Golden Globes analysis: Oscar certainties, surprises and snubs
How much did this morning’s Golden Globe nominations shake up the Oscar race?
Eh … Let’s just say that the primary beneficiary will be DVDs of a little Ewan McGregor comedy called Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which very modestly came and went from theaters early last spring. That movie picked up three nominations in the best musical/comedy categories of picture, lead actor for McGregor, and lead actress for Emily Blunt.
Also, what the …? Nicole Kidman gets another supporting actress nomination for the critically lambasted The Paperboy after yesterday’s nod from the Screen Actors Guild? Okay then.
I wouldn’t say that Kidman and Salmon Fishing now have shots at the Oscars, but these mentions by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — which has no crossover with the voting body of the Academy Awards, by the way — are fairly strong “for your consideration” recommendations. The quirk of having a separate category for drama means that the occasional offbeat comedy choice like Salmon gets some time in the Globes spotlight. (I’m not sure how to explain the Kidman thing, though.)
The other nods were what you might expect: Lincoln led the contenders with seven nominations: best drama, dramatic actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, director for Steven Spielberg, a screenplay nomination for Tony Kushner, a music nomination for John Williams, and supporting mentions for Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field.
Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained and Ben Affleck’s Argo were tied for runner-up with five nominations each, including best drama.
The influence of the HFPA, a group of about 90 journalists who report for international outlets, is always a little dubious, but because the event is telecast on NBC in the heart of award season it is considered a critical campaign primary for those seeking to win an Oscar.
But this year the Globes telecast takes place on Jan. 13 — three days after the nominations announcement for the Oscars. The HFPA had tried to shift its awards ceremony ahead a few days, before the previous cut-off for Oscar nominations voting, in an obvious bid to claim some influence over who got an Academy Award nod and who didn’t.
But the Academy responded by leapfrogging them again with the current timeline. One could argue the Globes still play an important role in the overall awards conversation, but this jockeying of dates with the Academy has undoubtedly taken a little shine off the HFPA’s trophy.
On the next few pages, let’s look category by category at today’s surprises and snubs.
NEXT PAGE — Winners, losers, shocks: Best Drama
Best Motion Picture — Drama
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty
Certainties: All of them.
Surprises: None. Not one. All of these are strong Oscar contenders for Best Picture, and Academy voters have expressed passion for each of them. The one slight question mark is Django. Too violent for squeamish Oscar voters? Inglorious Basterds wasn’t. If reviews are strong, and the box-office is as powerful as expected when it opens on Dec. 25, it should have a clear path to the Academy nominations on Jan. 10.
Snubs: The Master. Paul Thomas Anderson’s enigmatic drama about an apparent charlatan, his moonshine-addict acolyte, and the new-age religion they are founding in post-WWII America seemed like a sure-thing this year, but audiences didn’t turn out, a few key critics (such as Roger Ebert) shrugged, and more and more Academy members have left it off their list of favorites. Also overlooked: The blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises, the soon-to-be blockbuster The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and the indie darling Beasts of the Southern Wild, which could have used the push. The tsunami survival story The Impossible — one of my favorites of the year — also doesn’t seem to have much traction.
NEXT PAGE — Winners, losers, shocks: Dramatic Actor
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Richard Gere, Arbitrage
John Hawkes, The Sessions
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight
Certainties: Daniel Day-Lewis. Not to jinx him, but come on. You can practically etch his name on that Oscar now. The Sessions‘ John Hawkes is also a sure-thing for an Oscar nomination, and in a year where he wasn’t competing against the embodiment of The Greatest President Who Ever Lived And Ended Slavery Forever, he might even be the front-runner. Denzel Washington — another sure bet for an Oscar nod for his charismatic, addict pilot in Flight.
Surprises: Gere was touted as a possible contender when his Wall Street thriller Arbitrage debuted last January at the Sundance Film Festival. But the movie never quite caught on, and though his performance as a Bernie Madoff-type who has even worse sins on his conscience than a group of defrauded investors was critically acclaimed, he didn’t get a Screen Actors Guild nod yesterday. This should help correct that a little, and maybe get Academy members to consider him. But this is a tough category. Day-Lewis is far and away the frontrunner for the Oscar, and Hawkes and Washington are likely nominees, too. Phoenix… less so. His dismissal of award season may be accurate, but it seems to be holding him back. Voters aren’t crazy about The Master, as I said before. But they respect and admire his work.
Snubs: Ben Affleck made one of the best movies of the year with Argo, but nobody seems to be rewarding his performance as the CIA agent trying to get those embassy workers out of Iran. Anthony Hopkins’ prosthetic-aided transformation into Hitchcock also seems to be getting the cold shoulder. As much as the HFPA loved Django, they also didn’t see fit to nominate Jamie Foxx’s gunslinging former slave.
NEXT PAGE — Winners, losers, shocks: Dramatic Actress
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Marion Cotillard, Rust & Bone
Helen Mirren, Hitchcock
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea
Certainties: Zero Dark Thirty‘s Jessica Chastain is a lock. Marion Cotillard’s work in Rust & Bone seems to be getting there, too. Although The Impossible was largely overlooked, Naomi Watts’ gripping performance as a mother trying to help her son survive the 2004 tsunami got a welcome nod. The odds seem to be against her, however. Many voters feel mixed on the movie, but this coupled with her SAG nomination provides Watts with some much-needed momentum. It’s one of my favorites performances of the year, so I’m rooting for her.
Surprises: Helen Mirren’s turn as the director’s secret-weapon wife in Hitchcock got a lot of early buzz, and a SAG nomination yesterday offer her some strong momentum. Rachel Weisz’ work in The Deep Blue Sea hasn’t been on the radar of many Academy voters, so that film about a torrid love affair received a much-needed boost.
Snubs: The oldest and the youngest contenders — 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis of Beasts of the Southern Wild and 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva from the end-of-life love story Amour. If each gets an Oscar nomination, they will set opposite age records for the category. A Globe mention for either was vital, and missing out — especially since there is a comedy category that potentially widens the drama field — is a blow to their chances.
NEXT PAGE — Winners, losers, shocks: Comedy/Musical Film
Best Motion Picture — Comedy Or Musical
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Silver Linings Playbook
Certainties: Les Miserables. The category was invented for movies like this. Also, Moonrise Kingdom has a strong Oscar shot, so it was likely to show up here, too.
Surprises: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. The movie earned $9 million in the U.S. and about $34 million globally — not bad, but just a little movie. One of many. It struck some kind of nerve with the HFPA, however. Even if it doesn’t go on to the Oscars, it should lead awards-watchers to seek out its DVD. This is also a helpful nod for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which got a SAG nomination yesterday for best ensemble — squeezing out some formidable rivals, such as Zero Dark Thirty. It may now be a stealth Oscar contender for Best Picture, in one of the strongest years for their field in recent memory.
Snubs: Richard Linklater’s acclaimed dark comedy Bernie, which stars Jack Black in an unbelievable true-life murder story, might have claimed a spot. Or Oscar host Seth MacFarlane’s blockbuster stuffed-bear raunch-fest Ted. Instead, the HFPA went toward more modest, easygoing comedies. (It doesn’t matter too much — Les Miserables, the lone musical in the bunch — is certain to win this race.)
NEXT PAGE — Winners, losers, shocks: Comedy/Musical Actress
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Comedy Or Musical
Emily Blunt, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Judi Dench, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Maggie Smith, Quartet
Meryl Streep, Hope Springs
Certainty: Jennifer Lawrence of Silver Linings Playbook. Her twisted, fiery performance as a sex-addict widow, who galvanizes Bradley Cooper’s bi-polar football fan, is an Oscar certainty.
Surprises: Maggie Smith is an underdog candidate for Quartet, Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, and that dramedy about a feisty newcomer to a retirement community for musicians will enjoy this push as its nears its U.S. debut on Dec. 28. Emily Blunt’s Salmon bid is a shock, as previously mentioned. And Meryl Streep’s nod for a perfectly fine performance as a frustrated wife in Hope Springs is the HFPA’s way of putting the world’s greatest actress in the crowd for its awards show.
Snubs: As with Streep, the HFPA loves to pad its event with stars, and I would have guessed that Barbra Streisand’s needling Jewish mother in the Seth Rogen comedy The Guilt Trip would have scored her a trip to the Globes. Sorry, Babs. The Globe voters may have learned a lesson about being too frivolous with their honors after repeated scoldings by past host Ricky Gervais.
NEXT PAGE — Winners, losers, shocks: Comedy/Musical Actor
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Comedy Or Musical
Jack Black, Bernie
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Bill Murray, Hyde Park on Hudson
Ewan McGregor, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Certainties: Silver Linings Playbook‘s Bradley Cooper and Les Miserables‘ Hugh Jackman were foregone conclusions. Both will likely score lead actor Oscar nominations.
Surprises: Bill Murray, the world’s most interesting human, hasn’t gotten a lot of love for his turn as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park on the Hudson, but with lots of musical/comedy nods to give out and most awards-worthy lead actor performances in serious dramas, I’d have preferred to see McGregor get a supporting actor nod for the father trying to save his children from a tsunami in The Impossible. Jack Black isn’t such a surprise — just a well-earned honor for an energetic actor who takes a real risk in Bernie, the true-life story of a Bible-thumping good-guy who commits a savage crime of desperation.
Snubs: Not many. There weren’t a lot of break-out comedy performances for lead actors this year, and the field is fairly well-represented here.
NEXT PAGE — Winners, losers, shocks: Supporting Actress
Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy
Certainties: Anne Hathaway is the clear frontrunner for this Oscar prize for her tragic Fantine in Les Mis, although Sally Field is a major rival for her portrayal of the emotionally raw First Lady in Lincoln. The Sessions’ Helen Hunt seems like a sure bet for a nomination, too.
Surprises: Nicole Kidman. Nicole Kidman. Nicole Kidman. I said it yesterday when she scored a SAG nomination, and I’ll say it again — The Paperboy was reviled by critics, and when the screener went out to voters hers was the only name listed for consideration. Even crummy movies list ever single qualifying contender. It seemed like a gesture of surrender, but placing all their eggs in her basket seems to have worked. Somehow. God bless her. Amy Adams was left off the SAG nominations list yesterday, which was a significant loss. Ranking here helps recoup some of that momentum, although many voters complain that her role in The Master felt underwritten. (Critics, however, like to say that it was simply left open to interpretation.)
Snubs: Ann Dowd, one of my favorite performances of the year, as the well-meaning but gullible fast-food manager who is manipulated by a prank caller into horrible actions in the indie thriller Compliance. She’s being pushed in the supporting category, even though she’s really a lead. And also, the Globes tend not to pay enough attention to indie films. Or non-celebrities. Jacki Weaver from Silver Linings Playbook was also overlooked, along with Amanda Seyfried and Samantha Barks from Les Miserables.
NEXT PAGE — Winners, losers, shocks: Supporting Actor
Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Alan Arkin, Argo
Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Certainties: This field is full of them. Arkin, Jones, and Hoffman are all serious Oscar contenders, along with DiCaprio, whose role as a sadistic plantation owner in Django Unchained is only gaining momentum.
Surprises: Christoph Waltz – not because his work in Django isn’t worthy, but because he has been campaigned as a lead actor for the film. Clearly, the Globes voters thought otherwise, but liked him enough to place him in the supporting class.
Snubs: Robert De Niro. Ouch. His performance as Bradley Cooper’s obsessive-compulsive father in Silver Linings Playbook was heralded as one of his best performances in years, but wasn’t enough to impress the HFPA. Javier Bardem got a SAG nomination for his James Bond villain in Skyfall, but nothing here. The Les Mis fellows were also overlooked: Russell Crowe as cruel inspector Javert, and Eddie Redmayne as Marius, the lovelorn student revolutionary. Redmayne’s mournful performance of the song “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” seemed like a winner – or at least a nomination-getter – but at least with De Niro, Crowe, and Bardem he finds himself in good company. Finally — where is Samuel L. Jackson for Django Unchained? His house slave Stephen, a craven collaborator with DiCaprio’s plantation owner, is a supremely evil, selfish villain. He may be too twisted for voters, but a bad guy who’s that bad deserves some gold.
NEXT PAGE — Winners, losers, shocks: Best Director
Best Director — Motion Picture
Ben Affleck, Argo
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Certainties: Again, lots of them. Affleck, Bigelow, Spielberg. All locks. They’re in at the Oscars, no doubt about it. Same for Ang Lee – the success of Life of Pi is universally recognized among directors as a monumental filmmaking achievement.
Surprises: Quentin Tarantino, which isn’t really much of a surprise. The guy’s one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation. The only thing that ever makes his inclusion a question is that he pushes the envelope so hard. Sometimes being ahead of your time means you don’t get always get recognized. (Come on, which seems like the best picture of 1994 now – Forrest Gump or Pulp Fiction?) I still wonder if Django might be a little too over-the-top for Academy members, but maybe they’re not as stuffy as we think.
Snubs: Uh-oh, where is Tom Hooper from Les Miserables? His absence is a bad sign. But in a year with so many great films, there are a lot of filmmakers who could have ranked on this list, but didn’t. Silver Linings Playbook’s David O. Russell is another. But Hooper… that’s worrying. Reviews for the movie havebeen somewhat harsh. If he doesn’t get an Oscar nomination, that’s means Les Miserables is vulnerable.
NEXT PAGE — Winners, losers, shocks: Best Screenplay
Argo, Chris Terrio
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal
Certainties: These all seem like sure bets for the Oscars. Why? Because the Globes may have different categories for comedy/musicals and dramas, but it makes no distinction between adapted and original screenplay, even though there is a huge distinction. That means definite nominees from each Oscar group gets jammed in here.
Surprises: None, for the same reason. Pulitzer-winning Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner is a frontrunner for the screenplay to Lincoln, adapted from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Pulitzer-winning historical tome Team of Rivals. And Mark Boal’s own first-hand research into the killing of Osama bin Laden means his screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty qualifies as an original — and he’s likely to walk away with that honor (consolation for not being able to join Kushner and Goodwin’s Pulitzer-palooza by entering a film for journalism’s top prize.)
Snubs: Many. Again, there should be five nominees in two categories here, so quite a few worthy screenplays are being overlooked: John Gatins’ Flight, Rian Johnson’s Looper, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and David Magee’s Life of Pi are just a few.