'The Awards Pundits' on 'The Revenant,' Alicia Vikander and the Post-Globes Oscar Landscape

Scott Feinberg and Stephen Galloway discuss the week's awards-related news and controversies.
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Alicia Vikander at the Golden Globe Awards

This is the 12th installment of what will be an ongoing dialogue, throughout the awards season, between THR's awards analyst Scott Feinberg and executive editor, features Stephen Galloway.

GALLOWAY Scott, let me throw this out: With its big wins at the Golden Globes, The Revenant becomes the new frontrunner for the Oscars. True or false?

FEINBERG You might be right about it being the new frontrunner, but not because it did well at the Globes — they're voted on by 82 L.A.-based journalists for foreign outlets, and there’s almost no overlap with the 6,200 Academy voters who actually work in the movies. (Only one person, actress-turned-journalist Lisa Lu, votes with both groups.) The point is that the Globes are their own animal and it's dangerous to read too much into those results.

GALLOWAY Of course — and it still boggles the mind that the industry takes these awards so seriously. But here’s why I’m saying The Revenant is now the one to beat: The Globes gave it added legitimacy. They gave voters who were on the fence a reason to vote for it. They made people put it at the top of their pile of screeners. They may even lead voters who didn’t like the movie all that much to go back and think again. And they gave people who were leaning toward Spotlight, but maybe without much passion, grounds to reconsider.

FEINBERG But don't forget that many recent Globe winners shortly thereafter became Oscar losers (AvatarThe Social Network and last year's Boyhood) and vice versa (The Hurt LockerThe King's Speech and last year's Birdman).

GALLOWAY All those films were ones that elicited really strong feelings, one way or the other. They split voters down the middle. Going in, there were two entrenched camps, and — just as in politics — you had to win over the undecideds. Remember, I loved Boyhood, and there’s nothing you could have done to swing my vote to any other film. (Not that I had a vote, of course.) But this is a year when voters are saying “I like” rather than “I love.” And it’s a whole lot easier to sway them when they’re a bit lukewarm. Which would make me worry, if I were running a campaign. Whoever’s the frontrunner is poised to be toppled, or at least would be with a bit of negative campaigning. After this, I’d say Revenant is the frontrunner, and Spotlight the underdog — which might not be a bad place to be.

FEINBERG The Globes didn't do any favors for Spotlight (the film thought to be the Oscar frontrunner heading into the night), or Carol (which had more Globes noms than any other film), or The Big Short or Mad Max: Fury Road, all four of which seemed poised to win a major Globe or two, but ended up being completely shut out.

GALLOWAY Given that those films did equally badly, maybe it levels the playing field for a lot of contenders. The most interesting thing about the Globes, in fact, is that they seem to have thrown the race even more open than it already was, in many categories. Which creates a bit of a crisis for the awards campaigners, though it also creates some opportunities. It’ll be interesting to see if the crisis deepens Thursday, when the Oscar noms are announced. You’ll be there bright and early, right?

FEINBERG I wouldn’t miss it for anything, except a few more hours’ sleep. It could change the whole dynamic. If Spotlight picks up at least one acting nom to go with its (presumptive) slam-dunk noms for picture, director and original screenplay, it would be easier to imagine it winning. If The Big Short lands a nom for director Adam McKay (who got a BAFTA nom last week), it would be easier to imagine that movie winning.

GALLOWAY I’m curious to see what happens with Alicia Vikander, who’s getting traction for two films, The Danish Girl and Ex Machina. I can see that becoming a real problem. People’s votes will be split in a number of ways: Do you vote for her for one movie or both? Do you vote for her as supporting actress or lead? Personally, I thought she was extraordinary in Danish Girl, but I know a lot of people who favor Ex Machina. I hope this doesn’t turn into one of those nightmare situations where you get a whole lot of people voting for you, but they’re divided in so many ways that you don’t end up with any nomination at all. Unlikely, but not impossible.

FEINBERG It’s interesting, isn't it, how it's harder for some people to get nominated than it is to actually win? Consider 45 Years lead actress Charlotte Rampling and Creed supporting actor Sylvester Stallone. I'm not sure their peers in the acting branch are going to nominate them, but if they do, a significant portion of the full Academy, when it gets to vote, could rally behind the idea of giving one or both of them a gold-watch Oscar.

GALLOWAY Stallone went over awfully well at the Globes — that massive standing ovation may be a sign of what's to come. And I’m not one of those critics who believe he’ll be hurt by forgetting to thank his director (Ryan Coogler) and co-star (Michael B. Jordan), before the show cut to a commercial break. Everyone slips up — that’s a fact of life — and Coogler and Jordan aren't going to make it an issue. What do you think the Globes say about the foreign-language race, given that the Globe rules for eligibility are completely different from the Academy’s?

FEINBERG Son of Saul, Laszlo Nemes' Holocaust film from Hungary that has been shortlisted for the foreign-language Oscar, won the best-foreign language film Golden Globe. (It has run the tables at all the awards shows.) I had the privilege of moderating a panel with all nine Oscar short-listed films at the Palm Springs International Film Festival last week, and it's a particularly strong group this year. As you may recall, France's entry, Mustang, is number four on my personal list of the top 10 films of 2015.

GALLOWAY It was really high up on my top 10 list, too. I absolutely loved it, and actually drove to Santa Monica to see it on a freezing cold night, solely on your recommendation. But this gets to my beef with the Academy’s bizarre foreign-language rules. It’s bad enough that submissions are limited to one film per country, but that becomes farcical when a film's nationality is determined solely by where its main filmmakers hail from. In the case of Mustang, you’ve got a movie set in Turkey, with a Turkish cast and spoken in the Turkish language, as France's nominee, because its Turkey-born writer-director relocated to France.

FEINBERG And Viva, a (terrific) film that is set in Cuba, with a Cuban cast and spoken in the Spanish language, is Ireland's entry.

GALLOWAY The world is changing. It’s really about time the Academy recognized that.