Golden Globes Morning After: '12 Years a Slave' Looks Hard to Beat (Analysis)

Best Motion Picture, Drama

*12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips

The 71st Golden Globe Awards were held Sunday night in Los Angeles, and many of the night's winners -- and "losers" -- partied well into the morning. (I did, too -- after sharing why I think the HFPA did what they did.) Now, as everyone's hangovers begin to wear off, those competing on the film side of the ledger may be wondering what, if anything, the Globes results tell us about the still-raging Oscar race. Oscar nominations voting is over -- it closed Jan. 8, ahead of the Globes ceremony -- and we'll find out the nominees early Thursday morning. And then the final round of voting will be run from Feb. 14-25. 

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Before I can answer the question of what it all means, though, I need to emphasize that there is almost zero overlap between the memberships of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Academy -- just one individual (actress Lisa Lu). The former is composed of 89 Hollywood-based journalists for foreign outlets, and the latter is composed of 6,028 people who actually make movies. Therefore, any overlap between their nominees and winners is purely coincidental -- except in the sense that a great or poor Globes acceptance speech or showing by an individual or film could, conceivably, impress Academy members enough to vote differently than they otherwise would have in their final round of voting.

Mainly, though, what I think we can take away from the Globes are general vibes, hints or impressions of the awards "zeitgeist," such as…

12 Years a Slave is going to be hard to beat in the best picture Oscar race. If it can win with the HFPA, a group of foreigners who aren't particularly fond of stories about American history and American life, then it can win anywhere. (The HFPA completely snubbed Lee Daniels' The Butler and gave semisnubs to August: Osage County and Blue Jasmine in favor of the Eurocentric productions Philomena and Rush.) A lot of Academy members really respect and admire Slave. Also, it must be said (though not condoned) that a considerable number of Academy members have told me and all of the other full-time awards pundits that they have a very hard time bringing themselves to watch the film, having heard how brutal and gut-wrenching it can be. At the end of the day, I still suspect that they'll vote for it for best picture because it is the most socially significant and relevant of the top contenders. It's also extremely well made and well acted. But I think that the Academy, like the HFPA, may look to spread around the wealth. I can totally see Academy voters recognizing Gravity in the best director category (what Alfonso Cuaron and his team had to go through to make that film is astonishing), American Hustle or Her in the best original screenplay category, Dallas Buyers Club in the lead and/or supporting actor categories, The Wolf of Wall Street or something else in the best adapted screenplay category, etc.

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Best actress hopeful Meryl Streep may be in trouble. Yes, she is an Academy favorite -- in fact, the Academy favorite -- but she won her third Oscar just two years ago, was not nominated last year for Hope Springs and is vying this year with a movie that is very divisive, August: Osage County. Moreover, she is one of six strong best actress contenders this year -- Streep is up against Amy Adams (American Hustle), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)  -- and there are only five slots, so somebody has to sit this year out. Blanchett seems unstoppable. Adams and Bullock star in two of the year's most popular films. And Dench and Thompson are up for some of the best work of their distinguished careers. So where does that leave Streep? She's certainly the best thing in August, but she is also, fairly or not, always judged against the extremely high bar she has set for herself over the course of her career, and I think most people feel that this performance is very good Streep, not great Streep. If that's correct, then I think that, in the wake of Adams' Globes win, Adams may steal Streep's thunder and grab that fifth slot.

Speaking of which: Winner Adams, if nominated, will have scored five nominations within just nine years. That is a remarkable stat that few others have ever achieved. Virtually all the few others who have achieved it have won on at least one of those nominations. Adams has not yet won. Could she actually pose the biggest threat to Blanchett, or will she continue to always be the bridesmaid, never the bride? I wouldn't rule out anything.

Also, Sunday night's best actor (drama) and best supporting actor wins for Dallas Buyers Club's Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, respectively, reinforced the possibility that we might wind up with best actor and best supporting actor Oscar winners from the same film for the first time in a decade -- Sean Penn and Tim Robbins pulled off the feat for Mystic River -- and only the fourth time ever. Mystic River was nominated for but lost the best picture Oscar; the other three films that had enough support to claim Oscars for best actor and best supporting actor -- Going My Way (1944), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and Ben-Hur (1959) -- each won best picture. Are you sure you're still on the fence about whether or not Dallas Buyers Club will be nominated?

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And how about Her winning best screenplay over 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Nebraska and Philomena? This is a movie that is thought to be right on the bubble with the Academy, as far as cracking into the best picture and best original screenplay races. The case against it is that it is a bit too out-there; the case for it is that it creates an imaginary world of the future as believably as just about any film in recent memory. As last night's win shows, along with its best picture Los Angeles Film Critics Association win earlier in the weekend, Her certainly has its champions and it is increasingly hard to imagine it not being at least nominated.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg