January 13, 2014

OSCARLAND: Post-Golden Globes Fallout


If it had happened, losing the Best Drama award at last night’s Golden Globes might have been the best thing that could have happened to 12 YEARS A SLAVE–while winning the award in the way that it actually did helped the film very little, if at all.

Bear with me here.

Remember last year, when the snub of Ben Affleck for a Best Director Oscar nomination seemed to spark Argo‘s campaign into high gear?  People were outraged that the small group of directors who are Academy voters had ignored Affleck’s fine work, and his film rode that tide all the way to Best Picture.

That’s nothing compared to what would have happened if 12 Years had failed to win last night.  You could see it on Twitter while the ceremony was still going on, outbursts of furious, accusatory incomprehension that the film might go 0 for 7.  Had 12 Years lost Best Drama, it would have been the story of the night.  Righteous indignation would have stormed the internet, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the movie business in general would have been tainted with charges of racial insensitivity or worse, and many Academy voters might have felt obligated to make sure the same thing didn’t happen at the Oscars.

Instead, 12 Years won, but in the most reluctant, grudging way possible, unable to swing a single other category with it (its losses included Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Screenplay and Score).  The award felt dutiful, the opposite of enthusiastic.  But now that it’s won a major prize and there’s no firestorm going on, some Academy voters may feel like they can go ahead and vote for films they actually prefer.  There’s obviously a long way to go until Oscar voting is done, but what might have been a moral certainty is now a horserace.

Some other post-Globes thoughts:

AMERICAN HUSTLE solidified its position as the main competition to 12 Years A Slave with its win for Best Comedy.  Its night would have been complete if it had managed to take Director and/or Screenplay as well, but losing in those categories to a pair of films that aren’t probable Best Picture winners, GRAVITY and HER, didn’t hurt Hustle too much.  (The Academy, which passed over Avatar for The Hurt Locker, isn’t likely to give Gravity the big prize–although as with the Globes, Alfonso Cuaron could win for Director–and Her isn’t even a certainty to be nominated.)  The Globes showed their affection for Hustle by awarding Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence along with Best Comedy, giving the film the imprimatur it needed.  Sony’s main task during Oscar voting season will be to make sure Hustle is positioned as not just a smart comedy, but a story with some moral weight, one that people can feel OK about choosing in lieu of the Extremely Serious 12 Years.

Barring a surprise in the SAG Awards on Saturday from Chiwetel Ejiofor or Bruce Dern, Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio seem to have the driver’s seats for Best Actor.  (DiCaprio didn’t get a SAG nomination, probably because THE WOLF OF WALL STREET was released too late for its voters.)  Both men have great stories to tell, and both have been campaigning heavily (and well) on behalf of films they genuinely care about.  McConaughey may have an edge because his 45-pound weight loss is exactly the kind of sacrifice the Academy likes to see from its nominees, and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB is clearly admired in the industry (the acclaim for his TV role on HBO’s True Detective won’t hurt either), but his comeback is relatively recent–he didn’t even get nominated last year for Magic Mike when many thought he would–and DiCaprio has going for him the desire of some voters to give something to Wolf, as well as an accumulated sense of being “owed” after years of A-level films and nominations.

Does anyone even have a hope of beating Cate Blanchett for Best Actress?  Probably not, but if Amy Adams can manage to get nominated on Thursday (which would probably knock Meryl Streep out), she has a slim chance of riding American Hustle to a win.  Adams is well-liked, and this would be her 5th nomination, making her more than “due.”  Still, Blanchett has been all but anointed as the winner at this point, and last night’s online nastiness about her director Woody Allen and his lifetime achievement award may only have helped her.

Jared Leto is second only to Blanchett in being a sure thing, and his poised acceptance speech last night (these things count) will only help him.  It’s increasingly starting to look like Jennifer Lawrence will intensify the supernova of her amazing career (she’s still not even 24!) with back-to-back Oscars, although Lupita Nyong’o or Oprah Winfrey could still make a stand.

Best Director is wide open at this point, with Cuaron having a small edge because of the Globe win.  If the Globes had been handed out while Oscar nomination voting was still going on, last night’s Screenplay win for Her might have pushed it over the top into the running.  The votes are already cast, though, so its fate is uncertain.  If it is nominated, it will be well-placed for a win in the Original category.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."