THR awards analyst Scott Feinberg predicts the night’s big victories, while chief film critic Todd McCarthy weighs in on who actually deserves the Golden Globe.
WILL WIN: Spotlight
Carol leads all films with five noms, but that's only because Spotlight's stars canceled one another out in the acting races. In this category the HFPA tends to back Oscar frontrunners, which bodes well for the investigative drama.
SHOULD WIN: The Revenant
Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant both are based on simple flight-and-pursuit-in-the wild premises but offer sights, sensations and drama that are freshly imagined and pushed to the limit. I could go either way, but today I pick The Revenant.
WILL WIN: The Martian
The Martian landed a directing nomination (for Ridley Scott), unlike any other film in this category. You have to go back 20 years to find a movie that won this prize without a directing nomination over a movie that had one.
SHOULD WIN: The Big Short
The Martian isn't really a comedy. Joy, Spy and Trainwreck are uneven. That leaves The Big Short, a second viewing of which clarified its audaciousness, character detailing and bristling anger at a corrupt and unjust system.
WILL WIN: Brie Larson, Room
The Carol actresses are sure to divide the supporters of that film, and it seems likelier that Alicia Vikander will be recognized in the supporting category, for Ex Machina, than here. That leaves Saoirse Ronan, whose film is about the immigrant experience that many HFPA members have lived through, and Larson, whose film is about something none of them have. But only the latter’s film is also up for best pic, giving her the edge.
SHOULD WIN: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
If Charlotte Rampling were up in this category it would be a horse race, but her absence makes the choice very easy: Saoirse Ronan, who comes into her own here with a deeply moving performance. If she wins, will Golden Globes presenters be able to pronounce her name properly?
WILL WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
There are a lot of starry options in this group — Bryan Cranston, Michael Fassbender, Eddie Redmayne and Will Smith among them — but no nominee is a bigger "name" than DiCaprio, which is an added bonus in a year everyone thinks is his to lose anyway. He’s also the category’s only nominee whose film is up for best picture, which suggests a broader base of support.
SHOULD WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Eddie Redmayne is excruciatingly precious and self-aware, Bryan Cranston and Will Smith are fine, and Michael Fassbender rather more so. But Leonardo DiCaprio went through the wringer in The Revenant, impressively carrying a long and demanding film as only a great film star can.
WILL WIN: Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van
The HFPA loves movie stars and few, if any, are bigger than J-Law — but Joy isn't considered her best work. That leaves Amy Schumer and two vets, Maggie Smith and Lily Tomlin. It’s tempting to call it for the "It" girl, but many members found Trainwreck a bit too raunchy. Plus they love Smith — the one non-American of the group, she’s been nominated 12 times and won three — so I tip it for her.
SHOULD WIN: Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
I found both Grandma with Lily Tomlin and Spy with Melissa McCarthy embarrassingly bad and Jennifer Lawrence fine but too young for her role in Joy. And I didn't see Maggie Smith, which leaves us with Amy Schumer. I'll drink to that.
WILL WIN: Matt Damon, The Martian
The HFPA likes to be charmed, and few people are more charming — onscreen or off — than Damon, a longtime favorite of the group who benefits from the fact that the two Big Short contenders, Christian Bale and Steve Carell, will split votes. The other two nominees, Al Pacino and Mark Ruffalo, while well-liked, are up for films that virtually nobody saw: Danny Collins and Infinitely Polar Bear, respectively.
SHOULD WIN: Matt Damon, The Martian
That Al Pacino could be nominated for one of his most instantly disposable films and Mark Ruffalo for one few even heard of tells you something about this category. As crafty as Christian Bale and Steve Carell are in The Big Short, theirs are one-dimensional roles. Matt Damon had to carry The Martian (now destined to go down in history as a great comedy thanks to the Hollywood Foreign Press) pretty much by himself, and he did it well.
WILL WIN: Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
This is a weird selection that includes three old favorites of the group, including Jane Fonda, Helen Mirren and Kate Winslet. My hunch, though, is that HFPA members will break for “It” girl Vikander, the young up-and-comer from Sweden who they liked enough to nominate twice, for Ex Machina. One spoiler possibility, thanks to Harvey Weinstein’s aggressiveness: Jennifer Jason Leigh.
SHOULD WIN: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Alicia Vikander's eerie character contributes a breathtaking sense of grace and beauty to Ex Machina, but I still have to hand it to Kate Winslet for finding a way for her character to, if only at select moments, dominate the ultimate dominator, Steve Jobs.
WILL WIN: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
The HFPA didn’t go nuts for any of these nominees’ movies. Paul Dano, Mark Rylance and Michael Shannon are terrific actors but not movie stars, which puts them at a disadvantage. Idris Elba is a favorite of the group and Netflix has gone all-out promoting Beasts of No Nation, so I’m tempted to pick him. But Sylvester Stallone is the sentimental favorite and has all kinds of momentum, so bet on him.
SHOULD WIN: Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Stallone is finally a joy to watch again onscreen, Mark Rylance finally gives filmgoers a hint of what makes him such a great stage actor, Michael Shannon is dominating, as is Idris Elba. But in the end I'd go with Paul Dano, who indelibly brings to life the young Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy.
WILL WIN: Ridley Scott, The Martian
This prize goes to universally appreciated filmmakers. Therefore, even though Spotlight might take best pic (drama), it’s hard to imagine Tom McCarthy prevailing, and even though The Big Short might take best pic (musical/comedy), Adam McKay isn’t even nominated. Haynes’ movie is their favorite, and Inarritu’s isn’t far behind (although he had a better shot last year), but I think this is between Miller and Scott for their epic blockbusters, and Scott is the better known and more overdue of the two.
SHOULD WIN: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
After all the delays and difficulties, who would have thought the Mad Max franchise could have been brought back with such fresh imagination and vigor? George Miller makes the argument for 70 being the new 33 (the age at which he made the original).
WILL WIN: The Big Short
This often is treated as a consolation prize, so perhaps Steve Jobs (Sorkin) or The Hateful Eight (Tarantino), which won’t win elsewhere, will prevail here. Room is seen as more of an acting showcase, which would mean this is between Spotlight and The Big Short, both of which include their director among their writers. Spotlight has gravitas, but quirky does well here (i.e. Her and Birdman), so I’m going with The Big Short.
SHOULD WIN: Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, The Big Short
The Foreign Press makes no distinction between original and adapted screenplays, but no matter: Aaron Sorkin's daring, theatrical approach to telling the Steve Jobs story notwithstanding, Charles Randolph and Adam McKay's accomplishment in writing The Big Short seems even more audacious and successful, both in making financial history vaguely comprehensible and in forging an aptly acidic point of view.
WILL WIN: Inside Out
The nom is the win for The Good Dinosaur, The Peanuts Movie and Shaun the Sheep Movie. Stop-motion drama Anomalisa has been tremendously well-reviewed in the critical community, but it’s a little too out-there for some. It’s very hard to imagine anything dethroning Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out, which everyone seems to love.
SHOULD WIN: Anomalisa
Inside Out fired on all creative cylinders from beginning to end and reasserted Pixar's primacy as a reliable source of imagination and creativity. But Anomalisa is one of the great out-of-nowhere one-offs, wholly unanticipated and entirely welcome for any viewer who craves surprise and the thrill of being thrown off-balance by something new.
WILL WIN: Son of Saul
There is a constituency for France’s Turkish-set Mustang, but the clear frontrunner here — as well as everywhere else — is Laszlo Nemes’ directorial debut Son of Saul, which focuses on one man’s struggles within a Nazi concentration camp. The other three nominees seem unlikely to pose much of a threat, with the possible exception of Belgium’s hilarious The Brand New Testament.
SHOULD WIN: Son of Saul
I am among the handful of dissenters regarding the "French" entry Mustang; the Turkish-made-and-set film held not a single surprise as it pursued its entirely predictable agenda. But even if it had, it still wouldn't have come close to the stunner in this category, Son of Saul, a devastating Holocaust film with the most convincing and appropriate stylistic correlative to such material I have ever seen in a fictional context.
WILL WIN: Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, The Revenant
This is one category in which merit truly seems to be the HFPA’s sole consideration. So while the group loves Carol (scored by Carter Burwell) and Alexandre Desplat (whose Danish Girl nom marks his eighth since 2003), and while a win for 87-year-old Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight) would be cool, my hunch is they’ll break for The Revenant (which was disqualified for the corresponding Oscar due to arcane rules).
SHOULD WIN: Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, The Revenant
Much as I would like to see Ennio Morricone get a long-overdue award for scoring a Western, his work on The Hateful Eight sounds minor compared with his great achievements of the past. The score for The Revenant makes a far eerier and more important contribution to its picture and, since Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Notos's work has been disqualified by the Academy for arcane reasons, it would be good to see them honored here.
WILL WIN: "See You Again" from Furious 7
The HFPA almost always rewards a buzzed-about song by a well-known artist or group, so cross off “Simple Song #3.” Any of the others could win: the hit tune “Love Me Like You Do” (though Ellie Goulding isn’t herself nominated), Brian Wilson’s “One Kind of Love” (which is ineligible for the Oscar) and “Writing’s on the Wall,” Sam Smith’s Bond song (Adele’s won just three years ago). But “See You Again” is hip and about something weighty, so I give it a slight edge.
SHOULD WIN: N/A
Anything but "Writing's On the Wall" from Spectre, which is one of the lamest James Bond theme songs in the entire series. No excuse for it.