Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Oscar Narrative: The Globes and the Oscar Race

The Globes are always a tricky balance. At the same time that their announcement creates buzz, and their winners influence the races ahead, we as pundits need to remember not to over state their importance. In all actuality, this is a small group of foreign journalists, many of whom are easy to sway with bribes, and who can rally behind a film that ends up being ignored later on. So yes, the Globes are not something to overlook, they do reflect the race, and can help or hurt contenders with a nomination or a snub. But just because one of your favorites didn't make the cut, doesn't mean that their hopes are shattered. And if one of your bubble favorites slips in, it doesn't guarantee future awards success.

So with that disclaimer out, lets get down to today's winners and losers. In the Drama category, surprise nominee Rush (which proves it is not dead yet), and to an extent Philomena (not that surprising if you consider the reports that they were in love with the film), upset some big contenders including Blue Jasmine (which surprisingly only got two nods, I guess when they figured out Allen wouldn't make it for the DeMille honor, they didn't feel the need to honor the film as much as expected). Saving Mr. Banks also continued to miss the cut, only getting in Thompson, with Hanks and the film sitting on the sideline.Saving Mr. Banks started out a huge Oscar contender after it hit the festival circuit, but three strikes in a row have put its power in the season in doubt: weak UK box office, weak SAG showing, and now weak Globes showing. The one upbeat notice for the film is that apparently Academy members are still gushing over the film, so maybe it will rebound with the PGA, and even the WGA, and get back into this thing, although it still has taken a hit this week. Dallas Buyers Club managed only the two nominations after getting the surprise Ensemble, but that wasn't surprising. And after a strong showing at SAG yesterday, Lee Daniel's The Butler was completely snubbed. Now the film getting snubbed wasn't that big of a deal, considering that the HFPA did not like the film. But when Oprah got snubbed, it was apparent that they REALLY did not like the film. Now the queen will probably reign again at the Oscars with a nomination, but this does show a vulnerability for a potential win. If people are really turned off by the film, they may stay away from the positive elements such as Winfrey, and Whitaker, who was also snubbed in favor of Idris Elba, although when it comes to Oscar, Whitaker is still a much stronger contender. Also Redford bounces back, but without that SAG nod, he may end up lost at sea. At the end of the day, it feels like its September again, as the three dramas that reigned supreme were Captain Phillips, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave (all of which got directors nods as well). It is sometimes funny how the Oscar race can easily come back full circle.

For the first time in a long time, the Comedy lineup across all three categories looks a hell of a lot stronger than the drama categories. The five nominees are for picture are simply a stellar list of high-qualified contenders, and for the first time in a long time, the HFPA has avoided the obligatory embarrassing Comedy/Musical nomination (The Tourist anyone?). I was kind of surprised when August: Osage County missed except for Meryl and Julia. I figured that Weinstein plus that cast would equal HFPA hog heaven. It, like The Butler, will just have to focus their campaigns on the SAG nominations, but it is still surprising. What I was also most surprised about were the inclusion of Greta Gerwig and Julie Delpy. I figured Julia Louis-Dreyfus would be big enough to get in for Enough Said, but it was nice to see some indie nominees, which are usually reserved for less than stellar performances from bigger stars. The actor race is stacked too, although I do that between lead and supporting, they could not find room for James Gandolfini, like SAG did. Out of this bunch, I think all five could end up in the Best Picture race, which I can't say the same thing about the drama race.

In the general categories, the director race is stacked, although I am surprised they didn't make room for Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen. But these five could easily repeat at DGA and Oscar, although it is such a tight race. Supporting Actor matched four of the SAG nominees, this time with the inclusion of Bradley Cooper, who could sneak in instead of Gandolfini, Jonah Hill, and now Hanks who is 0/2 in big races. This is especially true if American Hustle continues its upward climb (I'll get to that in a moment). Besides the huge Oprah snub, and the fact that Sally Hawkins replaced her (still not sure that will happen elsewhere), other snubs include Spencer and Martindale, as Squibb, Nyong'o, Lawrence and Roberts are looking pretty solid. On the Animated Feature side a huge surprise occurred when Monsters University missed the cut. Don't discount Pixar with Oscar voters, but I think that this paves the way for either Frozen or The Wind Rises (got in in Foreign Language Film, wasn't eligible for both, so it couldn't get animated).

So at the end of the day, how do the Globes impact the Oscar race? Oprah becomes vulernable, Saving Mr. Banks needs a boost, and soon, Rush isn't dead, and Comedies ruled the day. 12 Years a Slave was in the lead again, and it has finally retaken its top spot as the frontrunner after initially being snubbed by critical groups. Who can beat it? Gravity missed the SAG ensemble nod as expected, but became the first of these effects-driven films (Avatar, Inception, Hugo, and Life of Pi)to get any SAG recognition at all, so it is still in. But I think the new film to watch for is American Hustle, It got the sag ensemble nod, did really well with all four main cast members racking up nods with HFPA. It may be considered messy, but with this cast, and the recent of pedigree of David O. Russell, it is the wild card here, and the one to look out for. Of course, my initial disclaimer bears repeating, especially after I made such bold statements in this post: this is just the HFPA, and anything can happen. As always, we'll just have to wait and see...

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