Golden Globe Nominations: From 'Budapest' to 'Selma,' Which Films Got an Oscar Boost?

Gone Girl Ben Affleck - H 2013
Twentieth Century Fox

Thursday morning's Golden Globe nominations brought Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Selma recognition in the picture, director and actor categories (the first two films also landed screenplay mentions); American Sniper and Unbroken, meanwhile, were shut out entirely. Nightcrawler's Jake Gyllenhaal and Cake's Jennifer Aniston followed their somewhat surprising SAG noms from Wednesday with another nice morning, but Begin Again's Mark Ruffalo and Obvious Child's Jenny Slate missed their best chances at landing major recognition. Gone Girl, while left out of the best picture race, was nominated for best director (David Fincher) and best actress (Rosamund Pike). And Julianne Moore landed best actress noms in the drama (Still Alice) and musical or comedy (Maps to the Stars) categories.

So … does any of this bring us to a better understanding about how next month's Oscar nominations will look?

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Yes and no.

The Golden Globe nominations (and winners) are determined by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a nonprofit organization comprised of about 90 journalists for international publications who are based in the L.A. area. The entire HFPA, therefore, is only 1.5 percent the size of the entire Academy — which, unlike the HFPA, is divided into different branches, each of which picks the nominees for different categories, except for best picture, which every member can weigh in on. Moreover, there is only one person who is a member of both the HFPA and the Academy: 87-year-old Chinese actress-turned-journalist Lisa Lu. Other than that, there is no overlap, which would suggest that the choices of the former should offer no indication of the inclinations of the latter.

But, at the same time, a Globe nomination — and the resultant publicity that can create for a film or an individual — does, undoubtedly, elevate the awareness of and interest in that film or individual among Academy members, and so the same films and people do often wind up with noms from both groups. Consider the following years in which both groups were able to nominate as many as 10 films: Of the five annual best picture (drama) Globe nominees, five from 2010, 2011 (when there were six nominees due to a tie) and 2012 went on to land best picture Oscar noms, as did four from 2013. The track record is less stellar when it comes to the best picture (musical or comedy) category: going on from Globe noms to best picture Oscar noms were only one nominee from 2010 and two nominees from 2011 and 2012, although, it must be noted, 2013 produced four examples.

Many of the instances in which the Globes and Oscars have differed in the past could probably be chalked up to the HFPA's inherent biases.

Most of its members are from Europe, which probably has something to do with the fact that films set in Europe and/or made by Europeans have often gone over better with them than with other groups — see: this year's stronger-than-expected showing for Grand Budapest Hotel and nom for Big Eyes' Austrian star Christoph Waltz (if not a nom for Frenchwoman Marion Cotillard's performance in the Belgian film Two Days, One Night). It may also have something to do with why they are generally less welcoming than the Academy of American flag-waving fare — see: this year's snubs of American Sniper and Unbroken.

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And many of its members feel that they should go out of their way to use their musical or comedy categories, which distinguish them from the Oscars, to recognize musicals whenever examples of that endangered genre pop up — "Some feel we need a musical," a member recently told me. (This might explain how mediocrities like The Phantom of the Opera, The Producers, Hairspray, Mamma Mia!, Nine and Burlesque wound up with spots in the category, and makes this year's nom for Into the Woods a bit less reassuring.)

For years, the biggest hallmark of the HFPA was tripping over itself to nominate the biggest names that were eligible for recognition, even for laughable work (The Tourist being a famous example) — but that seems to be a thing of the past. Under current HFPA president Theo Kingma, the group really seems to have cleaned up its act. Last year it passed on nominating Oprah Winfrey, anticipating the same move by the Academy. And this year, rightly or wrongly, it resisted the chance to have at their party A-listers Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Robert Downey Jr. (The Judge), Clint Eastwood (American Sniper), Anne Hathaway (Interstellar), Angelina Jolie (Unbroken), Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar), Christopher Nolan (Interstellar), Al Pacino (The Humbling), Brad Pitt (Fury), Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), Chris Rock (Top Five) and Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars) — although they could swallow their pride and show up as presenters — while simultaneously championing a number of "little guys" like the British indie Pride.

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This is not to say that frontrunners did poorly today — by and large, they did not.

In the best picture (drama) category, Boyhood, The Imitation Game, Selma and The Theory of Everything all landed widely expected noms. (Selma, which the HFPA loved, really needed this after Paramount's inability to send screeners to SAG nominating committee voters led to it being shut out of the SAG Award nominations on Wednesday.) The fifth spot was what was up for grabs, and some — including me — thought that a major late push by Universal to court HFPA would help to land Unbroken in the category. Instead, Foxcatcher edged out Jolie's second directorial effort, as well as other big studio fare including Gone Girl, Interstellar and American Sniper.

The best picture (musical or comedy) category also elicited only one surprise, with the aforementioned Pride landing a spot alongside favorites Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, St. Vincent and Into the Woods. Other titles that had some support, but not enough, included Top Five, Begin Again, Chef, Annie, Inherent Vice and Guardians of the Galaxy.

The best director and best screenplay Globe categories are always interesting because they each contain only five slots and can therefore provide clues about which of the 10 best picture nominees have the strongest shots in their respective categories — more so with the drama category (the last time a film won it without also being nominated for best director was 22 years ago, with Scent of a Woman) than with the musical or comedy category (the last time a film won it without also being nominated for best director was just two years ago, with Les Miserables).

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This year's best picture-nominated drama Boyhood and musicals/comedies Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel each landed director and screenplay noms, as well; the same cannot be said for The Imitation Game (only screenplay) and Selma (only director), not to mention Foxcatcher, Into the Woods, Pride, St. Vincent or The Theory of Everything. Gone Girl, meanwhile, was nominated for those two prizes but not best picture. Read into that what you will.

As for the acting races …

Foxcatcher's Steve Carell, The Imitation Game's Benedict Cumberbatch and The Theory of Everything's Eddie Redmayne were joined in the best actor (drama) category not by Cooper, Downey, McConaughey or Pitt, but by the stars of two smaller films, one a big name, Nightcrawler's Jake Gyllenhaal, and the other not (yet), Selma's David Oyelowo. Those selections are hard to argue with. (I'm told that Mr. Turner's Timothy Spall couldn't have missed by much.)

Birdman's Michael Keaton and St. Vincent's Bill Murray were the only sure things in the best actor (musical or comedy) category. Rather than going with Pacino, Pratt, Rock or Ruffalo, the group further endorsed Grand Budapest Hotel by nominating Ralph Fiennes, and also acknowledged two standouts from divisive movies, Big Eyes' Waltz and Inherent Vice's Joaquin Phoenix.

Best actress (drama) was always going to include Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Julianne Moore (Still Alice) and Reese Witherspoon (Wild). The fifth spot was up for grabs, and I eventually came around, in my final predictions, and picked Jennifer Aniston, which ended up being right — but, based on my conversations with HFPA members, I don't think that The Fault in Our Stars' Shailene Woodley or The Homesman's Hilary Swank missed by much.

The much thinner best actress (musical or comedy) category was filled in with HFPA favorites Amy Adams (Big Eyes) and Helen Mirren (The Hundred-Foot Journey), as well as Maps to the Stars' Moore, Into the Woods' Emily Blunt and Annie's Quvenzhane Wallis (whom the HFPA did not nominate two years ago when she was en route to her Oscar nom for Beasts of the Southern Wild). Also vying for those spots were Slate, Maleficent's Jolie, Begin Again's Keira Knightley and The Skeleton Twins' Kristen Wiig, among others.

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Best supporting actor went exactly as expected — The Judge's Robert Duvall, Boyhood's Ethan Hawke, Birdman's Edward Norton, Foxcatcher's Mark Ruffalo and Whiplash's J.K. Simmons — and best supporting actress wasn't far off. Everyone assumed that Boyhood's Patricia Arquette, The Imitation Game's Knightley, Birdman's Emma Stone and Into the Woods' Meryl Streep were safe bets and that the fifth slot would probably go to Jessica Chastain (although Wild's Laura Dern couldn't be totally counted out). What wasn't clear was whether Chastain would be nominated for Interstellar or A Most Violent Year; it ended up being the latter.

Other categories sticking pretty much to "the script" include best animated feature (the five highest-profile English-language contenders held off several Japanese films), best foreign-language film (though the absence of Two Days, One Night and Argentina's Wild Tales is a little surprising), best original score (the only semi-surprise is that Alexandre Desplat was nominated only once, for The Imitation Game but not also for Unbroken) and best original song (apart from the shocking omission of Gregg Alexander's Oscar frontunner "Lost Stars" from Begin Again).

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg