Globes' impact on Oscar will escalate

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Wanna win an Oscar? Start with a Globe, and your chances in March will be that much better.

That's because the 82nd Annual Academy Awards have been pushed back to March 7, two weeks later than this year, to avoid competing in late February with the Winter Olympics. In short, the awards-season calendar has been tinkered with just enough to tip the nominating scales in favor of anyone who wins a Golden Globe in January.

Consider this: In 2010, Academy members must return their nomination ballots by Jan. 23 — a full six days after the Globes announces its winners.

When those 90-odd members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. who have actually seen all the movies put their stamp of approval on a film, it sends a message to everybody else, including Academy members who might not have strong opinions about all the movies or haven't even seen many of them at that point.

It only takes a handful of such votes to make a difference between being nominated for an Oscar and having come really close.

This year's Oscar nomination ballots were due Jan. 12, one day after the Globe winners were revealed. With that timetable, Globe victories had little to no impact on Oscar noms.

However, the Globe noms announced Dec. 11 were able to influence Academy members facing their usual December dilemma of how to watch 50 or more films in three or four days while packing for holiday trips to Aspen or Maui. One solution: Just see who the HFPA nominates and watch those.

Most "for your consideration" movies open late in the year, so there's always a logjam of films at which to look. And it wouldn't make much difference if the DVDs arrived earlier because most Academy members are too busy making films to take time to see them. Most of them essentially play catch-up at the end of the year.

Under those circumstances, it helps to know who the Globe nominees are, and it's even more helpful to be able to know who actually wins. Noms for pictures or stars that generated a critics group buzz earlier in the awards season suggest a trend or, better yet, a convenient bandwagon to jump on.

But noms from out of the blue can really put a film on Academy members' radar.

Case in point: Who expected an Oscar nom for "The Reader" before it got a Globe nom for best picture in a drama in December? Probably nobody other than producer-distributor Harvey Weinstein. The major critics groups hadn't applauded "Reader," so it had little buzz going for it before the Globe noms. The fact that Kate Winslet also was starring in "Revolutionary Road," a more mainstream drama also seeking Oscar consideration, didn't help "Reader's" Oscar prospects. Plus, there was confusion about whether Winslet would be a supporting or lead actress candidate for "Reader."

Getting into the Globes drama race — competing with "Slumdog Millionaire" (which won), "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Frost/Nixon" and "Revolutionary" — put "Reader" on Oscar voters' radar. It's a safe bet that some Academy members made time to see "Reader" who wouldn't have done so if it weren't a Globe nominee. Bottom line: "Reader" nabbed five prime Oscar noms — best picture, director, actress (Winslet won), cinematography and adapted screenplay.

The flip side of this is that "Doubt," the other serious drama angling for the Academy's fifth best picture slot, didn't get a best picture in a drama Globe nomination and, perhaps as a result, didn't become an Oscar best picture nominee. Like "Reader," "Doubt" was a serious drama that hadn't resonated with critics groups. Without a Globe nom, it had little going for it when Oscar voters marked their nomination ballots. While "Doubt" also got five Oscar noms, they were almost all for performances — best actress, supporting actor and two supporting actresses plus adapted screenplay.

With that in mind, the strategy for anyone hoping to get into the next Oscar race might very well be to fight like hell — to win a Globe. (partialdiff)
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