Golden Globes: What to Make of '1917' and 'Rocketman' Wins, 'Irishman' and J.Lo's Losses

Golden Globes 2020 - Taron Egerton accepts the award for Best Actor - Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy for "Rocketman" - Publicity - H 2020
Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Well, as George W. Bush said to Hillary Clinton after Donald Trump's inaugural speech, "That was some weird shit!" The roughly 90 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of Los Angeles-based journalists for media outlets based abroad, are known for marching to their own beat, but it was particularly hard to decipher any rhyme or reason about their picks for Sunday night's 77th Golden Globe Awards.

Indeed, many of the 14 film categories were won by nominees regarded as frontrunners going into the night: musical/comedy picture (Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which snagged a field-leading three awards); drama actor (Joker's Joaquin Phoenix, who gave a cuss-filled but sweet acceptance speech); drama actress (Judy's Renee Zellweger); musical/comedy actress (The Farewell's Awkwafina); supporting actor (Once Upon a Time's Brad Pitt, whose win was greeted with a notably enthusiastic standing ovation); foreign language film (South Korea's Parasite); and original song (Rocketman's "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again," marking the first time that legends Elton John and Bernie Taupin have won a major award for a song they wrote together). 

But does any of this make any difference with regard to the prize everyone wants even more than a Globe, an Oscar? Particularly when one realizes that there is only one person who is a member of both the HFPA and the Academy (a group literally 100 times larger and comprised exclusively of people who actually work on movies), actress/journalist Lisa Lu? Here are a few things to consider...

With the exception of Laika's Missing Link pulling a completely out-of-the-blue animated feature upset over Pixar's Toy Story 4 and Disney's Frozen 2 (its nominees were basically seated in the kitchen), the most unexpected outcome was Rocketman's Taron Egerton claiming musical/comedy actor over Once Upon a Time's Leonardo DiCaprio and Dolemite Is My Name's Eddie Murphy, past Globe winners and much bigger 'names.' In hindsight, though, Egerton is exactly the sort of on-the-bubble contender the HFPA loves to champion: a young and handsome performer, not yet coronated by another awards group, who gave a showy performance (he transformed into John's doppelganger and did his own singing) and is an immensely charming campaigner (the HFPA, as a small club, is more susceptible to being charmed than the Academy).

In a year in which the lead actor Oscar race is packed to the gills — in addition to Phoenix, DiCaprio and Murphy, there's also Marriage Story's Adam Driver, The Two Popes' Jonathan Pryce, The Irishman's Robert De Niro, Pain and Glory's Antonio Banderas, Uncut Gems' Adam Sandler, Ford v Ferrari's Christian Bale, 1917's George MacKay and Richard Jewell's Paul Walter Hauser, among others — Egerton's Globe win may or may not move the needle. On the one hand, the timing of it could push him over the top — Oscar nomination voting began on Jan. 2 and continues through Tuesday evening. On the other hand, one-fifth of the past 10 Globe winners in Egerton's category did not go on to Oscar nominations (see Barney's Version's Paul Giamatti and The Disaster Artist's James Franco).

Every one of last year's major Oscar winners won a Globe first — Green Book, Roma's Alfonso Cuaron, Bohemian Rhapsody's Rami Malek, The Favourite's Olivia Colman, Green Book's Mahershala Ali and If Beale Street Could Talk's Regina King — and, while that is just as often not the case, it must make it extra gratifying for Universal, the studio behind Green Book, to have surprised a lot of people again this year with Sam Mendes' World War I pressure-cooker 1917 claiming both drama picture and director.

Most had forecasted a drama picture win for Martin Scorsese's The Irishman (which had five noms) or Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story (which had a field-leading six noms, although Baumbach's direction was oddly snubbed), but in the end The Irishman was shut out and Marriage Story was limited to a supporting actress win for Laura Dern — an undeniably disappointing showing for Netflix. Meanwhile, the 1917 campaign, sans any stars, may have benefitted from being the last major contender to screen for the HFPA, in late November. In other words, it was still the shiny new toy heading into Globes nomination voting (which ran from Dec. 19-30). And now it has a major surge of adrenaline heading in to its wider theatrical release, which could further add to its Oscars momentum.

Speaking of Dern, she has long been the frontrunner for the Oscar, but there was a sense that she might have a hard time beating Hustlers' Jennifer Lopez with the HFPA, which could have shaken things up overall. Dern has always been an HFPA fave — she was once Miss Golden Globe, and had four other Globe wins heading into the night — so she was not to be discounted. But the fact that J.Lo couldn't win with the HFPA — a group that loves mega-stars so much it gave Lady Gaga a Globe for her acting on American Horror Story: Hotel — makes one seriously question if she can win anywhere.

The same is true for The Two Popes, and its stars Pryce and Anthony Hopkins, who were more popular with the HFPA than any other awards group with three key Globe nominations, but still came up empty.

Tarantino's screenplay win for his Once Upon a Time script, over the likes of Marriage Story and Parasite, was also noteworthy, as was the original score win for Joker's Hildur Guðnadóttir (which made her the first-ever solo female winner of the award).