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Golden Globes nominations only confuse an already wide-open Oscar race

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Wilson Webb/Courtesy Everett Collection

This analysis post should come with a disclaimer: nothing the Hollywood Foreign Press Association votes on for the Golden Globes has any bearing on the Academy Awards in terms of actual voting overlap. No member of the small, 80ish person group is also an Academy member. And now that the Oscar nomination deadline comes prior to the Golden Globe telecast, the winners’ acceptance speeches don’t have any direct bearing on how Academy members vote.

But Hollywood is also all about perception, and Globes nominations can help shape the race and get Academy voters looking more closely at certain films or performances. And based on this year’s nods, I would hope the choices made by the Golden Globes on Thursday morning matter to the 6,000-member Academy, because many make a lot more sense then Wednesday’s Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.

Let’s break it down:

1. The SAG Awards ignored Mad Max: Fury Road, one of the best-reviewed films of the year and one that’s landed atop numerous critics’ lists. Not so with the HFPA, which bestowed a best picture and a best director nomination (for George Miller) on the high-octane action film.

2. Earlier this year, Focus Features and The Weinstein Company tried making the argument that Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) and Rooney Mara (Carol) belonged in the supporting actress category — a rather absurd argument considering the amount of screen time both actresses fill in their respective films. The SAG Awards went along with the assertion, but not the HFPA: The Globes rightfully nominated both great performances in the lead drama actress category. It’s unlikely the Academy will follow suit, but it would be the right thing to do and open up a spot for Vikander’s other acclaimed 2015 performance in Ex Machina, which landed a Globes nod.

3. Creed was also a no-show with SAG Awards voters but not on Thursday. While many think Michael B. Jordan was snubbed for his lead role in the boxing franchise from writer-director Ryan Coogler, the nod to Sylvester Stallone in the supporting actor category at least gave some recognition to the late November release.

4. A lot of solid performances from veteran actors were ignored by the Screen Actors Guild: Jane Fonda and Michael Caine in Youth, Blythe Danner in I’ll See You in My Dreams, Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes. The acting guild instead went ape for Helen Mirren, nominating her for both Trumbo and Woman in Gold. Mirren’s haul was cut in half by the Globes, which nominated her for Trumbo in the supporting actress category, where she was joined by Fonda.

5. The Martian may have been called a comedy by the Globes, but at least that categorization earned some love for Matt Damon, who carries the entire film, in the lead actor in a comedy or musical category. Ridley Scott, who turned a man stranded on mars into a captivating, general audience romp, also scored a best director nod.

6. Recognizing comedies in the comedy category. Yes, there are laughs in The Martian, Joy, and The Big Short, but I’m pretty certain none of these directors were intending to make comedies. But Paul Feig and Judd Apatow were with Spy and Trainwreck, respectively. The Globes also threw kudos to both Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer for their starring roles in the summertime hits.

So what have we learned based on two days of early morning roll calls? One thing is for sure: this year’s race is a crazy, wide-open slug fest, and no one film has claimed front-runner status. Carol received the most nominations at the Golden Globes, Trumbo led the SAG Awards, but I would be shocked if either landed the best picture prize on Oscar night.

Here are some things we do know:

  • Spotlight has an actor issue. The Tom McCarthy-directed film is one of the most beloved of the year, but with all the stars running in the supporting category, the argument that they are splitting the vote and knocking each other out of the race is gaining steam. Is this true? Is the supporting actor race too crowded? Regardless, Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo haven’t been recognized for their performances in this film and it’s unclear if they will be going forward.
  • Where do Vikander and Mara belong? The SAG Awards said supporting; the Globes went lead. It’s unlikely Academy will vary from the actors, but they should. Yes, that would pit the two female stars of Carol against each other, with Cate Blanchett expected to score a best actress nod, but so what? The film is a two-hander and both women belong in the lead actress category.
  • The HFPA corrected some of the big omissions from Thursday, including Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Damon, Will Smith (Concussion), The Martian, and Mad Max: Fury Road. The question is, do these decisions constitute some renewed momentum for these films and performances or is it just an anomaly?
  • The Big Short is a real contender. The film hasn’t topped a lot of critics’ lists but the last two mornings have created a surge for Adam McKay’s financial crisis film.
  • Forgetten flicks: Sicario, Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton were ignored by the Globes. What does it mean for the future? Well, the SAG Awards rewarded both Beasts and Compton, and that matters a lot. The bigger concern is Sicario, which was at least considered a player in the supporting actor race for Benicio del Toro’s performance, but has been ignored thus far.

Oscar watchers, feel free to start making predictions because at this moment, the race is anyone’s for the taking.

The Golden Globes air Jan. 10 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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