Golden Globes: 3 Lessons From The Show (Analysis)

Leonardo DiCaprio Thanks Bruce Dern

Accepting his best actor in a comedy or musical honor, DiCaprio gave shout outs to all of his fellow nominees – but his brief tribute to Nebraska star Bruce Dern was particularly classy: "If any young actor wants to follow the filmography of a great artist, take a look at Bruce Dern’s work." Dern raised his hand and nodded in acknowledgement.

Tonight's film awards were spread across a whole bunch of productions. A lot of folks had something to celebrate but, as we now turn our attention to the Screen Actors Guild Awards and then the Academy Awards, do we have a better sense of where things stand? Yes and no.

The HFPA is composed of 89 foreign journalists. The Screen Actors Guild is composed of tens of thousands of actors. The Academy is composed of roughly 6,000 people who work in every facet of moviemaking. So what the members of one of those groups think doesn't necessarily offer any real hint of what the members of the others do or will.

That being said, we all went into tonight assuming that the best picture Oscar race will be waged primarily between 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle. And I think each of those films emerged from the Globes with their full sheen intact. Slave won only one award, but none come bigger: best picture (drama). Gravity won only one award, but it was a big one too: best director. And American Hustle won three -- best picture (musical or comedy) plus two acting awards, neither of which were assured.

So what, if anything, did tonight teach us about the race, generally, and the way the HFPA/Globes operate, specifically? Here are four takeaways.

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Lesson No. 1: At the Globes, Stars Beat Critical Darlings

Before swooping in for its big win at the end, 12 Years a Slave got off on the wrong foot, losing the first six awards for which it was nominated. It appeared to be on course for a shutout -- which an HFPA member actually predicted over Twitter last night -- and the loss that probably hurt the most was that of its breakout star, Lupita Nyong'o, to American Hustle's Jennifer Lawrence in the best supporting actress cateogry. I'm sure that the best actor loss of Bruce Dern to Leonardo DiCaprio hurt, too. But the bottom line is this: the HFPA, more than the Academy, has always favored A-list stars over critical darlings. These outcomes could easily be reversed at the Oscars, especially in light of the fact that Lawrence won just last year and Dern was last nominated 35 years ago.

Lesson No. 2: These Acceptance Speeches Can Matter

While, again, there is zero overlap between the memberships of the HFPA and the Academy, the Globes can influence Oscar voters in one way: by letting them essentially watch a "trial run" of an Oscar acceptance speech. Suffice it to say that if TV winner Jacqueline Bisset was hoping for an Oscar on March 2, she wouldn't have helped her cause tonight. But, conversely, several people who are in close Oscar contests did give themselves boosts with classy, funny and moving words at the podium. DiCaprio was gracious; best actor (drama) Matthew McConaughy (Dallas Buyers Club) was charming and, as always, did a good job of putting his career "recalibration" into context without ever seeming anything but humble; and his costar, best supporting actor winner Jared Leto, was generally funny, joking about how he looked as a woman, but also respectful, in paying heartfelt tribute to "the Rayons of the world." That is the kind of thing that only endears a contender to Academy members -- and the only people who had the opportunity to seize such moments were, of course, the Globe winners.

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Lesson no. 3: Don't Count Out Anybody Yet

One other thing that the Globes results illustrated is that people like a lot of different movies this year. All Is Lost won for best score (and its score, by Alex Ebert, does deserve notice, as it is heard much more than Robert Redford in the film and keeps the audience engaged); Blue Jasmine continues to stay in the discussion thanks to its star, best actress winner Cate Blanchett; and Her had enough support tonight to topple big guns like 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle for best screenplay, and it doesn't need many Oscar voters to champion it like the HFPA did in order to crack into the best picture and/or best original screenplay Oscar categories.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg