Golden Globes: No crystal ball for murky Oscar race

Posted December 11, 2017 11:37 a.m. EST

— Once considered an Oscar bellwether, the Golden Globe nominations announced Monday have done more to muddy than clarify an Academy Award race that appears extremely wide open, while highlighting the lingering tension between recognizing small films and the sort of popular blockbusters that would bring name recognition and possibly more viewers to the broadcast.

Presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, an organization with just 89 members, the Globes have long exhibited a preference for big-name stars and projects with European talent, and that has persisted. Yet the nominees unveiled -- coupled with early voting by critics groups, which has also conspicuously spread the wealth -- should leave those who try to use the Globes as a sort-of crystal ball stuck in suspense regarding the Oscar nominations, which will be announced on Jan. 23. (The Globes will be presented Jan. 7.)

A few smaller movies, including the coming-of-age tales "Lady Bird" and "Call Me By Your Name," have enjoyed acceptance from an array of groups, and both secured Globe bids. Yet due to a quirk of the group's categories -- which splits best picture into drama and musical or comedy -- they find themselves in different brackets, with "Lady Bird" somewhat questionable labeled a comedy, along with Jordan Peele's "Get Out."

"Get Out," which grossed $175 million at the U.S. box office, is also one of the few big money makers included, along with Christopher Nolan's World War II drama "Dunkirk." "Wonder Woman," meanwhile, was omitted.

Two best-picture nominees -- "The Post," about the Washington Post during the Pentagon Papers, and the musical "The Greatest Showman" -- have yet to be released. The same goes for "All the Money in the World," a movie re-shot at the 11th hour to excise co-star Kevin Spacey due to sexual-harassment allegations, with his replacement, Christopher Plummer, earning a nomination.

Those in the Oscar-prognostication game will likely fixate on three dramas that failed to make the cut: "Mudbound" (a film released on Netflix), "The Phantom Thread" and "The Florida Project." Despite the snubs, all three garnered actor bids for, in order, Mary J. Blige, Daniel Day-Lewis and Willem Dafoe, underscoring ways that the Globes historically tend to cast a wide net.

The Oscars do still have one significant arrow in their quiver in terms of populist appeal: "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," which opens this weekend, and figures to be the year's highest-grossing film.

The movie wasn't screened in time for Globes consideration, although such films have seldom received much love from academy voters in the past, other than in technical categories like special effects and sound.

The Globes have also renewed focus on the industry's performance in regard to under-represented groups. Women, for example, were excluded from the best-director category. Actors of color, meanwhile, are represented by "Get Out's" Daniel Kaluuya, Denzel Washington, Octavia Spencer, Blige and Hong Chau, who co-stars in the yet-to-be-released Alexander Payne film "Downsizing."

Still, the split of lead actor and actress into comedy and drama creates additional opportunities compared to the Oscars, in what looks like a highly competitive year with, as yet, few clear frontrunners. It remains to be seen how that will play out as the Academy -- under scrutiny as part of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign -- locks in its ballot, after some impressive strides last year.

The TV nominees added to the Globes' diversity, including key nominations for "Black-ish," "Master of None," "This is Us" star Sterling K. Brown and Issa Rae of HBO's "Insecure."

The real noise, however, came in recognition of brand-new comedies that premiered after this year's Emmy window: NBC's "Will & Grace" revival, Showtime's "SMILF" and Amazon's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." Similarly, Freddie Highmore earned a nod for ABC's hit drama "The Good Doctor."