Yes, we know that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is not a licensed critics’ group. They are part- or full-time journalists whose main job is to secure interviews with the Hollywood glamorati — the very folks they give prizes to. And yes, their Golden Globe awards were for decades the open joke of the awards season. But the HFPA can pack more famous people per square inch than the Academy Award ceremony. By dividing movies into two categories — Drama, and Comedy or Musical — the Globes hand out twice as many prizes to twice as many beautiful people. And the resulting TV show is often fun — unlike the three-hour board meeting in fancy dress that is Oscar night.
For this Sunday evening’s Globes bash, some categories are easily predicted: Cate Blanchett, for example, as Best Actress – Comedy in Blue Jasmine. Jared Leto should take Supporting Actor as the poignant transsexual in Dallas Buyers Club. And if Frozen doesn’t win Animated Feature, there’ll be cries of “Fraud at Polls!” But some races could be close. Citing, as always, William Goldman’s quote about Hollywood — that “Nobody knows anything” — we hereby stumble into analysis and predictions about who’ll be smiling at the end of the evening.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave vs. Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle. A saintly woman who endures unspeakable abuse, and a bawdy housewife who one-ups her husband’s scams — can two roles be further apart? The HFPA has to choose between sanctity in a highly charged racial drama and the honoring of the avaricious impulse; also between Nyong’o, an actress in her first feature, and Lawrence, at 23 Hollywood’s go-to gal and hope for the future of movies. JLaw is expected to be in the house, so she’ll get her TV closeups, and perhaps present an award, but Nyong’o looks like the favorite.
COMEDY OR MUSICAL, ACTOR: Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street vs. Bruce Dern in Nebraska. Another pair of polar opposites: the 39-year-old DiCaprio, lending his Gatsbyesque éclat to the role of coke-addicted stock swindler Jordan Belfort, and Dern, 77 years of crags and crotchets, as an addled Montana oldster. (Robert Redford, also 77, is on the Drama shortlist for his one-man show as a stranded yachtsman in All Is Lost.) DiCaprio could win, because the sight of a youngish, old-time movie star holding a statuette aloft is the vision the Globes were built on.
DRAMA, ACTOR: Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave vs. Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club. For two decades, Hollywood solons been warming up to McConaughey, who recently morphed from rom-com dreamboat to dead-serious actor. They’ve spent the last three months learning how to pronounce the prospective winner’s name: CHEW-ee- TEL EDGE-ee-oh-fore. Both actors undergo horrors, of AIDS’ ravages or plantation torture, and turn in splendid performances. We’ll say Ejiofor.
COMEDY OR MUSICAL, MOTION PICTURE: American Hustle vs. The Wolf of Wall Street. Is either of these frantic, fast-inspired movies really a comedy, let alone a musical? Are the other candidates in this field — Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska and her — meant to be laff riots? Doesn’t matter. Stretching the definition beyond Anchorman 2 allows the HFPA to dangle more prestige product before both the home viewer and the Motion Picture Academy member wondering what to vote for. The Wolf of Wall Street has used the controversy over its glamorizing of stock swindler Belfort into an underdog status, as Ben Affleck managed last year when not nominated for a Best Director Oscar. American Hustle is oh, so easy to love and, one or two might say, an apter portrait of this country’s greed-masters. We’ll go with Hustle.
DIRECTOR: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave vs. Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity. Some insiders say that McQueen, the Brit director of some very tough films (Hunger and Shame before Slave), has not won over Hollywood royalty, whereas everybody loves Cuarón, a Mexican charmer who makes little movies (Y tu mamá también) and big ones (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) with equal, endearing facility. This isn’t a personality contest, and snarly gossip shouldn’t factor into awards forecasting. But the HFPA may prefigure the Oscars by splitting the Best Picture and Director prizes, citing Gravity here for Cuarón’s superb technical achievement and Slave for Best Drama because… read on.
DRAMA, MOTION PICTURE: 12 Years a Slave vs Gravity. The 20 savants at Gold Derby went for Slave over Gravity, 17 to three. And in the collective votes of 31 critics groups, Slave tallied eight times as many wins as Gravity. When a social-indictment drama collides with a sci-fi genre movie, seriosity usually triumphs — as The Hurt Locker did over Avatar four years ago. One wins, the other doesn’t. A Gravity victory at the Globes might send a message to Oscar voters that they should honor the Best picture over the worthiest one. But critics and Academy members tend to prefer moral lessons applied with a whiplash to the Wow factor of stratospheric grandeur. Cross you fingers for Gravity but bet on Slave.