Do the Golden Globes Actually Have Any Impact on the Oscar Race? (Analysis)

THR's awards analyst Scott Feinberg dissects the latest swings in the race.
Scott Feinberg
"The Artist" writer-director Michel Hazanavicius and star Berenice Bejo kiss while posing for a photo at The Weinstein Co.'s Golden Globes after-party.

It seems to me that the Golden Globe Awards should have no bearing on the Academy Awards -- after all, the former are determined by a group of roughly 90 journalists who work for foreign news outlets, whereas the latter are determined by over 6,000 people who actually make movies. The truth, however, is that the outcome of the former does impact the race for the latter. Why? Because perception -- accurate or not -- often becomes reality.

For instance, The Descendants, which won the best picture (drama) Globe, is now being positioned by many in the mainstream media as the primary best picture Oscar threat to The Artist, which won the best picture (musical or comedy) Globe. But is that an accurate reading of the landscape? I would suggest that it is not. The Help, a film with a weightier subject matter, and Hugo, a master filmmaker's celebration of film, both strike me as more typical Academy fare. But, in the same way that GOP primary voters -- especially those who aren't crazy about frontrunner Mitt Romney -- rallied behind Rick Santorum after he had the best showing against Romney at the Iowa caucuses, some Academy members -- especially those who aren't crazy about The Artist -- may take their cue from the HFPA and back The Descendants simply because it now appears to be the film with the best shot of knocking off The Artist.

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Similarly, should Viola Davis (The Help), who beat Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) at the Critics' Choice Awards last Thursday and consequently seemed well on her way to the Oscar (logic suggests that if you can beat Streep there, you can beat her anywhere), lose sleep over the fact that Streep wound up beating her at the Globes? Reason suggests that she shouldn't -- after all, the HFPA is famous for giving preferential treatment to A-listers (Streep qualifies, whereas Davis does not), and has a particular affinity for Streep (she has now won eight Globes on 26 nominations, both record totals). In other words, their deck is always sort of stacked against someone like Davis, who isn't a household name. That said, for some Academy members, simply seeing Streep at a podium accepting an award in her inimitably classy way could well motivate them to shift their support to her.

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Most interesting of all is the best director race. Whereas the Broadcast Film Critics Association elected to present both The Artist and its director Michel Hazanavicius with Critics' Choice Awards, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association opted to award its best picture prizes to The Descendants and The Artist, but then gave its best director prize to a man who directed neither film, Martin Scorsese (Hugo). History tells us that Academy members rarely back different films for best picture and best director, respectively, which would benefit The Artist, which seems to be the more beloved film. But we also know that "splits" do sometimes happen, and the example set by the HFPA of "spreading love all around" might appeal to some Academy members who love The Artist but would rather back a director with a long track record than someone who now has only one American feature film under his belt.

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The BFCA and HFPA did agree on a few things -- The Artist for best picture, George Clooney (The Descendants) for best actor, Christopher Plummer (Beginners) for best supporting actor, Octavia Spencer (The Help) for best supporting actress, Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) for best screenplay, and Ludovic Bource (The Artist) for best score -- all of which seem likelier than ever to repeat at the Oscars. But, when it comes to the categories in which there were discrepancies between the two groups' choices, I think that it is probably wise to remember that the film or person most recently in the winners' circle tends to be the film or person most likely to remain in it, if only because having already won makes it that much easier for voters to envision something or someone as a winner.