of last year, Boyhood had a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and now rests at 98% — the same, as it happens, as Selma. Which brings us to the fact that there’s the chance to reward Selma‘s Ava DuVernay – the first African American woman nominated for a directing Golden Globe – and that’s got a lot of people pretty excited. Selma also is the most historically important subject. Then again, we have the one hit film in the bunch, Gone Girl, product of a best-selling novel and one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, David Fincher. All in all, I cannot wait to see how this turns out.